Upcoming Sessions

Program Overview

Public health emergencies. Natural disasters. Infrastructure failures. Major technology breaches. Terrorist attacks. These are the kinds of extraordinary challenges that leaders like you face every day. Do you feel fully prepared to handle them?

Leadership in Crises is a five-day executive program designed to prepare you to successfully manage, survive, and recover from the unexpected. During the on-campus program, you will learn how to build the expertise needed to ensure a more successful crisis management process. You will also learn how to effectively gather critical information, adapt to unique circumstances, and prioritize effectively.

Led by faculty chairs Herman B. (Dutch) Leonard and Arnold Howitt, the curriculum explores how to build bridges across boundaries—presenting perspectives on planning, training and implementing—so that senior managers like you can have systems in place in advance of a critical event. 


The on-campus program features intensive, interactive discussions using the Harvard case-study method, supplemented by lectures with faculty, and group exercises.

Through the use of case studies, Leadership in Crises will task you with tackling real-world issues. Together with a global cohort in the classroom, you will work through possible approaches and solutions to problems that actual managers have confronted. The case teaching reveals the power of a diverse learning group and makes for open and lively discussion.

Samples of cases used during Leadership in Crises include:

  • The Triple Catastrophe: Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Crisis
  • Ready in Advance: The City of Tuscaloosa’s Response to the 4/27/11 Tornado
  • The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: The Politics of Crisis Response
  • Columbia’s Final Mission


Leadership in Crises will provide you a with a greater understanding of:

  • Dynamics of emergencies overall and what differentiates crisis situations from routine emergencies
  • Role leadership plays in crafting and executing appropriate responses and preparing organizations in advance of a crisis
  • Multiple dimensions of situational awareness
  • Skills leaders need for working decisively in the highly concentrated timeframe of an emergency, while maintaining a focus on managing and motivating a team
  • Critical coordination demands of large-scale crises that engage multiple response organizations from many jurisdictions and levels of government
  • Tensions that frequently arise between senior emergency management professionals and political leaders and how they can work together effectively

Application Information

Immerse yourself with a cohort of fellow emerging leaders on Harvard’s historic campus. View the draft program schedule. Note that module titles, speakers, and sequence may change.


“This program led me to reevaluate many of my current practices and views. I left with a renewed understanding and will return to my job reinvigorated.”

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Hear From the Faculty Chair

What have we learned since 9/11 about organizing responses to large-scale and novel attacks and other large-scale emergencies? Faculty Chair Dutch Leonard and co-authors reflect on the topic in this short essay.

Faculty & Research

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
Arnold Howitt Photo

Arnold Howitt

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy

Chris Combs

Chris Combs

Juliette Kayyem Photo

Juliette Kayyem

Belfer Senior Lecturer in International Security

Deval Patrick Photo

Deval Patrick

David R. Gergen Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership
Joseph Pfeifer

Joseph Pfeifer


James Schwartz

James Schwartz

James Waldo Photo

James Waldo

Professor of the Practice of Public Policy, HKS; Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science, SEAS

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