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. A Succession as the Engine for Success

    Jay Lorsch, Emily McTague and Rosa Maria Fite

    Francisco J. Riberas sat in his office reflecting on his first summer working at the family business, in 1989. Growing up, Francisco Riberas had learned about the company through conversations with his father, Francisco Riberas Pampliega, over the dinner table and in their business trips. From a young age his father had instilled in him and his brother the importance of hard work, compassion, and integrity and given him opportunities to gain exposure to all aspects of the business.

    Keywords: organizational alignment; organizational behavior; corporate governance; family business; Family-owned business; succession; CEO mentoring; Spain; Family and Family Relationships; Management; Leadership; Auto Industry; Europe; Spain;


    Lorsch, Jay, Emily McTague, and Rosa Maria Fite. "A Succession as the Engine for Success." Harvard Business School Case 416-060, May 2016. View Details
  2. The Power of C.E.O. Activism: How Politically Outspoken Executives Sway Public (and Consumer) Opinion

    Aaron K. Chatterji and Michael W. Toffel

    Some CEOs are making news by taking public stances on controversial social issues largely unrelated to their core business. This article summarizes the insights from our research paper that shows that such "CEO activism" can influence public opinion and consumer attitudes.

    Keywords: leadership; Leadership &Corporate Accountability; Non-market Strategy; corporate social responsibility; politics; political influence; political strategy; political risk; equity; gender; climate change; Communication Strategy; Law; Leadership; Brands and Branding; Media; Problems and Challenges; Civil Society or Community; Social Issues; Public Opinion; United States; Georgia (state, US); North Carolina; Indiana; Indianapolis;


    Chatterji, Aaron K., and Michael W. Toffel. "The Power of C.E.O. Activism: How Politically Outspoken Executives Sway Public (and Consumer) Opinion." Grey Matter. New York Times (April 3, 2016), SR10. View Details
  3. Can You Cut 'Turn Times' Without Adding Staff?

    Ethan Bernstein and Ryan W. Buell

    The president of RSA Ground, the subsidiary of Rising Sun Airlines responsible for servicing its planes at airports across Japan, goes undercover as a service crew member to discover how and whether his employees can speed up cleaning, checking, restocking, and refueling. Expert commentary comes from Atilla Korkmazoglu, president of ground handling and cargo operations at Celebi Aviation Holding, and Vikram Oberoi, managing director and CEO of EIH Ltd.

    Keywords: service operations; Employee empowerment; employee motivation; leadership; turnaround; Service Operations; Employees; Motivation and Incentives; Leadership; Air Transportation Industry; Japan;


    Bernstein, Ethan, and Ryan W. Buell. "Can You Cut 'Turn Times' Without Adding Staff?" R1604K. Harvard Business Review 94, no. 4 (April 2016): 113–117. View Details
  4. Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation

    Amy C. Edmondson and Susan Salter Reynolds

    Machiavelli famously wrote, "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things." That's what this book is about—innovation far more audacious than a new way to find a restaurant or a smart phone you can wear on your wrist. Amy C. Edmondson and Susan Salter Reynolds explore large-scale systemic innovation that calls for "big teaming": intense collaboration between professions and industries with completely different mindsets. To explore the kind of leadership required to build the future, Edmondson and Reynolds tell the story of an award-winning "smart city" start-up launched with the ambitious goal of creating a showcase high-tech city from scratch. The collaboration brought together software entrepreneurs, real estate developers, city government officials, architects, builders, and technology corporations. Taking a close look at the work, norms, and values in each of these professional domains, readers gain insight into why teaming across fields is so challenging, and what leaders can do to help.

    Keywords: teaming; innovation; leadership; Leadership; Groups and Teams; Innovation and Invention;


    Edmondson, Amy C., and Susan Salter Reynolds. Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2016. View Details
  5. Apple: Privacy vs. Safety?

    Henry McGee, Nien-hê Hsieh and Sarah McAra

    In 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook debuted the iPhone 6S with enhanced security measures that enflamed a debate on privacy and public safety around the world. The iPhone 6S, amidst a heightened concern for privacy following the 2013 revelation of clandestine U.S. surveillance programs, employed a default encryption system that prevented both Apple and government authorities from accessing data stored on the device. Law enforcement officials warned that the encryption hindered investigations for criminal cases and international terrorism and called on Apple to build a backdoor, a way to bypass the encryption. But Cook maintained that any backdoor would compromise customers' privacy and security. In 2016, a federal judge ordered Apple to provide technical assistance to unlock the iPhone used by a terrorist who, along with his wife, killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. Apple refused to comply with the order and asked the government to withdraw its demand. As the court case unfolded, Cook considered his responsibilities to the U.S. government as well as to Apple's customers, employees, and shareholders.

