Co-Directors Welcome

Meet our Co-Directors


Dr. Marcus is founding Co-Director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, a collaborative effort of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School, Center for Public Leadership developed in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House, and the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense.

Read more about Lenny


Mr. Gergen serves as a Co-Director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. He is a professor of public service and founding director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, positions he has held for over a decade. In addition, he serves as a senior political analyst for CNN and works actively with a rising generation of new leaders.

Read more about David

Welcome to NPLI

Thank you for investing in learning more about NPLI at Harvard.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the federal government asked us to establish a leadership platform at Harvard to study, teach, and convene crisis leaders. The brutal attack on our soil by a foreign adversary presented unprecedented homeland security challenges.

The first gathering of the NPLI occurred at the Harvard Faculty Club in 2003. Deans and faculty from across the University joined leading government officials to discuss emerging national threats and the leadership required to address them. We committed to join the country on a steep learning curve.

Over the past twenty years, we have learned, taught, and disseminated our findings. Our faculty pioneered active field research, sitting alongside national leaders through trying times.

Three lessons punctuate what we discovered:

  1. Crises create gaps in capacity that require rapid coordination of organizations and resources. Leaders must therefore quickly assess situation complexity and convene the required connectivity of effort. NPLI faculty designed the Meta-Leadership curriculum to guide this important work.
  2. Character matters. Crises test character. Uncertainty punctuates times of crises, so therefore, trust in the character and expertise of leaders provide the bedrock upon which necessary action builds. The measure of this character is service to the shared cause, seeing and working beyond one’s self.
  3. Role models inspire and encourage great leadership. To speak to students, we invite leaders  whose Meta-Leadership practice and character, in times of crisis, fortify other leaders and the public. These leaders demonstrate courage, curiosity, tenacity, resilience and keen intelligence.

An external peril motivated the establishment of the NPLI. Now, crisis leaders face a different set of threats. In addition to persistent security concerns, today’s crises emanate from internal social and political strife, climate change, economic inequities and more. There is a critical need for leaders who can meet, overcome, and sew resilience for the days ahead.

We look forward to the opportunity of supporting and encouraging you on your crisis leadership journey.

David Gergen and Leonard Marcus 
National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard University