The Center for Public Leadership Program on Crisis Leadership (PCL) focuses on risk reduction, emergency preparedness, crisis response, and disaster recovery leadership challenges.

Founded and led by Arnold M. Howitt and Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard, PCL seeks to improve society’s capacity to deal with crises like major natural disasters, epidemics of infectious disease and other public health emergencies; infrastructure, technology, and systems failures; terrorism and civil disorder; and chronic crises arising from climate change.

The program conducts research, develops case studies for teaching, leads executive education programs, and works with governments and nongovernmental organizations to improve emergency response strategies.


The Program on Crisis Leadership includes research in the United States and other countries. Recent projects include studies of leaders’ decision-making strategies and crisis communication during COVID-19, effective inter-organizational coordination in disasters, and natural disaster response in Nepal and Japan.

Executive Education

PCL has established intensive executive education programs for senior U.S. and international officials and organization leaders, including first-response officers, humanitarians, higher education administrators, and U.S. National Guard generals and colonels.

Curriculum Development

The program has developed more than 50 teaching and research case studies on emergency planning, crisis response, disaster recovery, and public health preparedness and response. Recent case studies include the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Colonial Pipeline Ransom Cyber Attack, the Texas Freeze of 2021, and the Notre Dame Cathedral Fire.


Download the Program on Crisis Leadership one-pager.


Arnold Howitt Photo

Arnold Howitt

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy

Herman B. (Dutch) Leonard Photo

Herman B. (Dutch) Leonard

George F. Baker, Jr. Professor of Public Management, HKS; Eliot I. Snider and Family Professor of Business Administration, HBS