Leadership is a featured research topic and an initiative at Harvard Business School.
As our world grows increasingly global, intricate, and ever-changing, the role of leaders is becoming more and more complex and critical to business success. In the 1950s and 1960s, Fritz Roethlisberger and Elton Mayo's contributions to the "Hawthorne effect," and work by Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch on organizational integration, sparked the field of Organizational Behavior. Early work by Michael Beer on leading organizational change, Rosabeth Kanter on innovation for productivity, John Kotter on power and influence, and Michael Tushman on innovation management helped shape today's understanding of organizational transformation. With an interest in Leadership that spans our academic units, our approach to research is collaborative and multi-disciplinary. We leverage a wide range of research methodologies – from onsite field research to surveys, experiments, and extensive longitudinal studies. 
  1. Political Standards: Corporate Interest, Ideology, and Leadership in the Shaping of Accounting Rules for the Market Economy

    Karthik Ramanna

    There are certain institutions underlying our modern market-capitalist system that are largely outside the interest and understanding of the general public—e.g., rulemaking for bank capital adequacy, actuarial standards, accounting standards, and auditing practice. In these areas, corporate managers and financial experts such as auditors and bankers possess the technical expertise necessary for informed regulation, enjoy strong economic interests in the outcome, and face little resistance to their lobbying activities from the general public. These areas are known as "thin political markets" to distinguish them from more vibrant and competitive "thick" political processes (e.g., healthcare regulation). This book develops the notion of thin political markets through a vivid exploration of the political processes determining our system of accounting rules upon which depends our ability to reliably measure corporate profits in the economy. The book shows how some corporate interests, in the spirit of increasing profits, have been manipulating the very definition of profit by changing accounting rules. On one level, this corporate behavior embodies the capitalist spirit articulated by Milton Friedman: "The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits." But the ethics of profit-increasing behavior are premised on the logic of competition, and this logic breaks down in thin political markets. The result is a structural flaw in the determination of critical institutions of our capitalist system, which, if ignored, can undermine the legitimacy of the system. The book closes with ideas on how to fix the problem.

    Keywords: accounting; business and society; financial institutions; financial reporting; GAAP; IFRS; leadership; lobbying; Capitalism; sustainability; Accounting; Finance; Business and Government Relations; Leadership; Accounting Industry; Financial Services Industry; United States; China; India;


    Ramanna, Karthik. Political Standards: Corporate Interest, Ideology, and Leadership in the Shaping of Accounting Rules for the Market Economy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. (Reviews by Anat Admati, S.P. Kothari, Lynn Stout, Lawrence Summers, and Luigi Zingales, among others.) View Details
  2. Transpower New Zealand: Evaluating Board Performance

    Boris Groysberg, Paul M. Healy and Sarah L. Abbott

    Mark Verbiest, Chairman of Transpower New Zealand, initiated a performance review of Transpower's board of directors. The review, which took four months to complete, provided board members with individualized feedback on their performance, as well as information on how the overall board functioned as a team. As Verbiest considered the feedback from this process he questioned, was Transpower's board operating at optimal performance levels? Was Transpower's new CEO receiving the support she needed to fulfill her responsibilities? And, in light of the evaluation's findings, what should the board's action plan be?

    Keywords: board of directors; governance; leadership; Performance Evaluation; Governance; Leadership; Performance; Organizations; Human Resources; Decision Making; New Zealand;


    Groysberg, Boris, Paul M. Healy, and Sarah L. Abbott. "Transpower New Zealand: Evaluating Board Performance." Harvard Business School Case 416-024, October 2015. View Details
  3. A Challenger's Strategy: Pinar Abay at ING Bank Turkey

    Paul Healy, Gautam Mukunda and Esel Çekin

    In 2013, Pinar Abay was appointed as the CEO of ING Bank Turkey. At 34, she was the youngest bank CEO in Turkey's history. Her appointment raised eyebrows because of her youth and because her career at McKinsey had given her no day-to-day bank management experience. ING, however, wanted a younger leader who could relate to Turkey's young and digitally savvy population. Upon her appointment, Abay determined that major changes were required in operations, personnel and culture. She adopted a variety of innovative approaches to making these changes, ranging from non-traditional hires to sitting for hours in call centers to personally answering customer complaints on Twitter. As Turkey's 12th largest bank, however, ING Turkey lacked scale, so Abay and her team considered a number of non-traditional ways to organize distribution and market the bank to promote growth.

