The Meta-Leadership framework and practice method has been developed by faculty at the NPLI after extensive research on and observation of leaders in high-stress, high-stakes situations. It is designed to provide individuals with tools that are conceptually and practically rigorous so that they are better equipped to act and direct others in emergency situations. Meta-leadership is currently being used by leaders in the fields of homeland security, emergency preparedness and response, and public health.

Achievement of national preparedness — given current natural and man-made threats — requires a heightened capacity for effective cross-government coordination of effort. This objective is hindered by the tendency of leaders to advocate the specific interests and purposes of their narrow SILO of activity.

META-LEADERS think and perform differently. They recognize that achieving genuine national preparedness demands a spirit of cooperation combined with tangible inter-agency mechanisms that activate JOINTNESS.

By intentionally linking and leveraging the efforts of many agencies — along with corporate, non-profit, and community sectors — meta-leaders galvanize a valuable CONNECTIVITY of effort. META-LEADERSHIP reframes the process and practice of leaders. It has three functions: 1) A comprehensive organizing REFERENCE to understand and integrate the many facets of leadership; 2) A STRATEGY to engage collaborative activity; 3) A cause and PURPOSE to improve government functioning and performance. There are five dimensions to the learning and practice of meta-leadership:

  1. The Person of the Meta-Leader: Emotional intelligence: self awareness and self-regulation. The capacity to confront fear, which takes you to your emotional “basement.” Meta-leaders lead themselves and others out of the “basement” to higher levels of thinking and functioning.
  2. The Situation: With often incomplete information, the meta-leader creates a broad “frame of reference,” used to determine what is happening, the presenting choice points, and then to chart and meta-lead a course of action, effectively recruiting wide engagement and support.
  3. Leading Your Silo: The meta-leader triggers and models confidence, inspiring others to excellence. The meta-leader drives the learning curve to elevate quality and performance, encouraging strong, effective subordinates who themselves further galvanize cross-silo connectivity.
  4. Leading Up: Validating the power-command equation, the meta-leader effectively “manages the boss.” Truth to power, effective communication, and being a great subordinate are critical, especially when subject matter experts report to and guide political leaders.
  5. Leading Cross-Agency Connectivity: Meta-leaders strategically and intentionally devise cross-silo linkages that leverage expertise, resources, and information across the spectrum of public agencies and private constituencies, integrating and thereby optimizing capacity and response.

Crisis to Classroom | Classroom to Crisis

The Meta-leadership framework and practice method has been developed by integrating scholarship with insights from the front lines such as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. The framework draws upon the work of a wide range of scholars to create a holistic view of the challenges of leadership. Executive education participants apply the principles through projects based on real world challenges in their organizations and some of this work has evolved into ongoing initiatives lasting well beyond the time spent in the program. Faculty travel to crisis situations whenever possible to observe leaders in action and derive lessons learned. This field testing ensures that the curriculum and materials are useful and relevant to crisis leaders; the conceptual rigor makes certain that the lessons can be taught to future generations of leaders. Thus, practice and classroom create a virtuous circle in which each component complements and strengthens the other.

See an overview of the Five Dimensions of Meta-Leadership.