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Ethics & Leadership: Adressing 10 Grand Challenges of Future Leaders

Course code
Course type
MSc Course
Weekly Hours
FS 2023
Prof. Dr. Miriam Müthel
Please note that exchange students obtain a higher number of credits in the BSc-program at WHU than listed here. For further information please contact directly the International Relations Office.

Recent environmental, economic and social crises revealed the threat of so-called societal grand challenges, such as climate change, for our economic and social well-being. At the same time, the breadth and depth of these crises raised people’s expectations about the role of business in solving grand societal challenges resulting in a call for responsible leadership.

Responsible leaders are aware of and understand societal grand challenges and their root causes. They constantly strive to address these great challenges, using their resources to tackle them through innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurial thinking.

Thus, it is crucial for future leaders to understand those grand challenges, to know how to tackle them, and to do so with passion and confidence – jointly with others.

In this class, we will analyze current societal grand challenges to understand their magnitude and underlying causes. We will examine solutions on how to address them by investigating theoretical ideas and practical approaches. In particular, we will explore how various start-ups successfully tackle grand challenges. Finally, we will discuss about our responsibility as business leaders to address grand challenges. Ultimately, we will debate about your role as future business leaders and your duty to serve society at large above and beyond, caring about business profits coming. Thereby, we will learn from role models about the crucial role of optimism, confidence and a growth mindset as enablers of societal change.

We will address the following 10 grand challenges:

  1. Plastic Oceans
  2. Sea Level Rise
  3. Biodiversity Loss
  4. Food Insecurity
  5. Fresh Water Scarcity
  6. Financial Inclusion
  7. Disinformation
  8. Modern Slavery
  9. Corruption
  10. Money Laundering

Please note that the number of participants is limited to 30 students. Places will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis. In case more than 30 students sign up we will inform those who are over the limit and therefore cannot participate.

Date Time
Wednesday, 18.01.2023 13:45 - 15:15
Wednesday, 22.02.2023 08:00 - 18:45
Content-wise, students will learn about the grand challenges of modern society and the role of responsible leaders:
  • Grasp the magnitude of societal grand challenges
  • Understand the root causes of societal grand challenges
  • Know theoretical approaches to tackle societal grand challenges
  • Know practical approaches that proved to be effective in solving societal grand challenges
  • Reflect upon your own role as responsible leaders

Methodology-wise students will learn how to structure and write a seminar thesis:

  • Students will learn how to conduct an efficient literature review
  • Students will learn how to develop a research framework for their thesis
  • Students will learn how to structure their thesis

Students will learn how to identify managerial implications.

Introductory LiteratureShaping the Sustainable OrganizationHow responsible leaders can create sustainable organizations that deliver value and impactSeeking New Leadership – ReportSiegel, D. S. (2014). Responsible leadership [Editorial].The Academy of Management Perspectives, 28(3), 221–223.https://doi.org/10.5465/amp.2014.0081Waldman, D. A., Siegel, D. S., & Stahl, G. K. (2020). Defining the Socially Responsible Leader: Revisiting Issues in Responsible Leadership.Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies,27(1), 5 20. https://doi.org/10.1177/154805181987220
Individual seminar thesis, group presentation
This class will cover a variety of topics related to grand challenges of society. Students will be assigned to different topics. They will give a group presentation on the topic in class and will write an individual assignment on the topic. 30% of the total grade will be based on the presentation and 70% on the written thesis.
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