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. Delhaize Group: Developing Leaders

    Boris Groysberg and Sarah L. Abbott

    Delhaize Group, the Belgian-based global food retailer, was focused on competing in the food retailing industry by developing leading positions in key markets via localized retailing strategies. Delhaize was committed to offering its customers superior value while maintaining high social, environmental, and ethical standards. For Frans Muller, Delhaize's president and CEO, the key to executing on this strategy was ensuring that the Group was developing leaders with the requisite skills and competencies. In light of this, Muller felt it was important to assess the Group's leadership development practices. Were the current training and development programs effective? What were the leadership skills that would be needed to execute on Delhaize's strategic plan, both today and in the future?

    Keywords: leadership development; strategy; organizational alignment; organizational culture; talent management; human capital; Leadership Development; Globalized Firms and Management; Human Capital; Talent and Talent Management; Corporate Strategy; Organizational Culture; Retail Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; Belgium;


    Groysberg, Boris, and Sarah L. Abbott. "Delhaize Group: Developing Leaders." Harvard Business School Case 415-019, February 2015. View Details
  2. Hövding: The Airbag for Cyclists

    Joseph B. Fuller and Emilie Billaud

    In 2012, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, co­founders of the Hövding company, reflect on the evolution of their venture and the way forward. Since 2005, Haupt and Alstin had been working on a new type of bicycle helmet—an "airbag for cyclists". What had begun as a thesis had grown into a seven-year journey of research and development, including raising over $5 million of venture capital. The product had been granted Europe's CE certification in 2011 and had been launched simultaneously in Sweden and Norway. Yet, a year later, the company had still not reached the break­even point. To help them establish a commercialization strategy, the Hövding board had prevailed upon the founders to hire a professional CEO. But surrendering management control was an emotional process for Haupt and Alstin, while the CEO struggled to assert his leadership and build the company's commercial capabilities. Should Haupt and Alstin collaborate with their CEO despite their misgivings or should they step away from the company they had dedicated seven years to building?

    Keywords: Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Transition; Leadership; Conflict Management; Bicycle Industry; Sweden; Europe;


    Fuller, Joseph B., and Emilie Billaud. "Hövding: The Airbag for Cyclists." Harvard Business School Case 315-056, February 2015. View Details
  3. Do Managers Have a Role to Play in Sustaining the Institutions of Capitalism?

    Rebecca Henderson and Karthik Ramanna

    In a capitalist system based on free markets, do managers have responsibilities to the system itself? If they do, should these responsibilities shape their behavior when they engage in the political processes that structure the institutions of capitalism? The prevailing view—perhaps most eloquently argued by Milton Friedman—is that the first duty of managers is to maximize shareholder value and thus that they should take every opportunity (within the bounds of the law) to structure market institutions so as to increase profitability. We argue here that this shareholder-return view of political engagement may apply in cases where the political process is sufficiently "thick," in that sufficiently detailed information about the issues is widely available and the public interest is well-represented. However, we draw on a series of detailed examples in the context of the determination of corporate accounting standards to argue that when the political process of determining the institutions of capitalism is "thin," in that managers find themselves with specialized technical knowledge unavailable to outsiders and with little political resistance from the general interest, then managers have a responsibility to market institutions themselves, even if this entails acting at the expense of corporate profits. We make this argument on grounds that this behavior is both in managers' long-run self-interest and, expanding on Friedman's core contention, that it is managers' moral duty.

    Keywords: Capitalism; leadership; lobbying; Leadership; Economic Systems; Managerial Roles; Business and Government Relations;


    Henderson, Rebecca, and Karthik Ramanna. "Do Managers Have a Role to Play in Sustaining the Institutions of Capitalism?" Governance Studies, The Initiative on 21st Century Capitalism, No. 20, Brookings Institution, February 2015. View Details
  4. Thin Political Markets: The Soft Underbelly of Capitalism

    Karthik Ramanna

    “Thin political markets” are the processes through which some of the most complex and critical institutions of our capitalist system are determined—e.g., our accounting-standards infrastructure. In thin political markets, corporate managers are largely unopposed—because of their own expertise and the general public’s low awareness of the issues. This enables managers to structure the “rules of the game” in self-serving ways. 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. I provide some ideas on how to fix the problem.

