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How can courses on leadership effectively cultivate students’ leadership skills? This reflective essay explores how one form of role-playing called Reacting to the Past can promote students’ leadership skills and deepen their understanding of leadership. Reacting to the Past is a series of immersive role-playing simulations that are set at key moments in history and that require students to play the part of historical actors over the course of several weeks. I argue that Reacting to the Past encourages students to practice leadership skills in an authentic context, improves students’ understanding of leadership by allowing them to observe and participate in leadership processes firsthand, and has other important benefits for leadership education. Moreover, this essay also provides guidance on how to incorporate Reacting to the Past into courses on leadership and discusses strategies for addressing common problems that instructors confront when using this pedagogy.



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