Creative Leadership | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Creative Leadership: Degree Information

MCAD emphasizes a collaborative process and working with students from all professions. For this Master of Arts degree, you will take courses in several different areas adding up to 30 total credits required for graduation.

Learning Outcomes

  • Apply the structures, principles, and practices of non-hierarchical, decentralized, and agile networks, organizations, and teams.
  • Incorporate the practices of artists and designers into the processes of collaboration across difference, undertaking transformational change, and imagining and making new worlds.
  • Apply (eco)systems understanding to analyze interdependencies between environmental, social, and economic forces and to design regenerative organizations, or other systems.
  • Exercise relational leadership, conversational receptiveness, and cultural competence in interpersonal interactions and effectively foster an inclusive and caring workplace..
  • Engage storytelling, coaching, facilitation, and listening skills to connect authentically with others, catalyze change, and promote community building and social healing.
  • Advance values-led change at the level of self/career, organization/team, or system/community; identify areas of strength and of growth in one’s practice of creative leadership to develop a personal leadership plan with a manifesto.
MA in Creative Leadership curriculum grid

Core Required Courses

CL 6101 ​​Theory and Practice of Creative Leadership
4 credits

This foundational survey course examines leadership through a creative lens. A key premise of this course is that we need the methodologies of artists and designers alongside those of scientists and entrepreneurs to undertake necessary transformational change and worldmaking. The in-demand creative skills introduced through this course, which can be applied at any scale and scope of endeavor, include: resourcefulness, adaptability, comfort with reinvention and failure, deep listening, empathy, critique, systems thinking, disciplined imagination, storytelling, facilitation, and community building. The course reviews major leadership theories / approaches and students spend time considering their own leadership style, philosophy, strengths, and weaknesses. Finally, students develop a plan outlining key goals for their ongoing journey through the program, documented in a personal learning portfolio.

Learning Outcomes  

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  1. Compare and contrast key leadership theories and approaches, with a focus on the features and drivers of collective, relational, and transformational leadership paradigms. 
  2. Apply the methodologies of artists and designers to the goal of changemaking and worldmaking grounded in the values of equity, collaboration, sustainability, and creativity.
  3. Analyze a selected system (e.g. organization, community, industry) using the Three Horizons Framework: analysis of present-day weaknesses, disciplined imagination of an improved future; and sites / pathways for exploration, experimentation, and prototyping.
  4. Engage in reflective practice (self awareness, description, critical analysis, synthesis and evaluation) applied to worldview, leadership capacities, and values-based change goals at the level of self/career, organization/team, and community/system.
  5. Concerted development of skills in listening, empathy, moral imagination, stepping up/stepping back, collaboration, storytelling, visual communications, and values-based decision making.
  6. Create and share a learning portfolio and contribute actively to a Master of Arts in Creative Leadership community of practice, inquiry, and care (through discussions, creative exchange, and feedback opportunities).

CL 7102 Residency: Relational Leadership
2 credits

This course invites exploration of a range of relational practices for cultural understanding and change, in response to calls for civic imagination and systemic transformation in support of a more inclusive, equitable society. It examines how practices of artists and other creators are a means by which to develop critical (lost) ways of knowing that are central to human development and how they support an increasingly called for paradigm shift in leadership: away from one grounded in individualism, competition, scarcity, exploitation of people, and extraction of natural resources; and toward one grounded in self-organizing (or collectivism), collaboration, abundance, and care for both people and planet. Students will experience and reflect on resilience under pressure, somatic self-awareness, attentional capacity, decision-making in uncertainty, power dynamics, community-driven design processes, and creative placekeeping. This residency also fosters community building within the Master of Arts in Creative Leadership program itself and centers the value of intentionally formed networks, communities of practice, and peer groups whereby individuals with shared goals support one another, exchange knowledge, develop skills, and work to advance thinking and progress in a particular domain.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  1. Locate oneself and others in the context of relationships to place and people (past, present, and future), and tell one’s story from that context.
  2. Demonstrate somatic self-awareness in relationship to one’s work as a leader, in particular: goals, decisions to be made, environment/place, and interactions with others.
  3. Lead / engage in a process of community building, listening and making adjustments internally and externally to foster camaraderie, form relationships, and act collectively.
  4. Reflect meaningfully on propositional, procedural, perspectival, and participatory ways of knowing, identifying one’s own tendencies / strengths and areas for development.
  5. Examine a range of projects aimed at fostering civic development, imagination, and transformation through community-informed and community-led design processes.
  6. Describe the nature of one’s creative potential and reflect upon the purposes of art and artistic practice in the context of nature, place, identity, everyday life, and politics.

CL 6205 The Culturally Competent Leader and Inclusive Workplace
2 credits

This course increases the ability of students to understand and effectively engage with people from different cultures, or holding different values, to co-create inclusive, human-centered work environments where everyone can thrive. Key concepts and related tools that students engage include: healthy conflict and understanding, implicit attitudes and un-biasing, disability justice principles, systemic inequality, sharing power and decision making, anti-racist and anti-oppressive organizations, restorative HR, culture and influence mapping, decolonizing policies and practices, and designing values-based recruitment and hiring processes. Students gain awareness of their own worldview, as well as an appreciation for different worldviews.

