Leadership Step by Step

An experiential course in how to lead, from basic to advanced


About This Course

You've done well by following the path people put before you—what your parents, teachers, and everyone told you to do. You went to class. You got internships. You got the best grades you could.

But you reached the end of that path and now you have to think, decide, and act for yourself.

You're responsible for rent, food, meeting people, finding work, and for all your choices.

You have to find your job, you have to make your work meaningful, and you have to create your community.

It's scary!

After many rejections you got a job, or two. Or three.

But where is the fulfillment in following the herd after the best jobs are taken?

Jobs that sound rewarding lead to work that isn't. Most don't sound rewarding in the first place. Your bosses look out for themselves more than they help you. You hear horror stories of more horrible bosses elsewhere, making you scared to rock the boat or leave. You aren't learning. You can do more meaningful work than they give you.

You want to leave, maybe even tell your bosses off, but you have to pay rent and eat.

If your parents help you financially it builds resentment. They expect more of you, but the system seems rigged. What can you do? The education they promoted didn't prepare you for this. What help are all those facts your teachers lectured at you? Those internships you were so happy to score led you right into this.

You feel trapped. The system is making you dependent and helpless. You complain to your friends and family, which doesn't help. How can you enjoy life feeling trapped and hopeless?

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When you can't think of a solution, what can you do but accept the situation? But accepting it means giving up hope and preparing for decades trapped and dependent.

Maybe you fantasize the future will magically improve despite having no idea how. Maybe you hope to start a company one day, but you have no idea how, no experience, no money, no clients, no ideas, and no other resources besides your diploma.

Maybe you hope having kids will bring you happiness and joy. But you know what supporting them costs. You have to work and sacrifice now to prepare. You also know that if that's all you do, your kids will have a stressed, unhappy parent with little time for them, maybe two.

Maybe you're thinking of getting a professional degree—like law, medicine, or business. But if doing well in school trapped you so far, won't more school trap you under more debt?

Have you talked to lawyers, doctors, or businesspeople lately? Do they sound happy? Or do they also feel trapped? Do you want to work the best years of your life to make partner by making faceless corporations rich?

Maybe you're thinking of trying to figure professional and personal growth out yourself. Where do you begin? Books? Classes? Travel? New hobbies? You've done some of these things. They were fun for a while, but did they help in the long term? Or just put lipstick on a pig?

Do these strategies make sense, anyway? Didn't most of you heroes and role models succeed by exiting this grind, not getting deeper in it?

People you look up to put down these false escape strategies that ensnare you more.

They ensnare you with their costs and debt.

Consider getting a professional degree. A degree from a prominent school can cost $100,000 and two or three years of your life, with no guarantee of a rewarding career after. And that's after you spent thousands of dollars preparing for and taking stressful standardized tests that do nothing to improve your life. Plus thousands more dollars to apply to schools, with no guarantee of getting into any. Plus thousands more dollars traveling to schools for tours and stressful interviews. And you might not get into any.

Beyond the costs, you'll have to spend a year or more on applications, essays, standardized tests, recommendations, transcripts, and other dull, unrewarding grunt work. Not like you have extra time and energy lying around. You'll have to do that work at the end of long, demoralizing days and weeks of the grind. You were supposed to use nights and weekends to escape work, not worsen it.

After a year of extra work on top of the job you don't like, neglecting your friends, family, and personal life, you'll have to uproot it all to go to school, start a social life from scratch that you'll graduate away from a couple years later when you uproot again to start a new grind.

That's if you get into school on your first try. You might not. Then you'll have to apply year after year. You may never get in.

Even if you do, you may not like the school or program after you start, which means after you've paid. You may not like the field after you graduate, which means you've thrown away all that time and money.

More school can take years of your life to create a lifetime of debt, trapping you in a field you dislike. Universities aren't there to enable you. They are there to stay in business, which means getting paid, which you have to do before you start. No university gives a money-back guarantee.

Professional schools teach you functional skills because they want you to get a job fast. They teach you to follow instruction, both in what they teach and how they teach. Lectures and case studies are just them bossing you around. Schools teach you to become a smarter tool.

To review, professional school means

  • Working extra hard for years to apply,
  • Delaying enjoying life,
  • To work extra hard in school,
  • To work extra hard to pay off the debt,
  • By following orders from bosses.

