Vienna, Austria

Sense and Purpose in Leading People - the Holistic Approach

when 12 July 2023 - 21 July 2023
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 4 EC

This course is part of the July Graduate Program of the International Summer University 2023 at WU (ISU WU).

Course leader

Harald Posch & Stephan Klinger

Target group


Course aim

“Change is the only constant in life” – from the early days of globalization onwards managers and consultants quoted this line of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus to demonstrate that change in people, organizations, markets or even the world is a natural part of life. Despite these dynamics, people strive for stable meanings in life and in work.

Organizations state their meanings in documents like mission statements, code of conducts or sustainability reports. Shared meanings are not created via managerial decisions or said documents alone, but socially constructed. One way to shift the focus from decision making to meaning is to look more closely at sensemaking and purpose in organizations. Both can be triggered by events, new CEOs, threatened identities or crises for which the meaning is ambiguous, or the outcome is uncertain. Such occurrences, when noticed, interrupt people’s ongoing flow, disrupt their understanding of the world and create uncertainty about how to act. The basic idea of sensemaking is that reality is an ongoing accomplishment that emerges from efforts to create order and make retrospective sense of what occurs.

“From vulnerability to resilience” - In this course we are going to take a deep dive into the mechanism and processes of sensemaking in organizations and what the purpose of management is or can be about. Furthermore we will examine how leadership can influence this process of “Negotiation of Strangeness”, via sense-giving or sense-breaking – with the aim to create
meaningful enabling organizations. But not just theory will be in focus: students will have the opportunity to conduct interviews with leaders from (very) different organisations to find out, if there is some general underlying principle regarding sensemaking and in which ways purpose can be defined as a compass

Fee info

EUR 0: For information regarding participation fee and payment please visit our website.


WU offers selected scholarships to students participating at the ISUWU. For information please visit our website.