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Graduate Certificate in Complexity Leadership

Hosted by the Generative Learning & Complexity Lab , the purpose of this re-imagined graduate level certificate program is to develop leaders who can respond to complex challenges with adaptive solutions. Based on current and cutting-edge practice and scholarship, this program is informed by UGA’s faculty research on adult development along with adaptive and complexity leadership.

The vision for this certificate program is to inspire leaders to approach “wicked” problems with a complexity and adaptive mindset. The mission of this certificate is to operationalize the leadership practices of learners as they enact real-time strategic change and innovation within their organizations, community, and the world.

This certificate program “reframes” leadership through the lens of complexity. Leadership is viewed as more than a role, position, set of traits, characteristics and capacities that are inhabited by one person. Both the parts and the whole matter in the context of complexity. Complexity is used to describe the interconnected, always evolving, in motion relations between human and more than human intra-actions in a multi-contextual reality. This reframing is illustrated by this quote:

“We may learn more about leadership if we study it as an entrustment of context, and not as a twinkle bestowed upon a few select individuals from the heavens above. To trust the context requires a second order shift in purposing our agendas. Instead of being activists for this or that cause, we need to tend to the contextual capacity for those changes we would like to see."¹

Coupled with complexity, adaptive leadership is taught to expand the capacities of leaders as they cultivate in themselves, with those around them, and the contexts they serve to “enable leadership by enabling the conditions that effectively support and sustain adaptive space.”² Adaptive space is a space of possibility, where response-ability grows and takes shape just in time. Through this certificate on complexity and adaptive leadership, program participants will develop the leadership capacities necessary to address wicked problems.

Who will benefit from this certificate are those seeking to update their graduate level credentials or enhance their current graduate degree program. This program is appropriate for those who regularly face complex and adaptive challenges in their organization, such as:

  • Professionals who are working in or aspiring toward leadership roles,
  • High potentials,
  • Mid- to upper-level managers, and
  • Senior leaders.

Alumni of UGA (or other higher education institutions) with bachelors and graduate degrees (or are matriculating) are invited to apply.

The learning goals of this complexity leadership certificate are to:

  1. Understand and discern the theory and practices of leader formation and leadership development
  2. Explore how to thrive in complexity and employ an adaptive leader mindsets
  3. Understand how to develop sustainable systems of leadership development that are agile, dynamic, and capable of ethical responses to 21st century challenges
  4. Develop and enact complexity and/or adaptive leadership in an action project of their own design


  1. Nora Basteson, (2019). Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing through other patterns. p. 85-86
  2. Uhl-Bien & Arena, (2017). Complexity leadership: Enabling people and organizations for adaptability, p.14, (quote is a paraphrase)


The Graduate Certificate in Complexity Leadership allows post baccalaureate students to develop their own leader identity and master the theories, methods, and practices of leadership to meet the continuous learning demands placed on leaders in today’s constantly evolving context. Within a faculty supervised practicum, certificate participants will implement complexity and/or adaptive leadership real-time within an agreed upon setting.

The complexity leadership certificate consists of six, 3-hour courses. In addition to one Elective course, there are five Core courses culminating in a practicum capstone course.

Core Curriculum (15 hours)

  • LLOD 8230/8230e: Leadership in Learning, Leadership and Organization Development
  • LLOD 8205/8205e: Leading from Within: Developing Personal and Interpersonal Leadership Capacity
  • LLOD 8250/8250e: Complexity Leadership
  • LLOD 8060/8060e: Adaptive Leadership
  • LLOD 8610/8610e: Practicum Leadership Complexity, capstone

Electives (3 hours)

  • LOD 8140/8140e: Equity and Inclusion in Organizations
  • LLOD 8210/ 8210e: Leading Change in Workplace and Adult Education Organizations
  • LLOD 8320/8320e: Facilitating Group Change and Development
  • LLOD 9050/9050e: World Building
  • TBD - Other elective as approved by the program director


Tuition and fees are subject to change. Use the Estimated Cost Calculator on the Bursar’s Office website for current tuition and fees.

How to Apply

Students are encouraged to enroll in the Summer and Fall semesters. This certificate program is open to both degree-seeking and non-degree students. Applicants must meet the minimum Graduate School standards.

Non-degree students are required to apply through the Graduate School website . The degree code is ‘CERT_2COL_GW’.

Current UGA graduate students should complete and submit an online application form . Note: a completed form requires approval from the student’s major professor.

After submitting a completed form, the student’s name will be added to the program database of Complexity Leadership Certificate students, and the certificate will be added to the student’s file by the Registrar’s Office. Students who are admitted to the Complexity Leadership Certificate will be given priority when registering for further coursework (e.g., LLOD 8230/8230e). Students can apply any semester. It is recommended, though not required, that students matriculate in the Summer or Fall semesters.


Certificate Director: Dr. Cynthia M. Sims

Additional Resources

Faculty and Advisors

The College’s programs are taught by dedicated faculty who are experts in a range of areas and are passionate about helping students succeed both in their programs and professionally.

Meet the Faculty

Most graduate students at UGA are not assigned to a faculty advisor until after admittance. A close working relationship with your advisor is paramount to progressing through your program of study.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Almost all in-state students begin their studies at UGA paying limited tuition or fees. Please note that these amounts are subject to change and are meant to give prospective students an idea of the costs associated with a degree at the University of Georgia College of Education.

Students may qualify for a variety of assistantships, scholarships, and other financial awards to help offset the cost of tuition, housing, and other expenses.

Tuition Rates   Browse Financial Aid

Student Life

Our students have a range of opportunities available outside the classroom as well, from professional organizations, experiential learning, clubs and other non-academic experiences.

See for yourself how much UGA College of Education has to offer! Schedule a tour of campus to learn more about the UGA student experience.

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Contact Info

Cynthia Sims
River’s Crossing, 412
© University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602