If school doesn't look so appealing, what about creating your own professional and personal development program? Books, courses, and hobbies cost money and time too—with less guarantee of success.

How many projects and hobbies have you left incomplete? Have you already filled your closets and trash with the gear of past attempts? You probably spent thousands of dollars, maybe tens of thousands, on books, seminars, clothes, equipment, certifications, and so on. For whatever they brought you, in the long term how much more were they than distraction? Tens of thousands of dollars of distraction just to fill your closet and trash.

These attempts to escape cause you to lose touch with friends and family. Their futility demoralizes you. Resigning and giving up your dreams weighs on your soul and ruins your relationships. Who wants to listen to you talk about giving up or grasping for expensive straws in the vain hope that this time will be different?

How do you find jobs when you're demoralized? Or interview for them effectively when you're desparate?

How do you attract and meet people that way? Who wants to date someone like that? What kind of spouse or parent does such a person make? What kinds of kids does a demoralized, embittered parent raise?

Tens of thousands of dollars and years from the best of your life spent in futility, only to feel trapped deeper, giving up on the dream they promised you, bitter and hopeless.

You probably put on weight too.

Wait a minute!

Not everyone feels so hopeless and resigned.

Our heroes and role models broke out of the grind by overcoming big challenges. You almost envy their hardship and wish life would throw you a hardball like they got.

What if there was a way to overcome challenges without the pain, hardship, and personal risk? Not every role model had to overcome insurmountable odds. What if you could emulate the ones that didn't?

Many successful people never bought into the trap. Many effective, successful leaders dropped out of school.


They took responsibility and started things themselves instead of asking someone else for jobs. They created relationships and community. They enjoyed helping their communities and partners instead despairing. Even during the hard times—especially in the hard times—heroes and role models excel.

Successful people are as human as you. Many started with less. They didn't succeed by knowing more facts, reading more books, or making excuses. They succeeded by applying their experience.

What if someone figured out a path through what successful people experienced to develop themselves? What if they minimized the risk by giving simple exercises to create those experiences without others depending on you? What if they made it rewarding, or even fun?

Consider your life after these leadership experiences.

You love your work, create your own projects, and look forward to challenges. You jump out of bed because you find work so rewarding. You create and lead teams.

Your bosses support you. They seek you out to ask how you want to work, give you projects you like, and promote you. They give you responsibility for projects you want to do. You feel your work helping make the world better, not just the corporation richer.

Your friends, family, and colleagues like and respect you for your work and how you act. They tell you about new opportunities. Other firms try to hire you. You see chances to start your own projects.

You don't obsess over decisions. You know your values and priorities, as well as your team's and your customers', so you choose and act deliberately. When you make mistakes, you learn and grow from them.

Life feels simple. You know what to do. You're calm. You don't lose your cool. Because you learn from all your interactions, your greatest challenges become your greatest sources of learning. Instead of fearing conflict, you embrace and grow from it.

People you like become friends, business partners, and romances. Those you don't learn to go elsewhere or learn to support you.

Your boyfriend or girlfriend thinks of new ways to support you, make you happy, and make your fantasies happen.

Disagreements create deeper understanding instead of fights. You feel comfortable opening up and being yourself, confidently expressing yourself and trying new things. You make people around you comfortable to share and open up with you. People like spending time with you.

You feel understood and respected for being yourself, for your decisions, and for speaking authentically.

You feel strong, free, liberated, and happy. You are strong, free, liberated, and happy. You embrace challenges. You constantly learn about yourself, people you know, and people in general.

You lead and inspire yourself and others. When you want help, you find people happy to join your team. Your teammates are loyal and helpful. They tell others to work with you.

You are surrounded by supportive, successful people who want you to succeed.

You are healthy and resilient. You have healthy, productive habits.

This life is the opposite of what life and school dropped on you. It's a life of freedom to be yourself. In it you are

... a peer to your heroes and role models

... confident and able, knowing that even failure will develop you more

... secure, knowing that you can meaningfully connect with people quickly and deliberately

... inspirational to others

... admired and depended on

You can create this life for yourself.


Just because some people had to overcome unimaginable odds to discover themselves doesn't mean you have to. If anyone made it without risking everything, you can too.

