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. 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
  2. Ron Johnson: A Career in Retail

    Das Narayandas, Joshua D. Margolis and Ryan Raffaelli

    In April 2013, Ron Johnson (HBS '84) stepped down after just 18 months as CEO of J.C. Penney. In his brief tenure, Johnson, an acclaimed retailer respected for his innovation and success in shaping the retail image at Target and Apple, introduced dramatic departures from J.C. Penney's traditional retail approach, and enacted changes quickly and simultaneously, with little market testing. Over Johnson's final 12 months as CEO, J.C. Penney shares dropped more than 50%. The case describes the environments at Target, Apple, and J.C. Penney during Johnson's tenure and how his experiences may have shaped the strategies that he implemented while CEO at J.C. Penney.

    Keywords: Change Management; Innovation Leadership; Situation or Environment; Failure; Management Teams; Brands and Branding; Retail Industry; United States;


    Narayandas, Das, Joshua D. Margolis, and Ryan Raffaelli. "Ron Johnson: A Career in Retail." Harvard Business School Case 516-016, July 2015. View Details
  3. Rebooting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

    Dennis A. Yao and Hillary Greene

    David Kappos is confirmed as Undersecretary of Commerce and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in August 2009. The primary activity of USPTO, an executive agency with a $2 billion budget and nearly 10,000 employees, is to examine and issue patents. While progress has been made in terms of increasing the quality of issued patents, the time it takes to process them has increased markedly. Since 2005, processing time has increased nearly 20% to more than 34 months and the backlog of unexamined patent applications has grown to more than 750,000. Agency morale is low, the applicant base is unhappy, and the fallout of the financial crisis nearly forced the agency to furlough most of its employees. In addition, a major initiative of the agency for addressing the backlog problem has been stopped pending the outcome of litigation between the agency and two of its applicants. This case explores the strategy and leadership challenges associated with turning around a large government organization.

    Keywords: strategy formulation; leadership; service operations; turnarounds; operational effectiveness; government organizations; Patents; Leadership; United States;


    Yao, Dennis A., and Hillary Greene. "Rebooting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office." Harvard Business School Case 715-458, June 2015. View Details
  4. Tanfeeth: Bringing Service Excellence to the GCC

    Lynda M. Applegate and Arnold B. Peinado

    Tanfeeth, a business process outsourcing (BPO) firm in the United Arab Emirates, was founded in July 2011 as a fully owned subsidiary of Emirates NBD, the largest bank in the Gulf Corporation Council. When Tanfeeth was founded, Emirates NBD, along with the leaders of Tanfeeth, decided that Tanfeeth would begin by improving processes at the bank. However, two years after its founding, some Tanfeeth executives felt that the organization needed to take on work from outside clients. They were concerned that if Tanfeeth waited too long, its first-mover advantage and position as market leader would deteriorate. Additionally, if Emirates NBD held back Tanfeeth's growth ambitions, some of the world-class talent Tanfeeth had been able to attract might leave. What was the best course of action for Emirates NBD and Tanfeeth?

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; Middle East; outsourcing; leadership; Entrepreneurship; Leadership; Middle East;


    Applegate, Lynda M., and Arnold B. Peinado. "Tanfeeth: Bringing Service Excellence to the GCC." Harvard Business School Case 815-129, May 2015. View Details
  5. Generating Higher Value at IBM (A)

    Benjamin C. Esty and E. Scott Mayfield

    Keywords: dividends; Share Repurchases; Earnings Guidance; financial statement analysis; Financial ratios; Payout policy; Earnings per Share (EPS); Earnings Management; Change Management; Leadership; Transformation; Financial Strategy;


    Esty, Benjamin C., and E. Scott Mayfield. "Generating Higher Value at IBM (A)." Harvard Business School Case 215-058, May 2015. (Revised July 2015.) View Details
  6. Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs

    David B. Yoffie and Michael A. Cusumano

    The authors of the bestselling Competing on Internet Time (a Business Week top 10 book) analyze the strategies, principles, and skills of three of the most successful and influential figures in business—Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs—offering lessons for all managers and entrepreneurs on leadership, strategy, and execution.
    In less than a decade, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Andy Grove founded three companies that would define the world of technology and transform our lives. At their peaks, Microsoft, Apple, and Intel were collectively worth some $1.5 trillion. Strategy Rules examines these three individuals collectively for the first time—their successes and failures, commonalities, and differences—revealing the business strategies and practices they pioneered while building their firms.
    David B. Yoffie and Michael A. Cusumano have studied these three leaders and their companies for more than thirty years, while teaching business strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship at Harvard and MIT. In this enlightening guide, they show how Gates, Grove, and Jobs approached strategy and execution in remarkably similar ways—yet markedly differently from their erstwhile competitors—keeping their focus on five strategic rules. Strategy Rules brings together the best practices in strategic management and high-tech entrepreneurship from three path-breaking entrepreneurs who emerged as CEOs of huge global companies. Their approaches to formulating strategy and building organizations offer unique insights for start-up executives as well as the heads of modern multinationals.

