Ethan S. Bernstein

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Ethan Bernstein is an Assistant Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the Harvard Business School. He teaches the first-year MBA course in Leadership and Organizational Behavior (LEAD) and a PhD course on the craft of field research. His teaching and research address topics related to leadership, collaboration, teamwork, design thinking, and learning in organizations.

Professor Bernstein’s work has been published in journals including Administrative Science QuarterlyResearch on Organizational Change and Development, and the Cornell Law Review, and it has appeared in The Washington PostThe Boston Globe, NPR, Forbes, MSNBC’s Bottom LineYahoo! FinanceInc.Esquire, United Hemispheres, and TEDx Boston, among others. His research has won awards including the Academy of Management’s 2013 Outstanding Publication in Organizational Behavior award, the Academy of Management’s 2013 Best Publication in Organization and Management Theory award, 2013 Fredric M. Jablin Doctoral Dissertation Award from the International Leadership Association, the HBS Wyss Award, and the Susan G. Cohen Doctoral Research Award.

Ethan Bernstein is an Assistant Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the Harvard Business School. He teaches the first-year MBA course in Leadership and Organizational Behavior (LEAD) and a PhD course on the craft of field research. His teaching and research address topics related to leadership, collaboration, teamwork, design thinking, and learning in organizations.

Professor Bernstein’s work has been published in journals including Administrative Science QuarterlyResearch on Organizational Change and Development, and the Cornell Law Review, and it has appeared in The Washington PostThe Boston Globe, NPR, Forbes, MSNBC’s Bottom LineYahoo! FinanceInc.EsquireUnited Hemispheres, and TEDx Boston, among others. His research has won awards including the Academy of Management’s 2013 Outstanding Publication in Organizational Behavior award, the Academy of Management’s 2013 Best Publication in Organization and Management Theory award, 2013 Fredric M. Jablin Doctoral Dissertation Award from the International Leadership Association, the HBS Wyss Award, and the Susan G. Cohen Doctoral Research Award.

In his current research, Professor Bernstein examines how, and under what conditions, privacy makes groups more productive—and specifically how the sharing of information across and within boundaries affects learning, innovation, and organizational performance. In a world obsessed with transparency, his findings suggest that boundaries may sometimes provide unanticipated benefits and be an underutilized managerial performance lever. Put differently, attention matters for performance, and boundaries can be strategically important in directing it. 

Professor Bernstein earned his doctorate in management at Harvard, where he also received a JD/MBA degree. While a doctoral student, he was a Kauffman Foundation Fellow in Law, Innovation, and Growth, and he remains a member of the New York and Massachusetts Bar Associations. He holds an AB in Economics from Amherst College, which included study at Doshisha University in Kyoto.

Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Bernstein spent a half-decade at The Boston Consulting Group in Toronto and Tokyo. Tapped by Elizabeth Warren to join the implementation team at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he spent nearly two years in executive positions, including Chief Strategy Officer and Deputy Assistant Director of Mortgage Markets, at the newest United States federal agency.

In addition to his organizational behavior courses, Professor Bernstein has taught a wide range of topics and students, including Accounting and Finance in the HBS MBA Analytics program, Operations at the Samsung Premier Leadership Development Program, Economics at Harvard College, and the Business Leadership Program at HBS.

Professor Bernstein is a self-declared culinary adventurer and avid cyclist, runner, skier, reader, and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me listener. Originally from Los Angeles, he lives in Newton with his wife, Maly (HBS MBA 2006), and young son.

  1. Winner of the 2013 Fredric M. Jablin Doctoral Dissertation Award, awarded by the International Leadership Association and the Jepson School for Leadership Studies for demonstrating substantial insights and implications for the study of leadership through Professor Bernstein's dissertation, “Does Privacy Make Groups Productive.”

  2. Won the 2010 Susan G. Cohen Doctoral Research Award in Organization Design, Effectiveness, and Change from the CEO (Center for Effective Organizations at the USC Marshall School of Business) and the Academy of Management's Organization Development and Change Division for his work, "Innovation Boundaries: Deconstructing Autonomy."