Nancy F. Koehn

James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration

Nancy F. Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robison chair of Business Administration. Koehn's research focuses on entrepreneurial leadership and how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth, and impact.  She is currently working on a book about the most important lessons from five leaders’ journeys, including Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Rachel Carson.  Her most recent book, Ernest Shackleton:  Exploring Leadership , (2012), examines the important leadership lessons in Shackleton's legendary Endurance expedition. 

Koehn is also the author of Oprah (Brand) Renew (2011);Oprah:  Leading with Heart (2011); The Story of American Business:  From the Pages of the New York Times (2009); Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers' Trust from Wedgwood to Dell (2001) and The Power of Commerce: Economy and Governance in the First British Empire (1994), as well as a contributor to Creative Capitalism:  A Conversation with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and other Economic Leaders (2008); Remember Who You Are: Life Stories That Inspire the Heart and Mind (2004); Beauty and Business (2000); The Intellectual Venture Capitalist: John H. McArthur and the Work of the Harvard Business School, 1980-1995 (1999); Creating Modern Capitalism: How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions (1997); and Management Past and Present: A Casebook on American Business History (1995). She has written and supervised cases on  Starbucks Coffee Company, Ernest Shackleton,Oprah Winfrey, Bono and U2,  Whole Foods, Stonyfield Yogurt, Wedgwood, Estée Lauder, Henry Heinz, Milton Hershey, Celeste Walker, Marshall Field, Dell Computer, and other leaders and organizations.

Koehn consults with many companies and speaks frequently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival and the World Business Forum.  She has appeared on "American Experience," "Good Morning America," Bloomberg Televison, CNBC's "Moneywheel," "The NewsHour," A&E's "Biography," CNN's "Money Line" and many other television programs. She writes regularly for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and the Harvard Business Review Online and is a regular commentator on National Public Radio and the BBC.   In 2012, Poets and Quants ranked Koehn as one of the World’s 50 Best Business School Professors.

Koehn is a director of Tempur Sealy International and the clothing retailer, Fashion to Figure.

Before coming to HBS, Koehn was a member of Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences for seven years, first as a graduate student in history and then as a lecturer in the History and Literature concentration and the Department of Economics.  A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, Koehn earned a Master of Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government before taking her MA and PhD in History from Harvard.

Koehn lives outside Boston and is an avid equestrian.

Nancy F. Koehn In the News

Media Appearances and Interviews

21 May 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
23 Apr 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
10 Apr 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
26 Mar 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
10 Mar 2014
WGBH: Greater Boston
07 Mar 2014
WGBH: Innovation Hub
27 Feb 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
05 Feb 2014
Boston Public Radio
14 Jan 2014
Boston Public Radio
13 Jan 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
07 Jan 2014
Boston Public Radio
02 Jan 2014
Boston Public Radio
02 Jan 2014
American Public Media: Marketplace
24 Dec 2013
Boston Public Radio
19 Dec 2013
American Public Media: Marketplace
17 Dec 2013
Boston Public Radio
10 Dec 2013
Boston Public Radio
04 Dec 2013
Marketplace Business
16 Oct 2013
Harvard Business Review
31 Oct 2013
American Public Media: Marketplace
30 Sep 2013
Fast Company
01 Sep 2013
National Geographic
31 Jul 2013
American Public Media: Marketplace
05 Jun 2013
Fortune
07 Jun 2013
SmartBrief on Leadership (blog)
02 May 2013
Bloomberg Businessweek
25 Apr 2013
Bloomberg TV: Market Makers
01 Mar 2013
WGBH News
18 Feb 2013
Minnesota Public Radio
14 Feb 2013
American Public Media: Marketplace
05 Feb 2013
Boston Public Radio
29 Jan 2013
PBS
26 Jan 2013
New York Times
01 Dec 2012
Barron’s
09 Nov 2012
Washington Post
28 Oct 2012
New York Times
15 Oct 2012
American Public Media: Marketplace
30 Aug 2012
American Public Media: Marketplace
15 Aug 2011
Washington Post, On Leadership Blog
10 Aug 2012
Investors Business Daily
29 Apr 2012
In the Balance
01 Apr 2012
New York Times
15 Jan 2012
New York Times
04 Dec 2011
New York Times
22 Oct 2011
New York Times
03 Oct 2011
Washington Post
08 Aug 2011
WGBH-TV
13 Jan 2011
Economist