RISD LEADS Certificate Program


What is a leader? How do I develop as one? In this session, participants will explore their own personal experiences and assumptions around leadership to uncover the traits they find both effective and detrimental when trying to become a successful leader. Through an overview of contemporary research on the topic, participants will discuss identified styles of leadership and how each might be appropriately implemented to get results in a variety of contexts. Individuals will then reflect on their own style and potential as a leader, building a habit of self awareness that will help them achieve their own vision of success. The session will conclude with an overview of the RISD LEADS program and a description of how it can help you achieve success during your individual development as you build up your personal leadership toolkit.

Leadership Fundamentals


Through an examination of core leadership principles and an approach that explores broader concepts around its development, implementation, and embodiment, “theory” seeks to present leadership as a notion that can be examined and defined from multiple angles, by diverse perspectives, and for a multitude of sectors. Theory sessions allow students to approach new and traditional ideas while developing their own personal definition of leadership.

Examples include: Survey of Leadership Traits, Social Change Model of Leadership, Horizontal Leadership, and Applying Design Concepts to Leadership


RISD LEADS believes individuals must possess and improve upon the basic practical essentials that are required for leaders at both the individual and group level. These are skills, tools, and ideas (nuts & bolts) that help enhance the work they do as leaders.

Examples include: Grant Writing, Facilitating a Meeting, Managing a Budget, Creating Action Steps, and Developing a Contract


Creating inclusive environments that foster a greater commitment to diverse opinions and backgrounds is an essential skill for any leader to understand and value. Leading a team or organization that welcomes a variety of ideas and overall diversity will improve the perspective and approach toward problem solving, systems thinking, and successful action. Many believe that diversity fosters a greater level of acceptance toward a culture of “controversy with civility” that allows individuals to challenge one another in a critically constructive way.

Examples include: Uprooting Privilege, Creating Systems that Respect Differences, and Understanding Institutional Inequality


As an essential skill, communication is a core fundamental that can yield effective, transparent, and sustainable action and development for any leader. RISD LEADS seeks to present students with a broad approach to communication as a concept that can be honed from multiple directions. It is important for leaders to recognize that communication can take many different forms and that a holistic understanding of its different components can equip any leader with a full set of tools that allow them to adapt to any situation.

Examples include: Creating Reciprocal Dialogue, Active Listening, Networking, Branding, Conflict Resolution, Facilitating Conversations, and Turning Words and Thoughts into Action

Participants complete one session from each category (4 sessions total)

Fields of Leadership


Cultural Leadership sessions will examine past techniques and examples of leadership from historic, ethnic, racial, and religious roots. Leaders who are able to rekindle and modernize past ideas will honor historically proven concepts while fostering greater equity and diversity in how leadership is defined today.

Examples include: Three Sketches of Jewish Leadership, Leadership during Wartime, Comparing Leadership in the US and Russian Governments


This program defines entrepreneurial leadership as the ability to utilize operational skills and other basic fundamentals to turn ideas and goals into effective solutions to problems that exist. Entrepreneurial leaders often strive for economic or social progress, which is strengthened by an ability to help others share their vision and create stake among various supporters. These concepts can lead to increased resources and successful implementation of a leader’s idea, product, or vision.

Examples include: Social Entrepreneurship, Building your Idea from the Ground Up, and Translating Design Thinking into Business Solutions


“Community” is a field of leadership that demonstrates an ability to apply individual skills to a larger group in a way that will be impact-full and mutually beneficial. Community leaders have the capacity to work with multiple sets of resources, constituents, and agendas to accomplish a shared goal or initiative. Leadership in the community means embracing a level of civil controversy in order to find a common purpose and achieve effective collaboration.

Most of these sessions will be facilitated by leaders who, in their respective fields, have mastered the ability to employ communication and equity when working to create sustainable progress and effective change.

Examples include: Leadership and Social Change, Leadership in Social and Economic Development, Learning from Movement Leadership, and Building Effective Community Partnerships


This program seeks to demonstrate leadership in and through art and design by hearing from a variety of experts who possess leadership skills and positions within the fine art and design sectors. This concept touches on a multitude of areas including the creativity of the design process and how it relates to leadership, using design thinking to identify problems, target objectives, & develop effective strategies for success, and how artists and designers can translate their skills and processes into diverse leadership opportunities outside of their traditional fields or mediums.

Examples include: Using Design Strategies to Lead a Team, Successfully Leading an Exhibition, and Design Thinking as a Tool for any Leader

Participants complete four sessions chosen from all categories (4 sessions total)

Personal Project

Apply your skills by conceptualizing and implementing your own leadership projects.

Experiential Reflection

Create something tangible that reflects your experience in RISD LEADS.

To enroll in RISD LEADS or to follow up about additional questions simply email LEADS@risd.edu

You do not have to fully enroll in the RISD LEADS program to attend sessions. Formal entry can be done at any time and credit is given for past attendance. Individual sessions are open to anyone who is interested.