The Leadership and Change Management program is a traveler’s guide for frontrunners (change agents and change crews) in organizations. In this specialization, you will acquire evidence-based knowledge about the complexities of (planned) strategic interventions from multiple perspectives and in various settings including private companies, public organizations, and large-scale institutions.
All of the courses offered in the Leadership and Change Management specialization are taught with both macro (e.g., organizational/institutional) and micro (e.g., individual, behavioral) perspectives on the subject matter. At the same time, you will learn about the complexities of implementing change ‘on the ground’, where plans and standard operating procedures usually provide little help and where leaders rise must to the occasion. By learning project management, rhetoric and political skills, and – last but not least – by becoming comfortable with your personal story, growth, and vision (as ‘reflective practitioner’), you might learn to become that frontrunner (and, thus, ‘leader’) of change.
You are in the right program if you are interested in questions such as: How can I make organizations more healthy and successful based on evidence-based practices? What is the best intervention in a given context? How do I manage stakeholders with conflicting interests? How should a leader best ‘pitch’ planned change to gain buy-in from others? How should a leader of change deal with resistance? Is there a way for a leader to improvise and learn from a change experience and still ‘lead’? Is there a way to connect my own story of learning and personal growth with organizational learning and visionary leadership?
Who should join us?
If you are an original and multidisciplinary thinker, if you have the ambition to change the world for the better, and have a “Yes, we can” mentality, then this specialization is made just for you. We welcome students from international backgrounds. Prior education is not restricted to Business programs. In general, this program is mostly suited if you have completed a BSc degree in (International) Business Administration, Psychology, Sociology, Economics, and other related disciplines.
Have the advanced and original academic and research skills to contribute to the body of knowledge
Throughout the program, you learn to review and analyze critically the current academic debate about leadership and organizational change from various perspectives. Together with research methodology courses (focusing on both quantitative and qualitative approaches) you will be well equipped to make your own original contribution and create knowledge in your master thesis that is not only rigorously conducted but also original, interesting and important from a societal point of view.
Have a thorough knowledge of relevant theory and methods
After two stage-setting core courses on “Perspectives on Organizational Change” and “Intervention and project management,” you can opt for two topical modules that each goes deeper into exploring a specific aspect of leading organizational change. To deepen your knowledge, you can additionally choose from several electives that each are strongly based on fostering your ability to act in response to strategic and organizational challenges. To broaden your horizon beyond the core of strategy and organization, you can also choose electives from other Business Administration specializations. Several interdisciplinary electives offer an additional opportunity to deepen your knowledge of a topical issue in business and management beyond the boundaries of the Leadership and Change Management specialization.
Have an academic approach to solving complex [business/economics] problems
The courses in the Leadership and Change Management specialization will consistently search for links between science and practice through on-site visits, guest lectures, and assignments. For instance, we will focus on theoretical and systematic analyses of cases as the foundation for solving practical issues. Finally, to build practical knowledge and skills, it is also possible to do an internship, thereby learning valuable skills.
Have the professional social skills to interact with other professionals
Our courses have a strong focus on fostering your communicative skills (for instance, persuasive skills), your ability to speak up and defend your arguments and position your story in front of stakeholders with diverging interests (political skills). We especially focus on social skills (for instance, sensing a context, responsivity to followers’ needs), rhetorical skills (for instance, effective framing) and political skills (for instance, stakeholder management), and project management skills (for instance, lining up an organization or team to achieve goals). This will be practiced in class, and in simulations (for instance, a serious game).
Have a horizon beyond the professional area
We put a strong emphasis on your ability to think and act critically and be reflexive. This means to not take things for granted as they are, but be able to challenge them, in particular, the increasingly contested impact of business on stakeholders as well as social and environmental conditions. In your thesis, you are encouraged to select topics that deal with the interaction between business and society.