    Keywords: leadership; challenger's strategy; culture; innovation; performance management; talent acquisition; differentiation; transformation; Growth; emerging country; banking; digital banking; alternative channels; Leadership; Change Management; Talent and Talent Management; Organizational Culture; Emerging Markets; Transformation; Banks and Banking; Innovation and Invention; Growth and Development Strategy; Banking Industry; Turkey;


    Healy, Paul, Gautam Mukunda, and Esel Çekin. "A Challenger's Strategy: Pinar Abay at ING Bank Turkey." Harvard Business School Case 116-023, October 2015. View Details
  4. Do People Who Care About Others Cooperate More? Experimental Evidence from Relative Incentive Pay

    Pablo Hernandez, Dylan B. Minor and Dana Sisak

    We experimentally study ways in which the social preferences of individuals and groups affect performance when faced with relative incentives. We also identify the mediating role that communication and leadership play in generating these effects. We find other-regarding workers tend to depress efforts by 15% on average. However, selfish workers are nearly three times more likely to lead workers to coordinate on minimal efforts when communication is possible. Hence, the other-regarding composition of a team of workers has complex consequences for organizational performance.

    Keywords: social preferences; Relative performance; collusion; leadership; Motivation and Incentives; Leadership; Attitudes; Performance;


    Hernandez, Pablo, Dylan B. Minor, and Dana Sisak. "Do People Who Care About Others Cooperate More? Experimental Evidence from Relative Incentive Pay." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-040, October 2015. View Details
  5. The Relational Nature of Leadership Identity Construction: How and When It Influences Perceived Leadership and Decision-Making

    Lisa Marchiondo, Christopher G. Myers and Shirli Kopelman

    This paper empirically tests leadership identity construction theory (DeRue & Ashford, 2010), conceptually framing claiming and granting leadership as a negotiated process that influences leadership perceptions and decision-making in interdependent contexts. In Study 1a, an avatar video-based experimental vignette (replicated in Study 1b with a non-video scenario), we found that when a team member accepted an actor's leadership claim, observers' leadership ratings of the actor increased, whereas when the team member rejected the claim, observers' leadership ratings of the fellow team member increased. However, when an actor granted leadership, the fellow team member's response did not influence leadership ratings. Study 2 extended the conceptual model by identifying how claiming and granting influence leadership perceptions—through perceived competence—and when claiming and granting exert greatest influence, finding that women observers vary more in their responses to claiming and granting. The negotiated relational leader identity process ultimately influenced observer decision-making.

    Keywords: leadership development; Identity Construction; Leadership Development; Identity;


    Marchiondo, Lisa, Christopher G. Myers, and Shirli Kopelman. "The Relational Nature of Leadership Identity Construction: How and When It Influences Perceived Leadership and Decision-Making." Leadership Quarterly 26, no. 5 (October 2015): 892–908. View Details
  6. Case Study: Is a Promotion Worth Hiding Who You Are?

    Karthik Ramanna

    A manager decides whether he should hide his sexual orientation for an overseas assignment.

    Keywords: case studies; globalization; Career advancement; Leadership Development; Globalization; Technology Industry; Korean Peninsula; United States;


    Ramanna, Karthik. "Case Study: Is a Promotion Worth Hiding Who You Are?" Harvard Business Review 93, no. 10 (October 2015): 123–127. View Details
  7. MOD Pizza: A Winning Recipe?