    Keywords: business and society; leadership; accounting; financial institutions; lobbying; sustainability; Leadership; Economic Systems; Accounting; Business and Community Relations; Financial Institutions; Business and Government Relations;

  5. More Citizens Connect

    Mitchell Weiss

    Funding to scale Citizens Connect, Boston's 311 app, is both a blessing and a burden and tests two public entrepreneurs. In 2012, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides Boston's Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics with a grant to scale Citizens Connect across the state. The money gives two co-creators of Citizens Connect, Chris Osgood and Nigel Jacob, a chance to grow their vision for citizen-engaged governance and civic innovation, but it also requires that the two City of Boston leaders sit on a formal selection committee that pits their original partner, Connected Bits, against another player that might meet the specific requirements for delivering a statewide version. The selection and scaling process raise questions beyond just which partner to choose. What would happen to the Citizens Connect brand as Osgood and Jacob's product spreads across the state? Who could help scale their work best then nationally? Which business models were best positioned to drive that growth? What intellectual property arrangements would best enable it? And what role should the two city employees have, anyway, in scaling Citizens Connect outside of Boston in the first place? These questions hung in the air as they pondered the one big one about passing over Connected Bits for another partner: should they?

    Keywords: public entrepreneurship; civic technology; government innovation; civic innovation; cities; New Urban Mechanics; Thomas. M. Menino; Chris Osgood; Nigel Jacob; Connected Bits; SeeClickFix; Ben Berkowitz; Eric Carlson; Dave Mitchell; government technology; open innovation; open source software; Citizens Connect; Commonwealth Connect; Entrepreneurship; Innovation and Invention; Innovation Leadership; Innovation and Management; Open Source Distribution; Public Administration Industry; Information Technology Industry; Boston;


    Weiss, Mitchell. "More Citizens Connect." Harvard Business School Case 315-075, January 2015. View Details
  6. Higher-Ambition CEOs Need Higher-Ambition Boards

    Edward Ludwig, Elise Walton and Michael Beer

    Over the past years, forward-looking CEOs have adopted a higher-ambition approach to strategy and leadership. These "higher-ambition CEOs" are driven by a sense of purpose that goes beyond achieving financial success. They aspire to build organizations that succeed in the marketplace by earning the respect, trust, and, commitment of their people, customers, communities, and investors. Higher-ambition leaders commit to simultaneously meeting financial targets and fulfilling broader needs in society. They are also realistic about the challenges.

    Keywords: Strategy; Leadership Style; Management Teams;


    Ludwig, Edward, Elise Walton, and Michael Beer. "Higher-Ambition CEOs Need Higher-Ambition Boards." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-052, December 2014. View Details
  7. DaVita HealthCare Partners and the Denver Public Schools: Creating Connections

    John J-H Kim and Christine S. An

    In 2011, DaVita HealthCare Partners (DaVita)—a Fortune 500 healthcare services company specializing in kidney dialysis services—and the Denver Public Schools (DPS)—the largest school district in Colorado—forged a plan to incorporate greater intentional focus on culture and leadership within the district. A few months into the 2013-2014 school year, DaVita "Mayor" Kent Thiry, DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg, and members of their teams gather to review and assess the overall progress, impact, and challenges of their unique corporate-community partnership focused on leadership development and culture over the past two years. With the partnership showing great promise, Thiry and his team wonder how they might create new partnerships and grow their social impact as a company without detracting from DaVita's own growth and expansion and the needs of its own "teammates." The case gives students the opportunity to explore how a mission-driven Fortune 500 company can leverage its own resources and HR expertise to partner with non-corporate entities to create social value and support success in American public education.