You have to overcome the right challenges to develop the skills, beliefs, perspectives, and practices you need. They don't have to be hard.

Schools teach knowledge and facts so they rarely help beyond basic knowledge. Most classes teach you to be obedient and listen, not to assert, grow, and lead.

Some people were lucky: life happened to hand them the right challenges at the right time to develop themselves. The rest of us have to do it ourselves.

You can.

Great leaders describe self-awareness as fundamental. Anyone can learn it—not as some woo-woo new-age concept, but as practically as a carpenter learns wood, a plumber learns pipes, and a programmer learns computers. Schools don't teach it or even address it.

Learning to lead yourself also means finding things about yourself you want to change, creating new habits, asserting yourself, speaking authentically, and overcoming anxiety.

Learning to understand others means applying what you learn about yourself to them. It leads to seeing others like yourself.

Learning to lead others means learning to make others feel comfortable following you. That means developing compassion, empathy, listening skills, how to inspire, and how to support. Since no one is born with these skills, everyone who has them had to learn them. Since others have, you can too.

Instead of hoping for the dream that schools, corporations, and other institutions are dangling in front of you like a carrot before a donkey to happen, you can develop the skills to create your own dreams and make them happen.

Leadership Step by Step is an online course that will lead you through a comprehensive set of exercises that develop the skills of leading yourself and others through direct personal experience.

The exercises start simple enough for anyone. They need no outside resources. Each builds on the ones before. Before long you'll lead in ways you never dreamed you could, yet with no big, anxiety-causing jumps. Most of them you can do in under an hour, though the ones you like you can work on as much as you like. Many of them you'll continue practicing and find valuable your whole life, like cardiovascular exercises for athletes.

You take the course from any device that connects to the internet. Here's what will happen when you register. First you create your identity, which you can make anonymous or not. Then

  • You get a written description of how to do the first exercise.

  • You get an audio recording of me describing the exercise to Chris, a student taking the course for the first time like you.

  • Then you do the exercise. Each exercise practices a different essential skill of leadership. None need outside resources or take much time. Most people spend about a week per exercise, but you can work as fast or slow as you like.

  • When you finish the exercise, you go online and click that you finished. The site will prompt you to write your reflections on your experience.

  • After you post your reflections, you'll receive two things:

    • A second audio recording of a conversation with Chris of his doing the same exercise you did.

    • Access to the online forum of the reflections and posts on this exercise of everyone who took the course before and will take it later.

  • You repeat the process with the next exercise. At the end you'll have access to the full forum, where you can always return to talk leadership and solve problems with other graduates.

The app steps you through the process so you can focus on the exercises and applying them.

You will live a comprehensive series of experiences that form the foundation of leading. You will be able to tell others principles of leadership no one told you because you learned them from experience.

You will develop the skills to live the dream life above. The course gives you the skills to make it happen—not by telling you about how others lead but by you learning through experience how to lead.

You have to practice to learn. Any course, book, or other resource that doesn't lead you to practice leading will leave you floundering when you try to lead others, not just recite principles you wrote a paper on or answered on a final.

Listen to Chris describing the course after finishing:

There will be a before and after this course in the field of teaching leadership. People will look at past methods of passive lecture and case studies as ineffective and unrelated to learning to lead. They will look at them like someone trying to teach basketball by lecturing, without putting a ball in students' hands or the students on the court.

Future courses that follow How To Lead will be exercise-based. Ask yourself: would you rather learn to lead from a leader or wait to learn from a follower?

You won't be alone taking this course. You'll hear Chris's experience doing the same exercises you do, with no more preparation than you have. You'll also do it with everyone who has done it before you and with everyone who does it after you. You'll share your experiences online, as anonymously as you like or not, learning from each other. You'll keep your membership in that alumni community forever, so you can ask for or give help on leadership issues as long as you like.

How To Lead walks you through the leadership equivalent of piano scales or tennis ground strokes. It puts you on a path to Carnegie Hall or Wimbledon: you have to practice. But the skills these exercise develop are essential, valuable, and you'll apply them throughout your life.

The exercises are effective, developed and tested with hundreds of people over a decade. The skills collectively create a comprehensive, solid foundation for you to lead effectively. Your relationships will improve, including with yourself.