    Keywords: iphone; encryption; data privacy; Safety; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Mobile Technology; Civil Society or Community; National Security; Leadership; Technology Industry; Consumer Products Industry; United States;


    McGee, Henry, Nien-hê Hsieh, and Sarah McAra. "Apple: Privacy vs. Safety?" Harvard Business School Case 316-069, March 2016. (Revised May 2016.) View Details
  6. Do CEO Activists Make a Difference? Evidence from a Field Experiment

    Aaron K Chatterji and Michael W. Toffel

    Several CEOs are receiving significant media attention for taking public positions on controversial social and environmental issues largely unrelated to their core business, ranging from gay marriage to climate change to gender equality. We provide the first evidence that such “CEO activism” can influence public opinion and consumer attitudes. Our field experiment examines the impact of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s public statements opposing a pending religious freedom law that critics warned would allow discrimination against same-sex couples. Our results confirm the influence of issue framing on public opinion and suggest that CEOs can sway public opinion, potentially to the same extent as prominent politicians. Moreover, Cook’s CEO activism increased consumer intentions to purchase Apple products, especially among proponents of same-sex marriage.

    Keywords: politics; policy; policy-making; corporate social responsibility; lobbying; campaign contributions; regulation; Leadership; Policy; Ethics; Governance; Social Issues; United States;


    Chatterji, Aaron K., and Michael W. Toffel. "Do CEO Activists Make a Difference? Evidence from a Field Experiment." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-100, March 2016. View Details
  7. Linda Rabbitt at rand* construction

    Boris Groysberg and Katherine Connolly

    Linda Rabbitt, founder and CEO of rand* construction walked into her office at the company's headquarters in Alexandria, VA and briefly closed the door behind her. It was 10:00 a.m. on Monday, September 22, 2014, and she had just addressed her staff after the sudden and tragic death of the company's well-loved President, Jon Couch, the previous Friday afternoon. It had been an emotional address, as Rabbitt tried to inspire the company to move forward while holding back her own tears. For Rabbitt and for everyone else at the company, the loss was both professional and personal. Furthermore, Couch's death signified for Rabbitt the loss of her entire succession plan. Now in her mid-60s, Rabbitt was preparing to turn over the reins of the company to Couch, whom she had partnered with and mentored for eighteen years. What should Rabbitt do now? What should she plan for the future now that Couch was gone?

    Keywords: women and leadership; women executives; leadership; entrepreneurship; succession planning; Leadership; Entrepreneurship; Management Succession; Construction Industry; District of Columbia;


    Groysberg, Boris, and Katherine Connolly. "Linda Rabbitt at rand* construction." Harvard Business School Case 416-022, February 2016. View Details
  8. Chilli Beans: Peace, Love, and Sunglasses

    José B. Alvarez, Robert Mackalski and Andrew Otazo

    This case illustrates how Chilli Beans became the most popular sunglasses retailer in Brazil and the issues it faced when expanding into the United States.

    Keywords: marketing; sunglasses; Brazil; Sao Paulo; Chilli Beans; watches; fast fashion; supply chain; retail; franchise; international expansion; culture; middle class; fashion; Corporate Entrepreneurship; Global Strategy; Customer Focus and Relationships; Customer Value and Value Chain; Design; Economic Growth; Economic Slowdown and Stagnation; Goods and Commodities; Leadership; Marketing; Operations; Apparel and Accessories Industry; Fashion Industry; Manufacturing Industry; Brazil; China;


    Alvarez, José B., Robert Mackalski, and Andrew Otazo. "Chilli Beans: Peace, Love, and Sunglasses." Harvard Business School Case 516-020, February 2016. (Revised March 2016.) View Details
  9. Moving Forward

    George Serafeim

    Commerce, the synthesis of entrepreneurship and business, has been one of the most powerful institutions the world has ever seen. Commerce unlocks the highest human potential for creativity, innovation, and discovery.

    Keywords: Change; change management; leadership; Europe; turnaround; Management Practices and Processes; Leadership; Change Management; Management Practices and Processes; Entrepreneurship; Europe;


    Serafeim, George. "Moving Forward." Business Partners 15, no. 82 (January–February 2016): 38–39. View Details
  10. Whither the Weather (Company): Forecasting 2016

    Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Jonathan Cohen

    CEO David Kenny led the transformation of the Weather Company from a television business to a Big Data technology company from 2012 until 2016, when IBM acquired its digital assets. This case discusses major decisions taken by Kenny starting in 2014 as he sought to reorient the company amidst changes in media, digital, and mobile technologies. Kenny balances promoting new stream digital business growth with managing difficult legacy television industry realities. He faces key strategic decisions about whether to integrate businesses or separate them completely; whether to pursue business partners, and if so, what those partners should look like; and whether IBM, a large, established technology company, is the right partner for Weather Company. Finally, how would Weather Company’s fast, innovative culture fit at giant IBM?

    Keywords: Weather Company; IBM; transformation; digital; technology; David Kenny; television; Weather Channel; legacy business; mainstream; newstream; reorganization; Acquisitions; consolidation; Transformation; Technology; Television Entertainment; Acquisition; Consolidation; Change; Leadership;


    Kanter, Rosabeth Moss, and Jonathan Cohen. "Whither the Weather (Company): Forecasting 2016." Harvard Business School Case 316-143, January 2016. (Revised March 2016.) View Details
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