We find leaders in unexpected places.

Unexpected Acts of Leadership (UALs) are efforts to speak up and step up for something important – efforts not necessarily initiated by people who have rank, authority and power, but also by people of normal means; anyone going beyond their official duties. The small local changes they create can have huge ripple effects. We’re on a mission to find these UALs – and inspire more of them.

What is an Unexpected Act of Leadership?

Once you understand unexpected leadership, you’ll notice it everywhere. But UALs stand apart from more conventional leadership in several ways.

See the criteria

Mary Uhl-Bien teaching
Our Purpose

We believe unexpected leadership, coming from anywhere and everywhere, can create positive futures in more powerful ways than traditional leadership models can. There are five main ways we want to explore this phenomenon and, hopefully, make it spread.

  • Envision a new form of leadership
  • Engage with you about the UALs you’ve seen and done
  • Explore what impact you’ve witnessed as a result of such leadership
  • Empower more people to step up and lead
  • Encourage organizations to make it safer for their people to do so

We want to change how you think about leadership.

Most people associate leadership with hierarchical position, or with well-known, powerful and even heroic individuals. They expect their established leaders to champion the community’s good. But what happens when the formal leader doesn’t address a critical issue? When he doesn’t see it as a priority, or when she doesn’t have the time or budget to address it?

The need will continue to go unmet until someone unexpected steps up. Since Larry Peters’ eye-opening experience in South Africa, our small circle of TCU faculty have become fascinated with this more “life sized” form of leader: one who sees a need and delivers what we call unexpected acts of leadership (UALs).

The initiation of these efforts is not necessarily dependent on title, authority or power. They can also be carried out by people of normal means; anyone acting beyond their official duties. Even when no action is expected of them, even if they lack formal leadership credentials – even if they take personal or career risks in doing so – these individuals speak up and step up, envision new futures, engage others in turning their visions into reality, and throw down the gauntlet to spur others into action.

These leaders may not affect the lives of millions of people, but they will often change the lives around them in significant ways – and the ripple effects may reach far beyond what anyone anticipated.