The exercises come in four units: Understanding Yourself, Leading Yourself, Understanding Others, and Leading Others.

    1. Understanding Yourself focuses on perception, mindfulness, beliefs, thought patterns, and self-awareness.

    2. Leading Yourself focuses on changing beliefs, changing communication habits, avoiding judgment, and getting advice for behavioral change.

    3. Understanding Others focuses on modeling the human emotional system and how to use that model to create and change habits.

    4. Leading Others focuses on creating connections with people, leading with compassion, empathizing, inspiring, supporting, and project managing.

The course will lead you to apply the exercises to your life in ways that matter to you, meaning you will improve your life, not write papers about abstract principles or about other people's lives.

The exercises work whether you tell people you're doing them or not.

Some people think the course only applies to graduates from elite schools. It works for them, but it also worked for a guy living at home, in a dead-end job, a boss he thought was out to get him, having to drive a taxi in his spare time to make ends meet. He became his own boss and moved off on his own.

The exercises worked for a woman doing well at her job at a financial services firm, but capable or more. She left to start her own firm—with the old firm's support.

It worked for a guy who dreamed of directing movies, stuck in an uncreative department, to get promoted to direct his own movies.

What made the exercises work for them was that they did the exercises with diligence.

Some people think the exercises will take too much time. People who have taken the course say they could do the exercises in an hour a week. In fact, since many exercises apply to your regular life, they don't take any extra time. You do each exercise at the pace you choose for yourself.

Others want exercises that are harder or take longer, thinking more work will give more value. You can increase the level of challenge on any of them. Think of them like learning to work out at the gym. Once you know how, you can train as much as you want in which area you want as long as you want. I still do the exercises.

You might think, “If the exercises are simple, why don't I come up with my own and do them myself?” These exercises have been refined and compiled to fit together and comprehensively cover the basics of leadership. They build off each other. Choosing exercises that aren't designed to fit together like these and don't come from experience risk not complementing each other, wasting your time, and confusing you.

Some people think the course isn't grounded in solid pedagogy or tested. It's grounded in the deepest foundations of experiential education, tracing its roots to John Dewey and before. It's been used in elite universities, major corporations, and hundreds of private individuals. It got tremendous reviews, as seen in the testimonials below.

The course is available for a short time at the introductory price of $498. No other course offered at any institution, contained in any book, video, or other medium, gives the results this course does. Nor will it give the lifelong online community you can always return to and ask, learn, and relearn by helping others. The only alternative I know of is hiring a personal coach, if you can find one, which will cost ten times more and won't give you lifelong value.

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The course also comes with a thirty-day money-back guarantee: if you do at least two exercises and aren't satisfied, I'll refund your tuition. Try to find a leadership course at a university with the confidence in its courses to offer that option!

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30-Day money back guarantee

If you’re not satisfied within 30 days of purchase and do two exercises, you’ll get a full 100% refund.


I wanted to thank you for the class on Leadership at Columbia last weekend. It was a big eye opener for someone like me who has never taken any class on leadership. Your real life examples were exemplary and everything I learnt in your class, I feel I can in some way apply in my professional and personal life. I look forward to more such classes from you and in the mean time will be reading your blogs.

- Kabita Dasgupta, Manager, Deloitte & Touche

I think this is a very inspirational class. Becoming more self-aware and improving my emotional intelligence has been my goal, but I have not been able to find a structured way to do so, until now. Thanks!

- Student in Shanghai

This is a very valuable course. It will help everyone in every aspect of their life. Overall life. Not just leadership. Everything from leadership to relationships to taking care of yourself. It’s awakening. It wakes you up to see freedom that people don’t understand. It teaches you what freedom is.

- J. K.

This is the most influential yet relaxing class that I have ever taken in my life. ... I really loved, enjoyed it, and constantly amazed by how much I learned more and more over the course of practicing Joshua's exercises. ... This is a mutual experiential seminar for both students and professor to explore the meaning of leaderships. ... this is a really great class that I will recommend to my friends.

- J. W.

It is the exact material that students of my generation need in order to tackle the unknown beyond graduation and in our everyday.

- NYU student


Do I lose anything in having it online?

On the contrary, the value comes from interacting with others in your real life that you care about, on matters you care about. Whether I assigned the exercises in person or online, the value comes from your practice on your own.