    Keywords: Management; Strategy; Leadership; Information Technology; Entrepreneurship; Information Technology Industry;


    Yoffie, David B., and Michael A. Cusumano. Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs. New York: HarperBusiness, 2015. View Details
  7. Steve Jobs: Leader Strategist

    Cynthia A. Montgomery and David B. Yoffie

    Strategically, Steve Jobs got it brilliantly right some times and terribly wrong other times. This case examines Jobs' development as a leader strategist over the course of his entire career. The successes and failures of Apple, NeXT, and Pixar are used to probe the role of strategy in organizational success and to examine a leader's distinctive responsibility to set (and reset) a viable course for a business. While Jobs' greatness may make him seem inaccessible at times, a closer look shows that some of his most valuable managerial capabilities were honed slowly, painfully, over time, and that there is much others can learn from his experience.

    Keywords: strategy; leadership; strategist; Steve Jobs; competitive advantage; Apple; Leadership; Competitive Advantage; Personal Development and Career;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A., and David B. Yoffie. "Steve Jobs: Leader Strategist." Harvard Business School Case 715-454, April 2015. (Revised June 2015.) View Details
  8. Dutch Bros. Coffee: A Compelling Future

    Joshua Margolis and Christine Snively

    Travis Boersma, co-founder and President of the Dutch Bros. coffee chain, faces three operational decisions that will shape the company's growth trajectory and distinctive culture. First, should they offer a specialty coffee at a subset of their stores in one region where customers are clamoring for it, contrary to the company's commitment to a consistent experience across all stores? Second, as the company continues to expand, should they roll out an electronic point-of-sale system, which has interfered with customer service in prior pilot tests? Third, how can Dutch Bros. provide opportunities for their best employees, who aspire to own and operate their own franchise stores but often lack the expertise and funding to do so?

    Keywords: leadership; culture; Culture and Community; service management; retail; food; managing growth; family business; small business; Leadership; Culture; Food and Beverage Industry; Oregon;


    Margolis, Joshua, and Christine Snively. "Dutch Bros. Coffee: A Compelling Future." Harvard Business School Case 415-010, April 2015. View Details
  9. Korea

    Forest Reinhardt, Jonathan Schlefer, Keith Chi-ho Wong and Mayuka Yamazaki

    South Korea's economic success and its transition from authoritarianism to democracy teach important lessons in national strategy and political economy. Now, though, its famous chaebols may need reform, the population is aging, and relations with the North are as tense as ever. What should the country's leaders do?

    Keywords: Economics; Governance; Government and Politics; Leadership; Globalization; Demographics; Asia;


    Reinhardt, Forest, Jonathan Schlefer, Keith Chi-ho Wong, and Mayuka Yamazaki. "Korea." Harvard Business School Case 715-047, April 2015. (Revised April 2015.) View Details
  10. Leave No Slice of Genius Behind: Selecting and Developing Tomorrow's Leaders of Innovation

    Linda A. Hill

    More than ever, leaders of nearly every kind of organization view their human resources teams as essential to institutional well-being and long-term growth and sustainability. That's the central and animating theme of "The Rise of HR: Wisdom from 73 Thought Leaders," a new anthology published by the HR Certification Institute. Professor Hill's essay addresses the question of how to develop leadership talent capable of building and sustaining organizations that can innovate time and again to address the challenges we face as a global community.

    Keywords: innovation; human resources; talent management; talent development and retention; leadership; Innovation Leadership; Human Resources; Talent and Talent Management; Leadership; Leadership Development;


    Hill, Linda A. "Leave No Slice of Genius Behind: Selecting and Developing Tomorrow's Leaders of Innovation." In The Rise of HR: Wisdom from 73 Thought Leaders, edited by Dave Ulrich, William A. Schiemann, and Libby Sartain, 233–240. Alexandria, VA: HR Certification Institute, 2015. View Details
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