    Keywords: corporate-community partnerships; k-12; school districts; DaVita; Kent Thiry; Tom Boasberg; Denver Public Schools; Wisdom Team; DaVita Way; Creating Connections; Social Enterpreise; leadership development; community impact; education reform; public schools; culture; Leadership Development; Partners and Partnerships; Social Entrepreneurship; Business Education; Medical Specialties; Business and Community Relations; Culture; Health Industry; Colorado;


    Kim, John J-H, and Christine S. An. "DaVita HealthCare Partners and the Denver Public Schools: Creating Connections." Harvard Business School Case 315-047, December 2014. View Details
  8. Dylan Pierce at Hanguk Industries

    Karthik Ramanna

    Hanguk Industries' U.S. country manager, Peter Lee, has a problem—his star hire, Dylan Pierce, is threatening to quit. Hanguk is a large Korean conglomerate multinational that has been keen to attract foreigners. Dylan was hired by Peter to work in Hanguk's U.S. operations. After 18 months, Dylan was promoted to company HQ in Seoul, to work with Peter's former boss. Dylan, who is gay and who thrived at Hanguk's California office, quickly runs afoul of the conservative culture at Hanguk's Korean HQ. Dylan's boss in Korea tells him he needs to be less "girly" if he wants to succeed at the company. Angered, humiliated, and confused, Dylan tells Peter he's ready to quit. Peter must respond.

    Keywords: leadership; multinational corporation; multicultural teams; diversity; Leadership; Diversity Characteristics; Electronics Industry; Korean Peninsula; United States;


    Ramanna, Karthik. "Dylan Pierce at Hanguk Industries." Harvard Business School Case 115-024, December 2014. View Details
  9. Sanford C. Bernstein Goes to Asia

    Linda A. Hill, Dana M. Teppert and Allison J. Wigen

    Sanford C. Bernstein, a premier sell-side research firm, is expanding globally. Three years after launching Bernstein's Asian business, senior management has appointed Ghislain de Charentenay, a six-year sales veteran of the firm, as director of Asian research in Hong Kong. He is the first director of research Bernstein has put on the ground in Asia. As the firm faces the challenging realities of scaling its Asian business and meeting growing client demand for global products, de Charentenay must figure out how best to support the senior research analysts in leveraging their franchises. And with a recent wave of attrition among Bernstein's research associate ranks in Hong Kong, de Charentenay and the management team must also consider where to focus their recruiting efforts.

    Keywords: collaboration; leadership; globalization; organizational design; talent management; Leadership; Talent and Talent Management; Organizational Design; Emerging Markets; Globalization; Hong Kong;


    Hill, Linda A., Dana M. Teppert, and Allison J. Wigen. "Sanford C. Bernstein Goes to Asia." Harvard Business School Case 415-037, October 2014. View Details
  10. Opening the Valve: From Software to Hardware (A)

    Ethan Bernstein, Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats

    Valve, one of the world's top video game software companies, has also become an iconic example of an organization with virtually no hierarchy. A 400-person organization, Valve's unique organizational form (described in detail in the case and accompanying employee handbook) includes 100% self-allocated time, no managers (and therefore no managerial oversight), a structure so fluid that all desks have wheels to allow free movement between "cabals" (teams) on a regular basis (which happens frequently enough that Valve created a homegrown tracking app to allow peers to find each other), a unique hiring apparatus that supports recruitment of T-shaped individuals, and a purely peer-based performance review and stack ranking. As customer demand and market forces draw Valve into hardware in 2013, Valve questions whether their organizational model will need to change as it expands from software into hardware—and, if so, whether they should prioritize strategy over structure or structure over strategy. The case, therefore, presents students with a strategic and organizational challenge that tests students' understanding, and Valve's resolve, with regard to the congruence between their organizational model and strategic direction.

    Keywords: Valve; Self-Managed Organizations; organization design; strategy; Flat Organization; Video Games; organization alignment; Organizational Change and Adaptation; software; family business; Steam; Steam Machine; Design; Games, Gaming, and Gambling; Human Resources; Collaborative Innovation and Invention; Technological Innovation; Leadership Style; Management Practices and Processes; Organizational Design; Organizational Structure; Organizational Culture; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Groups and Teams; Alignment; Software; Hardware; Video Game Industry; Seattle;


    Bernstein, Ethan, Francesca Gino, and Bradley Staats. "Opening the Valve: From Software to Hardware (A)." Harvard Business School Case 415-015, August 2014. View Details
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