    Boris Groysberg, John D. Vaughan and Matthew Preble

    Scott and Ally Svenson, the founders of MOD Pizza, had to make a number of decisions in planning how to scale their small company. They wanted to grow MOD from 45 stores as of May 2015 to 200 stores by the end of 2016, and while the two believed that MOD could manage this growth from an operational standpoint, they wanted to make sure that MOD's culture was sufficiently strong to survive this rollout. The company had developed a strong culture, and the Svensons did not want MOD's core values and philosophies to be compromised as it rapidly expanded. To that end, they considered what the company needed to do in order to protect its core culture. Should it put rigid safeguards in place or trust that MOD could successfully scale its culture by hiring the right people and helping them develop as employees? The Svensons also discussed the possibility of an IPO at some point in the near future; what would this mean for its ability to stay true to its core values?

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; employees; employee relationship management; selection and staffing; leadership; growth and development strategy; marketing; service delivery; organizational culture; corporate social responsibility and impact; mission and purpose; Entrepreneurship; Employees; Employee Relationship Management; Selection and Staffing; Leadership; Growth and Development Strategy; Marketing; Service Delivery; Organizational Culture; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Mission and Purpose; Service Industry; United States;


    Groysberg, Boris, John D. Vaughan, and Matthew Preble. "MOD Pizza: A Winning Recipe?" Harvard Business School Case 416-004, September 2015. View Details
  8. Macy's: Evolution in the Sunshine State

    Boris Groysberg, Das Narayandas, Benson P. Shapiro and Sarah L. Abbott

    In 2009, Lee O'Rourke was promoted to district vice president in charge of Macy's newly created North Florida district. This district consisted of 11 stores located in the greater Orlando area and in the east coast towns of Daytona, Melbourne, Merritt Island, and Vero Beach. The performance of these stores had lagged in recent years, and O'Rourke was charged with building a cross-functional district team to support these stores and with improving their overall performance. O'Rourke and her team were able to drive almost immediate improvement in the district's sales growth and profitability and in other key areas such as customer service scores. How can O'Rourke ensure that these stores continue to perform well going forward?

    Keywords: leadership; marketing strategy; human capital; managing performance; retail; organization; change management; Leadership; Leadership Style; Leading Change; Marketing; Marketing Strategy; Management; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Retail Industry; United States;


    Groysberg, Boris, Das Narayandas, Benson P. Shapiro, and Sarah L. Abbott. "Macy's: Evolution in the Sunshine State." Harvard Business School Case 416-018, September 2015. View Details
  9. Mary Caroline Tillman at Egon Zehnder: Spotting Talent in the 21st Century

    Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats

    This case investigates both micro and macro issues around strategic human capital development. First, it explores how Egon Zehnder, a leading global search and advisory firm, assesses talent in the firms for which it works. The case discusses the deployment of a unique potential model that substantially shifts how the company views individuals. Within this framework, Mary Caroline Tillman, the case protagonist, is faced with an evaluation decision between two candidates who have different competencies, past experience and potential. Second, the case also explores the macro issues of running a professional services firm. The case presents an opportunity to examine how and if the organization can change its focus to include more assessment opportunities.

    Keywords: Assessment; Competencies; Potential; Talent; Employees; Recruitment; Selection and Staffing; Leadership Development; Management Practices and Processes; Performance Evaluation; Behavior; Motivation and Incentives; Consulting Industry; United Kingdom;


    Gino, Francesca, and Bradley Staats. "Mary Caroline Tillman at Egon Zehnder: Spotting Talent in the 21st Century." Harvard Business School Case 416-017, September 2015. View Details
  10. George Washington and the Foundations of American Democracy

    Tom Nicholas and Matthew G. Preble

    George Washington is perhaps the most well-known of the U.S.'s founding fathers because of his political and military achievements. However, Washington also operated a number of successful business ventures out of his Mount Vernon estate, and he became a landowner on the American frontier. Washington's life and career serve as a lens for understanding the development of the early American economy. Washington was entrepreneurial both economically and politically. He played a central role in helping to structure the new country's national government and developed a number of precedents as the country's first executive.

    Keywords: government; history; leadership; entrepreneurship; George Washington; democracy; Decision Making; Entrepreneurship; Government and Politics; Business History; Leadership; United States;


    Nicholas, Tom, and Matthew G. Preble. "George Washington and the Foundations of American Democracy." Harvard Business School Case 816-019, August 2015. View Details
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