fbpx The Art and Adventures of Public Leadership | Harvard Kennedy School
David Gergen Photo

David Gergen

Public Service Professor of Public Leadership

The focus of this seminar is to help prepare rising members of a new generation for lives of service and public leadership. Together we will explore some of the key questions that will confront those who seek to make a difference in an increasingly turbulent world.  Leaving the Kennedy School and building a career, what are the personal qualities and values that one needs to develop in order to make a difference in these turbulent times? When and how can one successfully jump into the public arena and still manage a balanced life at home?  Most young leaders also experience a terrible setback— a crucible moment—somewhere along the way. How does one find the resilience to recover and push democracy and oneself forward? Likewise, many new leaders fear speaking to a large audience. What are the secrets of public persuasion?  And of course, no leader can succeed without believers and advisers. How do you build and nurture a team? Indeed, how do you build and sustain a social movement? These and many other questions will be on our agenda, as we draw upon biographies, film clips, visitors, the leadership literature — and importantly, the life experiences of those in class.  To help focus our study, each class will focus on at least one leader from the past, then will compare and contrast at least one related leader from contemporary times, seeking out parallels and differences that can help students in their own leadership journeys. The leaders we will study will reflect the diversity of those who have struggled to create a more just and open world.  In order to make our conversations intellectually manageable, most of the leaders we discuss will be Americans. However, we will at times bring in leaders from other regions, and we encourage international students to join us and provide valuable perspective on leaders from their own countries.

We will have 3-4 film nights over the course of the semester (likely on Thursdays) that students will be expected to attend. Guest speakers will occasionally join the class and will shed additional light on leaders and leadership.