Learning Outcomes  

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  1. Assess implicit attitudes in the context of un-biasing, systemic inequality, power sharing and decision making in service of creating an anti-racist and anti-oppressive organization.
  2. Engage with people from different cultures and/or who hold different values through co-creation of inclusive, human-centered work environments wherein people can thrive.
  3. Apply disability justice, restorative justice, procedural justice, and decolonizing principles and practices to recruitment, hiring, and other areas of HR management.
  4. Reflect on and work with understanding of one’s own worldview and those of others from different cultures; and demonstrate the ability to engage in healthy conflict.
  5. Compare and contrast the principles, practices, benefits, and potential harms of distributed leadership and more traditional hierarchical architectures.
  6. Demonstrate alignment and accountability to values-based commitments and foster the same among colleagues and collaborators.

CL 6207 Working Together To Create Better Futures for All: Emerging Models and Principles
2 credits

This course introduces students to futures-thinking (/futuring) and invites them to apply insights from imagining futures (decades from now) to guide their work in the present. A long-view of the evolution of human collaboration helps students review various forms of organizing and their relationship to contemporaneous challenges and opportunities. Students examine the social, technological, ecological, economic, and political reasons behind the decline of 20th-century organizations and structures; and they identify models and principles of working together that are better aligned with both their inner values and 21st-century realities. With these, students make sense of and contribute to the landscape of new experiments in collective change-making and world-making. This course sets the foundation for courses in spring 2023 that will delve deeply into the structures, forms, and practices of non-hierarchical organizations, teams, and networks, as well as tools, methods, and processes for transformational change. 

Learning Outcomes 

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  1. Evaluate the landscape of emerging forms of co-creation by taking a long view of the past, present, and future of human collaboration.
  2. Discuss the macro-forces behind the decay of 20th century institutional and organizational forms, and the emergence of new, 21st century experiments in working together.
  3. Identify and explain the principles and models of collaborative change-making that are adapted to contemporary realities.
  4. Identify leading-edge experiments in co-creation of better futures for all, in particular describing their distinguishing characteristics, the factors driving their emergence, and the key principles and questions guiding and motivating their actions.
  5. Construct a short-list (customized to one’s personal and professional goals) of models, principles, and individual / group capacities for deeper exploration in spring MA in Creative Leadership courses.

CL 6203 Design-informed Approaches to Address Complex Challenges
4 credits

This course introduces students to a framework and processes to address complex social challenges, grounded in the principles and methods of design thinking with elements from other schools of thought such as social entrepreneurship, impact measurement and community-centered approaches. Addressing such challenges requires a set of behaviors and mindsets that can be mastered and applied by anyone. Following a conceptual foundation, the course will shift to the analysis of case studies that illustrate the impact and potential scalability of design informed solutions to complex social problems. Students will then apply tools they have learned to community challenge projects of their choice, moving from insights to execution in an iterative manner. This process includes: building empathy and relationships; identifying and clarifying a community need; analyzing the larger environment in which that need or problem is situated; building coalitions for ideation and co-creation; prototyping one or more solutions to address the need; testing and evaluating those solutions; communications; and developing ways to scale the intervention for long-term social impact.

Learning Outcomes  

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate problem-solving through application of lateral, convergent, and divergent solutions to complex social problems.
  2. Demonstrate creative thinking through the analysis and synthesis of complex workplace and community challenges in individual and group projects
  3. Diagnose and address potential failure points in a system.
  4. Create legitimate, non-extractive, motivating paths for community input in the design process as well as effective partnerships in design for social issues.
  5. Develop outcomes and measures of success that value process and relationships that are tied to social impact.
  6. Lead collaborative development of prototyping, testing, and evaluation of a small-scale, community-engaged social innovation process. 

CL 7312 Managing Remote and Non-Hierarchical Networks, Organizations, and Teams
4 credits

The course introduces students to management processes, practices, and tools employed within decentralized networks, organizations, and teams to support collective visioning, planning, decision-making, budgeting, and operations. As a key component of this work, students learn to cultivate an agile mindset: that is, the capacity to respond to unpredictable and complex environments, a rapidly changing marketplace, disruptions stemming from the increasing interdependence of systems or internal feedback loops, and learning. This course focuses on applying these practices to the challenge of leading self-managed teams, including hybrid and remote work that has become prevalent in the wake of the pandemic. This course will also examine the evolution of distributed autonomous organizations ‘DAO’ community-led entities without central authority that are fully autonomous and transparent and operate using blockchain technology.  

