The University of New South Wales (UNSW) today launched the Academy of Adaptive Leadership which will equip leaders in the government, corporate and for-purpose sectors with the tools and frameworks to tackle the challenges of leading in today’s dynamic and rapidly changing world.

The first of its kind in Australia, the Academy is located in Canberra and is a collaboration between UNSW Canberra and the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) at UNSW Business School.

Professor Nick Wailes, Senior Deputy Dean and Director AGSM said the Academy will equip leaders with the capacity to identify and respond to adaptive, as opposed to technical, problems and to mobilise people to make progress on these challenges.

Adaptive leadership is a leadership tool for our times because it views leadership as a practice, not a position. It enables leaders to respond dynamically, creatively and respectfully to problems, and anticipate emerging crises and global disruption,” Professor Wailes said.

“The Academy of Adaptive Leadership brings together global leaders in the field of adaptive leadership to equip leaders to ensure they have the skills and capacity to look at challenges holistically rather than be transfixed by change.”

Professor Deborah Blackman, Head of the School of Business at UNSW Canberra said the practical application of adaptive leadership can have powerful impacts.

“We know from the Ukraine experience that conventional warfare has shifted dramatically; we also see this in non-military settings. Continuous learning, rapid attention and response to emergent organizational and system dynamics are the new normal,” Professor Blackman said.

“Those who are open to new voices, to local knowledges, to new intelligence and harnessing the passion of motivation of frontline workers and those at all levels of workplaces are those who are thriving.”

Building on the successful delivery of the AGSM, UNSW Canberra and Nous consortium ‘Journey: Leading Transformation’ program with the Australian Defence system, which is rolling out adaptive leadership to 3,500 Defence members over five years, the Academy’s members have proven success as specialist experts with wraparound services aimed at skills development and impact assessment.

“We’ve seen progress already made in the Defence ‘Journey: Leading Transformation’ program by deploying adaptive leadership in areas such as achieving new coalitions with common goals of previously unaligned people, developing new recruitment and retention initiatives, reframing courageous conversations, addressing bullying behaviours, linking strategy and operations more effectively and surfacing otherwise unknown risks that can now receive much-needed mitigation interventions,” Academic Director for the program, Professor Catherine Althaus said.

“These very practical successes from adaptive leadership translate into new possibilities across all areas of society.”

Future activities of the Academy of Adaptive Leadership include a speaker series, the release of new publications and research on adaptive leadership, as well as education offerings and bespoke services to meet tailored client needs.

In 2023, Harvard professor Farayi Chipungu will talk about women and adaptive leadership, and Michael Johnstone and Maxime Fern will speak to their new book, ‘Provocation as Leadership’, to be published in December 2022. The book is described by Marty Linsky in his foreword as “offering the next steps in adaptive leadership by providing a thorough set of guidelines and practices for creating and managing disequilibrium”.

The Academy is partnering with global leaders in adaptive leadership, including the Harvard founders of adaptive leadership, Professors Ron Heifetz, Marty Linsky and Farayi Chipungu; the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) and its Third Floor Research arm; Adaptive Leadership Australia (ALA); and the renowned Australian adaptive leadership protagonists Maxime Fern and Michael Johnstone, the inaugural faculty of the Australian Adaptive Leadership Institute (AALI).

“The Academy is being launched at a critical time for leadership in the region in general, but especially for public sector leadership recognizing the desire to reform public service strategy and operations, as outlined in the recent Australian Budget” Professor Blackman said.   

More information about the UNSW Academy of Adaptive Leadership can be found on the website.

Media contact: Professor Catherine Althaus, UNSW Canberra, 0448305578,