MSc International Disaster Management / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Management and Leadership in Health and Humanitarianism

Course unit fact file
Unit code HCRI76000
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Full year
Available as a free choice unit? No


Providing humanitarian assistance or leading a health system is difficult. In both cases, it is a complex system responding to a complex environment or situation and it is far from straightforward. Teams can find themselves in an uncoordinated situation and there is a real need for “Command & Control” to secure a common purpose for all parties and to deliver at maximum effectiveness and efficiency. 

There are lots of quotations about the differences between leadership and management and, sometimes, there is an impression that leadership is good and management is bad. This is not fair; complex systems need both functions! 

This module is designed to have you consider how systems are externally reviewed or critiqued and to expose you to some of the management tools that can be used to help organise and coordinate complex environments. The purpose is to prepare you to take on some of the functions necessary to lead or manage a situation. 

In terms of being a leader, you first need to understand yourself and how you function. Next you need to understand your team and how to make the most of your collective skills, and then you can think how you relate to your external collaborators. Each requires insight, in sequence, to deliver optimal results. 

A complex system or environment is constantly evolving. There can be sudden shocks (e.g. COVID!) or a gradual evolution (think the growing functionality of laptops and mobile phones). The most proactive and forward-thinking teams, the innovators and early implementers, are usually the ones that gain most benefit from new ideas and technologies and leadership involves seeing these opportunities and positioning yourself and your team to make the most of them. We will explore some of these …


This course aims to allow students to: 

  • Understand the difference between leadership & management 
  • Recognise the influence and value of external critique and tools 
  • Appreciate how to build and support a functional team 
  • Look to the future and consider the trends in and potential of new innovations and technology 
  • Be better positioned to take on a leadership role in a health or humanitarian environment


Week 1: Critiques of Aid 

Week 2: Basics of Project Management

Week 3: Self-management – maximising potential 

Week 4: Team management - leading groups in difficult environments 

Week 5: Relationship management - communications, coordination or control? 

Week 6: Understanding futures - macro trends 

Week 7: Understanding futures - technology 

Week 8: Understanding futures - the impact on health and humanitarianism 

Teaching and learning methods

This is a distance learning course unit. All learning material will be available via Blackboard in a variety of formats. There will be a number of synchronous live virtual sessions for group discussion that will be recorded and available off-line afterwards. 

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this module students will: 

  • Understand the power of critique and be able to objectively use its influence to refine and improve a challenging environment 
  • Be familiar with some of the project management tools that can be used for complex projects 
  • Understand the roles of self and team in building a functioning and responsive leadership structure 
  • Show awareness of operational system innovation and technical development and how they can improve command and control

Intellectual skills

By the end of this module students will be able to: 

  • Be receptive to critique and recognise constructive and destructive criticism and how to begin to manage this 
  • Choose appropriate processes and technical support for managing a complex challenge; a means to an end rather than an end in itself 
  • Recognise different leadership and management styles and how to work with them 
  • Choose whether to innovate when new opportunities present.

Practical skills

By the end of this module students will have: 

  • An improved ability to work cohesively in a team across professions, backgrounds and cultures 
  • Undertaken self-directed and self-reflective learning 
  • Improved communication and diplomacy skills 
  • Be able to work in or lead a team to achieve timely outcomes in challenging environments

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this module students will be able to: 

  • Undertake time efficient self-directed learning and engage in constructive discourse with multi-professional peers 
  • Demonstrate leadership and management skills and recognise the difference

Assessment methods

Assessment Task

Formative or Summative


Discussion Board Contributions

Formative or Summative


Final Essay




Feedback methods

Feedback Method

Formative or Summative

Office Hours


Written feedback on discussion board posts


Written feedback on final essay



Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Darren Walter Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Please note that these units are intensive 8-week short courses, predominately independent-study, with no face-to-face learning

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