Joseph L. Bower

Baker Foundation Professor

JOSEPH L. BOWER, Baker Foundation Professor of Business Administration, has been a leader in general management at Harvard Business School for 50 years. During its first decade, he also served on the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School.  He has served in many administrative roles including Senior Associate Dean.  An expert on corporate strategy, organization, and leadership, he has devoted much of his teaching and research to challenges confronting corporate leaders in today’s rapidly changing hyper-competitive conditions. Professor Bower has been active in the development of institutions and programs. Between 1968 and 73 he helped establish the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Austria. In 1978, he founded the Program for Senior Managers in Government at Harvard’s JFK School of Government; and in 1995 he founded the General Manager Program at Harvard Business School. Currently he is helping to build the new joint MBA-MPP degree program offered by the Business School and the Kennedy School of Government.

Presently, he is co-leading a project on The Future of Market Capitalism. The first result of the project was a book co-authored with Dutch Leonard and Lynn Paine, titled Capitalism at Risk: Rethinking the Role of Business, published October 2011 by Harvard Business Press. Based on three years of work and interviews around the world, the book draws on discussions with business leaders to identify ten potential disruptors of the global market system. Presenting examples of companies already making a difference, the authors explain how business must serve both as innovator and activist--developing corporate strategies that effect change at the community, national, and international levels.

Bower is the author or coauthor many articles, some 200 case studies and videos and more than a dozen books: The CEO Within: Why Inside-Outsiders Are The Key To Succession Planning was published in November 2007 by HBS Press; From Resource Allocation to Strategy (with C. Gilbert) was published in 2005 by Oxford University Press.

Professor Bower has also consulted widely on problems of succession, strategy and organization with companies here and abroad. He is a director of Anika Therapeutics, Inc., Loews Corporation, and New America High Income Fund. He is a life trustee of the New England Conservatory of Music and has served on many other company and non-profit boards.

Professor Bower is a graduate of Harvard University AB '59 magna cum laude, MBA '61 a Baker Scholar with high distinction, DBA '63.  Married to Elizabeth Potter, he lives in Cambridge, has two children and five grandchildren.


  1. Capitalism at Risk: Rethinking the Role of Business

    The spread of capitalism worldwide has made people wealthier than ever before. But capitalism's future is far from assured. The global financial meltdown of 2008 nearly triggered another Great Depression, economies in Europe are still teetering, and powerful forces-income inequality, resource depletion, and mass migrations from poor to rich countries, to name just a few-pose serious threats to continued prosperity. How can the future of capitalism be secured? And who should spearhead the effort? Many observers point to government. But in Capitalism at Risk, the authors argue otherwise. While they agree that governments must play a role, they maintain that businesses should lead the way. Indeed, for enterprising companies, the current threats to market capitalism present vital opportunities. Drawing on discussions with business leaders around the world, the authors argue that companies must stop seeing themselves as bystanders and instead develop innovative business strategies that address the disruptors, produce profitable growth, and strengthen institutions at the community, national, and international levels.  

  2. The CEO Within

    With rising CEO turnover, companies are increasingly looking outside for qualified candidates. Sure, externally recruited CEOs bring fresh perspectives and connections. But they lack the in-depth knowledge of the company s culture and history that they need to succeed. Result? Many deliver disappointing performances.

    Companies can avoid this scenario, contends Joseph Bower in The CEO Within. Drawing on a decade s research (including interviews with leading CEOs) and experience managing the succession process, Bower explains how companies can develop a cohort of internal candidates one of whom may be suited to the increasingly demanding CEO role. The key? Groom inside-outsiders. These leaders view their role through the lens of someone who just bought the company unencumbered by the cognitive and emotional baggage that comes from a long tenure in the organization. But they also leverage the knowledge they ve accumulated about the company s people, suppliers and customers, and future direction.

    Placed squarely at the intersection of succession planning and leadership development, this book describes the distinguishing attributes of the inside-outsider and reveals how to recruit, nurture, and promote this special type of leader. With a healthy supply of qualified internal candidates, companies get the leadership they need when they need it.

  3. The Corporate Leader”

    In today's economic climate, corporate leaders in multidivisional and multinational companies face a uniquely broad set of challenges. While putting in place the systems, relationships, and strategies that foster business unit success, you also must lead the business as a whole, optimizing financial strategy in a turbulent global economy, generating synergies across units, and creating opportunities beyond the current business. The Corporate Leader explores this multifaceted role in depth, helping you balance competing demands while maintaining the big-picture focus that positions your organization for future success.