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain why and how organizations are evolving to become more decentralized, including the implications for self-managing teams and remote or hybrid groups and key differences from more traditional hierarchical structures.
  • Develop a plan or framework for collective visioning, planning, decision-making, budgeting, or operations in relationship to one’s own Matter of Concern at the level of team, organization, community, network, or system.
  • Make connections between the practices examined in this course with the macro-environmental conditions, evolving paradigm of leadership, and principles of collaboration examined in prior courses.
  • Apply one or more frameworks to an agile project within one’s own organization.
  • Explore and reflect upon one’s capacities and challenges related to applying the processes, practices, and tools employed within decentralized organizations, and self-managing teams. 
  • Collaboratively design a workshop on making the shift from a traditional, hierarchical organization to a decentralized organization.
Prerequisites: Theory and Practice of Creative Leadership; Emerging Organizational Structures and Related Business Forms

CL 7308 Leading Transformational Change
2 credits

There is increasing recognition that transformational change is needed to realize a just society where all life thrives, but less clarity on what this involves. During this course, students explore the essential role of collaboration across differences to imagining and realizing transformational change. In doing so, it honors the wisdom embodied by many indigenous groups and spiritual traditions and attempts to decolonize the practice of 'systems change.' This course additionally challenges the dichotomous relationship between culture and nature that is embedded in a Western worldview and, alongside the models for change from the natural world, asserts the critical role of creators, culture-bearers, as well as the capacities for (and fruits of) human imagination more generally to the processes of transformational change. Because culturally constructed paradigms shape social systems, this course additionally asserts that having the capacity to reflect upon, problematize, and transcend one's worldview is a critical capacity for change-makers and world builders. While, ’systems change’ work often stops short of incorporating such invisible yet critical domains of beliefs, identities, and worldview, this course integrates them. Ultimately, students identify creative ways to apply the principles and frameworks of this course to their personal and professional development, including to a progressive community change project.

Learning Outcomes

  • Distinguish different types of problems (simple, complicated, and complex).
  • Compare and contrast major systems change frameworks, their leverage points and their relationship to transformational change.   
  • Exhibit the  ways the arts, culture, and human imagination facilitate emergence.  
  • Distinguish between one’s personal identity and social identity and understand how this affects one’s worldview and approach to change work.
  • Analyze the worldview from which one operates and develop practices for exercising cultural safety as a leader of transformational change.
  • Using values-centered practices, collaborate across differences with greater ease and support others in doing the same. 
Prerequisites: Relational Leadership; The Culturally Competent Leadership and the Inclusive Workplace

CL 7310 Leading for Regenerative Sustainability
2 credits

This course focuses on the issues and trends in the area of ecological and regenerative sustainability, with attention paid to their interconnection to economic and social sustainability (e.g. environmental and social justice, inequity, and the North-South divide), as well as the role of art and design in sustainability. While a range of sustainability frameworks (e.g. triple bottom line, limits to growth, nature’s principles, and the natural step) are covered, students move beyond the goal of reducing harms and explore regenerative approaches. Students ultimately apply course concepts to design a regenerative approach to sustainability within a real-world context, and initiate a personal journey of transformation for regenerative leadership. 

Learning Outcomes

  • Define environmental sustainability within its historic context and explain the evolving relationship between environmental and social impacts.
  • Analyze the potential uses and limitations of historic sustainability frameworks, including triple bottom line, limits to growth, nature’s principles, the natural step, and the 3R’s (reuse, recycle, reduce).
  • Apply the concept of regeneration and distinguish a regenerative approach to sustainability from earlier approaches.
  • Investigate approaches to sustainability within one’s field or community, identifying patterns, prototypes, and possible partners.
  • Create the rationale and identify tools for undertaking a personal journey with regenerative sustainability.
  • Collaborate with peers to design a regenerative approach to sustainability within an organizational or community context. 
Prerequisites: Relational Leadership; The Culturally Competent Leader and the Inclusive Workplace

CL 7410 Creative Leadership Capstone
6 credits

To graduate all students must complete a capstone project. This experience gives students the opportunity to reflect upon the knowledge they have gained in the program and demonstrate their skills as creative leaders. The capstone is composed of three requirements. First, students successfully complete a personal learning portfolio, started at the top of the program and maintained throughout, that represents the student’s capacity for reflection-in-action and encourages the cultivation of professional relationships aimed at expanding a personal learning network. Second, students work in pairs to design a leadership workshop, supported by theories and practices taught in the program, that they market and deliver to one or more Twin Cities-area cultural or creative organizations during their final residency week. Third, students develop a Creative Leadership Plan to support their ongoing development post-graduation. This plan includes such things as: their personal values and an articulation of their vision as leaders; reflections on their personal leadership style and preferred model of leadership; an evaluation of their cultural competence and areas for growth in this arena; their own continuous learning plan (including specific tools and practices they have acquired throughout the program that they want to maintain); and their creative leadership goals in the short- and long-term.

Prerequisites: All MA in Creative Leadership courses excluding culminating residency

CL 7414 Residency: Leader As Coach, Facilitator, and Storyteller
2 credits

In the final residency students spend the week demonstrating their communication skills, listening skills, empathy, and capacity for both intuitive thinking and critical analysis. They strengthen their competencies as coaches, able to provide support and guidance to others and facilitate their development; as facilitators, able to use well-crafted questions, reflection, and well-designed processes to help teams and individuals solve problems; and as storytellers, able to connect with an audience, speak authentically and confidently, and inspire others to action. Students deploy these skills by co-leading a workshop (designed as part of their capstone) with a local cultural or creative organization or business.

Prerequisites: All MA in Creative Leadership courses
Total Credit Hours