Executive Development


The Online Application for Cohort 13 is now open. Deadline to apply is March 20, 2015.

The National Preparedness Leadership Initiative Executive Education Program curriculum is designed to produce effective leadership at all levels of government. The NPLI curriculum leverages the combined strengths of the Harvard Kennedy School’s experience in leadership education and the Harvard School of Public Health’s unmatched technical expertise in the field of public health emergencies.

As an outcome of the program, public officials will not only be prepared to cross geographic and agency boundaries to deal with emergencies, but to guide the design of comprehensive, multi-agency and jurisdictional emergency response plans. Participants will become versed in the principles of meta-leadership in order to respond to the cross-functional needs of a national pandemic or terrorist event. Through the program, participants will be able to:

  • Recognize the hazards of decision-making under stress.
  • Hone the personal skills and behaviors that drive effective leadership in the context of group dynamics and multiple stakeholder interests.
  • Develop leadership skills that mobilize greater capacity by cutting across traditional public agency and private sector boundaries.
  • Design strategies for communicating vital information to the public in a crisis.
  • Explore how to mobilize and deploy large systems, using organizational design and systems management to enhance vertical and horizontal connectivity.
  • Consider the moral and ethical dimensions of life and death decision-making.
  • Review the science of surveillance, detection, and response.

The program comprises a residential opening session at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA, a 2 ½ day residential concluding session, and a work-related team project that is to be completed between the residential sessions.

Learned knowledge and skills

The leadership curriculum for the Executive Education Program divides into three themes:

1) Meta-leadership in preparedness and response

2) Inter- and intra-agency problem solving and connectivity

3) Meta-leadership communication and conflict resolution

Each participant is individually mentored and evaluated, with instruction on how to improve leadership and problem-solving strategies and communication.  The curriculum includes skill-building sessions, leadership self-awareness instruction, and interactive learning opportunities that build the capacity and competence of government officials identified for their growth potential for preparedness leadership.

Participants will learn to lead and guide inter-agency “connectivity” in order to better coordinate government operations.  This is intensely important now, as agencies with very different missions, cultures, and operational mandates quickly engage and coordinate activity to create a unity of effort in the face of new national imperatives.  Instruction on communication will focus on the importance of building and maintaining government credibility and stability in moments of crisis.  The curriculum will profile the “new normal” meta-leader, a new breed of thinking and decisive action responsive to the demands and requirements for change during this historic moment.  The NPLI will create a new network of talented leaders, able to respond to the new and unprecedented challenges of large scale terrorism or a pandemic influenza that now face the country.

Topics included in the curriculum:

  • Emergency crisis leadership.
  • Meta-leadership and connectivity and inter/intra agency problem solving
  • Complex problem solving
  • Ethical considerations in preparedness planning and response
  • Decision-analysis and predictable surprises
  • Change management

Read the independent evaluation of the program (2003-2010): NPLI_Final_Report_2.13.12. In this evaluation, 68% of participants reported that they were “very satisfied” with the program and 79% reported that they would recommend the program to others.