Having the course online only gives you the flexibility to do it when you want and at the pace you want.

The online forum allows you to interact with every student who has ever taken the course and ever will, which is a larger community than could fit in a classroom.

Don't I need classmates to work with for group work?

The exercises will lead you to work with people in your life on matters you care about, not just classmates who happen to be in the same course. You'll ramp up from simple and easy exercises to develop the skills to handle more challenging ones.

You'll also work on solo self-awareness exercises first that will develop your skills before interacting with others.

You'll also read and share your experiences on the forum with everyone else who has taken the course and ever will. You can ask for help and give it (which helps you learn) with the student and alumni community now and forever.

Enroll Now


The Details

7 Units

23 Exercises

Instead of passively watching lectures, in this course you will learn to lead by leading! You will perform a series of exercises from beginner to advanced, learning tools to keep developing long after.

  • You will experience doing and thinking what successful leaders do and think.
  • You will overcome the challenges leaders do on what matters to you, starting simply.
  • The exercises follow time-tested pedagogy and have been tested with hundreds of students


Your Instructor

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Joshua Spodek


Joshua Spodek co-founded several companies, coaches leadership for Columbia Business School’s Program on Social Intelligence, and is an Adjunct Professor at NYU. He has led seminars in leadership, creativity, sales, strategy, and motivation at Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, NYU, MIT, INSEAD (Singapore), the New York Academy of Science, and in private corporations.

He holds five Ivy-League degrees, including a PhD in Astrophysics and an MBA, and studied under a Nobel Prize winner. He also helped build an X-ray observational satellite for the European Space Agency and NASA, co-founded and led as CEO or COO several ventures operating globally, and holds six patents.

He earned such praise as “Best and Brightest” (Esquire Magazine’s Genius Issue), “Astrophysicist turned new media whiz” (NBC), and “Rocket Scientist” (ABC News and Forbes) and has been quoted and profiled by ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, Fox, NY1, CNN, WNYC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Observer, New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsweek, Forbes, Worth, Esquire, The Guardian, Nikkei Shimbun, South China Morning Post, Taipei Times, Village Voice, Salon, and more.

Unit Descriptions

Leadership Introduction

1 exercises

Welcome to the Leadership Course

Understanding Yourself

4 exercises

This unit lays the foundations of self-awareness that successful leaders describe as critical. This unit focuses on perception, mindfulness, beliefs, and observing our thought patterns.

Self-awareness is notoriously difficult to learn from lecture or reading about in a book. The exercises in this unit walk you through developing it. You'll continue that development through the rest of the course.

Leading Yourself

7 exercises

Leading yourself effectively is the foundation for leading others. Creating effective habits is also the foundation for productivity, happiness, and emotional reward.

This unit focuses on changing beliefs, changing communication habits, avoiding judgment, and getting advice for behavioral change. It builds on the awareness developed in the last unit.

Understanding Others

4 exercises

Like mechanics work with cars, leaders work with people. This unit creates a model for our "motors"--the human emotional system--and shows how to use that model to communicate with, understand, influence, and motivate.

You'll start by applying what you learn about emotions and motivations by creating and changing your own habits.

Having a useful model for how the human emotional system gives you the tools to lead yourself and others. The next unit shows you how to use the tools.

Leadership Project

1 exercises

Applying what you've learned to your life on a project that matters to you with people you care about.

Leading Others

5 exercises

This unit teaches you to inspire people and motivate them to engage and work with passion. They'll thank you for getting them to work so hard!

The exercises in this unit lead you to lead people in your life on matters you care about. You don't just learn abstract principles. You'll start small, avoiding anxiety, then building. The exercises develop your compassion, empathy, and understanding.

Before you know it, you'll know how to inspire people deliberately and consistently, then to support and manage them to keep them going for the long term.

Leadership Course Review

1 exercises

Congrats on finishing the Leadership course

7 Units

23 Exercises

Instead of passively watching lectures, in this course you will learn to lead by leading! You will perform a series of exercises from beginner to advanced, learning tools to keep developing long after.

  • You will experience doing and thinking what successful leaders do and think.
  • You will overcome the challenges leaders do on what matters to you, starting simply.
  • The exercises follow time-tested pedagogy and have been tested with hundreds of students