Heifetz & Brown Discussion


If a meeting were to occur between Heifetz and Brown, I believe the discussion would be centered upon recent American governmental activities given the overlap that has existed between President Obama’s challenges, which could be categorized as adaptive in nature, and the complex ecological, financial and social issues of 2010 and 2011.

Marking his presidential term by one of the largest environmental disasters (BP oil spill), a debt crisis and tense bipartisanship, President Obama has dealt with all of the problems according to what Heifetz has identified as challenges to leading adaptive changes and echoes some of the larger issues that Brown has identified in his book.  He has, for example, indirectly confronted poverty issues on the American front pushing through universal health care, which highlights his ability to “Get off the dance floor and onto the balcony” (Heifetz, 2002, pg 30) and see the larger needs of the citizens.

I think that Heifetz would have a few recommendations for Brown in regards to leadership.  First, I think Heifetz would advocate for an increased presence of the United Nations as it pertains to large-scale environmental issues, which parallels with the need to think politically and network countries in an objective way.  Secondly, he would propose for more events to take place such as the G8 Summit and the Kyoto Protocol, that place emphasis on global environmental understanding and efforts. I also feel he would emphasize the presence of developing and impoverished countries, in addition to the traditionally developed centric participants at such events.  Lastly, Heifetz would recommend that both leaders and citizens of all nations maintain an innocence and curiosity that has not been present in past environmental realms related to the merging of scientific, economic and social necessities as adaptive changes are met.

From Brown’s perspective, he could easily suggest that the model he describes in his book be used as a case study for the leadership changes that Heifetz recommends.  An example of this could be the financial woes that the European Union (EU) have dealt with over the past few years and more specifically, the political structuring that has provided support to countries such as Greece.  There has been much reporting about this issue as of late and it highlights the advantages and disadvantages of multinational organizations like the EU.

Brown would also have real world examples of countries that are currently facing and overcoming the five challenges to leading adaptive change that Heifetz describes.  Saudi Arabia, for example, could easily ride out its fossil fuel glory that has economically developed a large portion of the country.  To their credit, however, the Saudis have successfully faced the realization that they will soon run out of oil and have begun to invest in more sustainable technologies that will prepare them for future markets.  According to Brown, they were also the first country to project country wide aquifer depletion as it relates to grain production, which shows not only an amazing ability to face conflict, but also to project in long-term models.


Heifetz, Ronald and Linsky, Marty. (Fall 2002) Leading with an open heart.  Leader to Leader.  p 28-33.

Casey, MBA Candiate 2013


2 Responses to Heifetz & Brown Discussion

  1. pchandler725 says:

    The global perspective of this posting reminds us of the scale of adapative challenges. We often look at the local scale but this post reminds us to push ourselves to apply Heifetz to both the local, national and global arenas.

  2. caitlin says:


    I appreciated your use of real world issues to exemplify the differences in their worldviews and approaches to global issues. Putting Heifetz’s ideals into examples helped make his approach seem less ‘airy’ and more realistic, though it is difficult to imagine world leaders exemplifying ‘innocence and curiosity’ in eachother’s company. It might do them some good though…

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