Tim O’Brien is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is Faculty Chair of the Leadership for the 21st Century program (L21). Tim also teaches two degree courses: Exercising Leadership: The Politics of Change and Developing People: Individual & Systemic Capacity Building.
Tim’s research interests focus on the complex challenges people hope to address, the understanding they bring, and the meaning-making they need to address those challenges. This lens on leadership development emphasizes self, group and organizational awareness over content and skills. How to develop and cultivate that self-awareness is the primary concern of Tim’s research. His teaching methods are experiential, collaborative and reflective in nature and help participants develop the insight and inquiry they need to meet the demands of the challenges they face.
In addition to the L21 program and his degree courses, Tim directs leadership development programs and workshops for state government, multinationals, non-profits and foundations. In this work he helps leaders orchestrate systemic interventions and overcome powerful status quos that resist learning, innovation, and adaptation. His teaching, training, coaching and consultancy practice is built on the fundamentals of his research - that all people and organizations can learn and develop with the right balance of supports and challenges. He also speaks on the challenges of developing leadership capacity alongside management skills.
Before his appointment at HKS, Tim was a leadership consultant for INSEAD Business School's Management Acceleration Program and faculty for the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Programs in Professional Education. Tim holds a B.S. from NYU and an Ed.M and Ed.D from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Human Development and Education. He is a member of The Academy of Management and The A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems. He earned his 100-ton captains license directing sail-training programs aboard traditionally-rigged wooden schooners in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
Harvard Kennedy School is proud of its energetic involvement in the world. To better understand how to solve public problems by improving policy and leadership, we engage directly with policymakers, public leaders, governments, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses whose activities affect those problems. However, we recognize that such engagement can raise questions about perceived and potential conflicts of interest, so we disclose publicly the key professional activities of our faculty outside the Kennedy School.
Outside Professional Activities For Timothy O'Brien
Tim O’Brien is co-founder and partner at KONU, LLC, which provides leadership development programs and consulting services for organizations that operate in, or close to, the public sector or on cross-boundary challenges. These organizations include: Atlantic Council, Broad Institute, California Public Utilities Commission, Deutsch Post DHL, Fair Trade International, Federal Executive Institute, Future Vision UK, Johnson & Johnson, NATO, Obama Foundation, Andreas Papandreou Foundation Young Leaders Program, Poland Leadership Academy, Robert Bosch Foundation, St. Jude Medical / Abbot, Schusterman Family Foundation, Volkswagen, World Bank Group and elected government officials and cabinet members.