Credit points


Campus offering

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SCRK500 Introduction to the Social Psychology of Risk

Teaching organisation

Lectures, workshops, excursions, guest presenters, flexible delivery - 24 hours face-to-face or equivalent

Unit rationale, description and aim

One of the greatest challenges to leaders and organisations is the management of uncertainty. In the face of the fear of risk, the tendency is towards conservatism and this in turn affects learning, creativity, innovation and the imagination. By exploring the management of fallible humans through the modern excesses of complex systems and the balance between managerialism and leadership a more balanced approach will be introduced.

Building on the foundations created in SCRK500 Introduction to the Social Psychology of Risk, this unit aims to create a bridge between the understanding of self and the ability to lead and inspire others. The goal is to explore the principles required to empower people to make the correct decisions by applying the principles of the psychology of risk. It also focuses on the way our understanding of the psychology of risk and leadership is critical for motivation and performance.

This unit develops the intersection between leadership theory and the social psychology of risk, particularly as it pertains to innovation. It explores leadership theory in relationship to human judgment and decision-making as they are applied to organisational risk. Leadership challenges as they relate to risk and innovation will be explored, particularly with regards to leadership styles, models and frameworks. For instance, leadership and managerialism, technical/results focused leadership and non-technical social skills focused leadership, as well as emerging leadership principles such as Embodied Leadership will be actively discussed.

The aim of the unit is to provide students with knowledge and understanding of leadership theory and where and how it intersects with the psychology of risk.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO2 - Explain the implications of psychology of risk for leadership using contemporary leadership theories (GA 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8) 

LO3 - Critique the role of leadership in managing uncertainty, heuristics and tacit knowledge in relation to risk (GA 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8) 

LO4 - Manage cognitive bias, heuristic decision making and dissonance applicable for risk intelligence in self and others (GA 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8) 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


  • Leadership theory, styles, frameworks and principles Leadership and Managerialism  
  • ‘Hero Myth’.  
  • The Law of Diffusion of Innovation aligned to the three circles approach. 
  • Semiology and semiotics of leadership,  
  • Heuristics, Cognitive bias and dissonance  
  • ethics and leadership.  
  • Technical/results focused leadership  
  • Non-technical social skills focused leadership, as well as  
  • Emerging leadership principles such as Embodied Leadership  
  • The psychology of goals and of motivation participatory observation, perception and motivation. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Whilst this unit can be delivered as a face to face intensive, it is recommended for delivery as an intensive virtual classroom. Taking cognisance of the profile of students who attend this program and the fact that they are usually time poor professionals, the virtual delivery mode combined with self-paced study has been chosen as preferred learning and teaching strategy. The application of 4 half days of intensive online delivery provides the ability for cohorts across different cities to interact and begin networking to create communities of practice that are required for ongoing development of the field of psychology of risk.  

This unit builds on the key knowledge and understandings achieved in Unit 1 but relates the concepts taught in unit 1 to the aspect of leadership and how it relates to risk. As far as can be achieved using the virtual classroom delivery style interaction is driven so that students can share their experiences with leadership and risk as related to the content and learning outcomes. 

The multi-mode delivery framework requires ongoing student involvement and engagement via the following: 

  • Comment toolbox 
  • External activities  
  • Individual research  
  • Conventional research and learning activities  
  • Video streaming  
  • Virtual Breakout rooms 


In addition, self-paced review and research will be required. The integration of the online, self-paced research and content review provides a basis for holistic learning and key message reinforcement. The learning and teaching strategy will facilitate active participation in a pedagogical approach that demonstrates the alignment of teaching, learning and assessment. The strategy is focused on being responsive to the diverse contexts of individual students and cohorts. The integration of the online, self-paced research and content review provides a basis for holistic learning and key message reinforcement to occur.  

Key content delivery is underpinned by case studies throughout the unit which highlights the application of the content. In addition, students are encouraged to share their real-life experiences and observations, aligned to the content, so that active learning and understanding of the relevance of material is achieved and reinforced. The focus on key outcomes and approaches with regards to critical thinking are addressed throughout the delivery. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video, workshops, and assignments etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to successfully complete this unit, postgraduate students need to complete and submit three graded assessment tasks. 

The assessment will relate directly to the achievement of the outcomes and graduate attributes above. Consistent with the developmental nature of the course the focus of the assessment in this unit is on the acquisition of content knowledge leading to an understanding of its application to practice. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

 Leadership principle checkpoint activity 

 An activity designed to assess:  

  • the implications of psychology of risk for leadership and 
  • the contemporary leadership theories and relevance to the psychology of risk 


LO1, LO2 

GA 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8 

 Case Study and presentation   

  • Explain how managing uncertainty, heuristics and tacit knowledge relate to leadership 
  • Demonstrate the ability to lead initiatives that ensure the management of cognitive bias, heuristic decision making and dissonance applicable for risk intelligence in self and others 


LO2, LO3  

GA 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8 

Composition of a 2500-word Critical Analytical Essay that demonstrates application in context of real life examples to achieve Learning outcomes. 

  • Explain the implications of psychology of risk for leadership  
  • Describe contemporary leadership theories and their relevance to the psychology of risk  
  • Explain how managing uncertainty, heuristics and tacit knowledge relate to leadership  
  • Demonstrate the ability to lead initiatives that ensure the management of cognitive bias, heuristic decision making and dissonance applicable for risk intelligence in self and others 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 8 

Representative texts and references

Ariely, D. (2012) The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves. Harper Collins. New York 

Collins, C. Benson, N. Ginsberg, J. Grand, V. Lazyan, N. Weeks, M. (2012). The psychology book: [big ideas simply explained]. DK Publishers. New York 

Haslam, S., et. Al. (2011). The New Psychology of Leadership, Identity Influence and Power. Psychology Press. New York. 

Kellerman, B. (2008) Followership, How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders. Harvard Business Press, Boston. 

Schneider, G., Johnston, P. & Down, K. (2016). Dynamic Risk Equilibrium – The next wave. RiskManagement Today. Vol 26 No 10. LexisNexis: 180-184 

Schneider, G., Johnston, P. & Down, K. (2017). What is Risk Intelligence. Risk Management Today. Vol 27 No 3. LexisNexis: 43-47 

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Penguin Group. London 

Sinek, S. (2014). Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. Portfolio / Penguin. New York. 

Standards Australia. (2018). AS/NZS ISO 31000:2018 Risk management— Principles and guidelines 

Weick, E. & Sutcliffe. (2015) Managing the Unexpected, Sustained Performance in a Complex. World (Third Edition). Wiley. New Jersey  

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