From our founding shortly after 9/11 to the more recent experience of the coronavirus pandemic, major crises have imposed new and historic challenges to our communities, country, and the world. According to the 2019 U.N. Global Risk Assessment on Disaster Risk Reduction, hazards are interacting with each other in “increasingly complex ways.” One of the most significant vulnerabilities and opportunities in this environment is leadership: the ability of people in responsible positions to rally unity of effort and sustainable high performance in crisis prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
Mitigating this risk and making the most of the opportunity is the mission of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. Through our research and education programs, we combine academic inquiry with field experience to develop cutting-edge curricula and materials to improve the capacity and capability of crisis leaders. Our faculty have been with leaders during or shortly after events from the Hurricane Katrina response through the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of our alumni have been in leadership positions during these events and others. Together, this has provided the NPLI unique access to develop perspective and insight on what it takes to lead when it matters most.
The National Preparedness Leadership Initiative is a joint program of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Combing the resources and thinking of these two entities enable our faculty to help program participants appreciate and prepare for the full range of crisis leadership challenges, from the health and well-being of diverse communities to the intricacies of multi-entity operations, and working with political officials and the media. Our measure of success is increased quality and quantity of leaders able to meet our evolving risks and threats.
By design, we work with individuals and organizations from the public, private, and non-profit sector together—just as they will be called upon to respond to a disaster. Common concepts, vocabulary, and tools help leaders translate and build bridges across organizational and sector boundaries. We term such people “meta-leaders,” leaders of leaders whose commitment, influence, and capabilities build critical cohesion in times of crisis. While it may not be possible to deter every threat, recovery and resilience depend upon these meta-leaders and their extraordinary presence of mind, skills and experience.
It continues to be an honor and privilege for the NPLI team to work with, study, and share our knowledge in collaboration with the people who shoulder the enormous responsibility to make our communities safer and more secure..
Co-Directors Dr. Leonard J. Marcus and David Gergen