Are self-reflective professionals
Together with SBE Career Services, the Leadership, and Change Management program offers tailor-made workshops to provide you with the best possible preparation for your entry to the job market. You are challenged to think critically about who you are and what you want to achieve (a personal vision on society and business). We encourage students to develop a personal vision and to act responsibly on a solid ethical basis. This will be tested in a vision portfolio that you can work on during your entire master year. Part of this vision portfolio is a two-minute personal video pitch (a required component of your master thesis), that can also be used to communicate a personal work identity to future employers.
- Aspirational job (far future)
Depending on how you will choose to craft your own career, this program can ultimately place you as the Chief Officer of Learning, Restructuring, Human Resources, or (in mid- or late career stages) as the CEO.
- Actual placement (near future)
The program will be the kick-off to your career as a specialist of both leadership and organizational change that, up to 10 years after graduation, may open doors for you as a project manager, a consultant, or a specialist in organizational transformation or change management, or general management in private, public or large-scale institutions.
Why VU Amsterdam?
In the Leadership and Change Management specialization you will acquire evidence-based knowledge about the complexities of (planned) strategic interventions from multiple perspectives, including Political Science, Sociology and Psychology. As for theory, we believe in the value of theory from various disciplines as it serves your ability to adopt a helicopter view and strengthens their analytical ability to see what is important in change cases. Theory and evidence will also inform you about the potential consequences of leadership decisions that will define our workplaces of the future.
A professional is someone who is able to apply specialized knowledge to real-life cases. The Leadership and Change Management specialization builds your specialized knowledge of the design, implementation, and leadership of change processes. Too often, however, theories of change stay out of touch with the difficulties of making change happen ‘on the ground.’ Our vision is to develop students who will not only become effective change agents but also ‘reflective practitioners’, who dear to ask bigger questions that transcend the daily hustle and bustle of administration. For instance, we challenge you, as a prospective leader, to look beyond mere efficiency goals in change programs, and to develop richer visions that protect both the integrity and the competitive viability of the organization.
We emphasize not only the value of effective leadership and implementation of change but also stress the value of responsible, moral leadership with regard to various social issues that an organization may encounter. For instance, we highlight pitfalls and ‘dark sides’ of leadership and organizational change. Our teaching is imbued with core values of being responsive to listeners, responsible, open and personally engaged both as a teacher and as a practitioner. Given our emphasis on self-awareness, personal growth, and vision, we emphasize your vision on societal issues and personal development.
Students of the Leadership and Change Management specialization are original and multidisciplinary thinkers and come from a very diverse range of backgrounds that are not necessarily restricted to business studies and economics. As we aim to instill an interdisciplinary mindset in leadership and change management, students from bachelor's programs in Psychology, Sociology, and the Humanities will find it very useful to deepen their knowledge about our subject matter, given their ability and willingness to get acquainted with sufficient foundational knowledge about macro-organizational (e.g., institutional) and micro-behavioral (organizational behavior) theories.
Challenge to distinguish
The Leadership and Change Management specialization offers multiple possibilities for excellent and ambitious students to distinguish themselves by taking additional courses and participating in tailored activities. We offer the renowned VU Honours Program that includes advanced courses in a small-class environment and provide special opportunities to meet with businesses throughout the program.
The Leadership and Change Management specialization features many social and professional activities that you can be part of. We aim to form a strong community that will help you both during your studies and afterward. In terms of professional activities, we start each academic year with a formal introduction during which you will meet your fellow students and are introduced to the faculty members that you will work with during the program. In addition, we organize an alumni event at the start of the year (except for this year, since it our first year), during which (recent) alumni from the VU Business Administration program will join you to discuss their experiences during their studies and in finding their first jobs.
Throughout the year, we will organize similar meetings, for example in cooperation with Career Services (e.g., CV training, company visits). Our goal is to support you as much as possible in preparing for your transition to the labor market. The program includes other activities as part of our community as well, such as a LinkedIn group that features alumni and current students, our student organization Aureus that organizes several interesting meetings, and a graduation ceremony at the end of the year during which we celebrate your successes.
Program taught in: