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Leadership in Challenging Times

By: Rob Zeaske 03 Mar 2021

This post is the first in our “Leadership in Challenging Times” blog series, which highlights the inspiring work of the HBS community in addressing the health and economic consequences of COVID-19, alongside the fight for racial equity and an especially polarized political climate. In this post, HBS Social Enterprise Initiative Director Rob Zeaske (MBA 2002) introduces the series and describes SEI’s commitment to supporting leaders who are tackling society’s toughest challenge and making a difference in the world.

Nearly a year after the novel coronavirus made its presence felt in our lives, we have run out of superlatives to describe the past twelve months and its list of crises. Each of us has myriad personal stories regarding “the events of the past year” and the way we have navigated our families, careers, communities and private lives through these challenges. We also know that many HBS alumni have played roles in addressing both urgent symptoms and underlying causes of pain for so many people this past year. HBS leaders have been in the trenches working daily on issues like health disparities, acute economic shocks to companies, families and industries, threats to our democratic institutions, the long-overdue racial reckoning and an endangered local news ecosystem struggling to cover it all.

At Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative, we are working to equip and support the leaders putting out these fires and working to help change-makers transform their organizations, industries and communities into ecosystems that are more just and equitable. Our alumni are board members, executives, investors, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and academic experts rallying to apply our best management science to the big problems that demand skill and courage. Over the next few months we will share the stories of a variety of our HBS alumni who have been deeply involved in a variety of aspects of this work. This conversation will be part recognition of important work, part examination of leadership choices and learnings during what may be among the most stressful period for any manager – and part “call to community”. Leading can be lonely. Leading change even more so, and this series will be accompanied by several new programs for alumni to help us connect to each other around the problems that most need solving and a world crying out for leadership.

We invite you to help us share other important stories of leadership and to engage with us in a conversation about how we can support these leaders – and you – in the future.