Joseph L. Bower

Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus

JOSEPH L. BOWER, Donald K. David Professor Emeritus, has been a leader in general management at Harvard Business School for 51 years. He also served on the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School during its first decade.  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 as a joint program of Harvard Business School and the School of Government; and in 1995 he founded the General Manager Program at Harvard Business School. He was deeply involved in the efforts 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 and was a Financial Times to 10 for that year; From Resource Allocation to Strategy (with C. Gilbert) was published in 2005 by Oxford University Press, and won the Best Book award in 2006 from “Strategy + Management.” .

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, two step-children, five grandchildren, and 3 step-grandchildren.

  1. The Future of Market Capitalism

    by Joseph L. Bower

    In 2009 we are aware of the fragile state of our market system.  But a careful examination of the long term prospects for the global economy reveal other problems that may destabilize the system that has created so much wealth in the period since the second world war.   This project is exploring the threats to future prosperity within and without the system of market capitalism and the ways business leaders can work to mitigate those threats.
  2. Management of Succession

    by Joseph L. Bower

    An outgrowth of the work on the corporate office has been a more focused study on the management of succession. This work identified the reasons why the management of CEO succession has proved so difficult for so many companies as well as the way the best companies are able to manage the CEO succession process.  The key is the development of "inside-outsiders" men and women with deep understanding of the capabilities and culture of their organization who have both managed to maintain an objective perspective that enables to perceive the need for fundamental change and cultivate the skill set that enables to manage the transformation of their companies.
  3. Creating Corporate Value Added

    by Joseph L. Bower

    In response to dramatic changes in the business environment--hypercompetition in many traditional industries, short product life cycles, and new competitors based in emerging nations--successful companies have responded by repositioning themselves in the global markets and building new layers of capability. The entrepreneurial leaders of these companies find ways to use corporate strengths to add value to the performance of their business units. 'To a surprising extent,' says Professor Joe Bower, a leading expert in the fields of corporate strategy and public policy, 'we see similar challenges met with a common range of tools across very different companies.'