Teaching Interest


by Nancy F. Koehn


I teach a Harvard Business School MBA elective course called "Power and Glory in Turbulent Times: The History of Leadership from Henry V to Steve Jobs." The class examines the effectiveness of individual leaders who lived and worked in moments of great turbulence and aims to understand the values they lived by, the choices they made—including the strategies they used—and the tradeoffs they faced as they exercised widespread power in companies, nations, and communities. It also focuses on the impact that each of these individuals had, and how this impact was related to their respective missions. Particular attention is paid to these individuals’ journeys, including their evolution as leaders, and to the lessons these leaders offer for individuals today who want to make a real, positive difference in the world. Throughout the course, students are encouraged to examine the choices each leader made, the path he or she traveled—including the mistakes and failures each experienced—the values and goals he or she nurtured, and the larger stage on which that person acted. This perspective provides a broad understanding of the long-term impact of of leadership and innovation on business, government, and society. In looking closely at the agency of other individuals who have exerted lasting influence, students are challenged to consider their own agency, along with their ambitions and ideas about leadership. Leaders studied include Winston Churchill, Alexander Hamilton, Josiah Wedgwood, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Heinz, John D. Rockefeller, Madam C.J. Walker, Estee Lauder, Gloria Steinem, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rachel Carson, Bono, Howard Schultz, Oprah Winfrey, Katherine Graham, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Ernest Shackleton.

Keywords: History of Leadership; Effective Leadership in Turbulent Times; Leadership; Entrepreneurship; History; Service Industry; Media and Broadcasting Industry; Health Industry; Entertainment and Recreation Industry; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; Fashion Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; Advertising Industry; United States; Europe;