Having spent an extraordinary lifetime advising and observing top leaders in politics, diplomacy, the military, business, higher education, and philanthropy, Public Service Professor of Public Leadership David Gergen is uniquely positioned to guide Harvard students aspiring to the highest levels of leadership.
In his course MLD-322 The Art and Adventures of Public Leadership, Gergen aims to help prepare rising members of a new generation for lives of service and public leadership. In an intimate seminar setting – smaller than past enrollments of this course – Gergen and students will explore together some of the key questions that confront those who seek to make a difference in an increasingly turbulent world.
Questions explored range from the personal to the political. For instance, as you leave the Kennedy School and build a career, what are the personal qualities, values, and skills that one needs have or develop to lead successfully? When and how can one successfully jump into the public arena and still manage a balanced life at home? When facing a serious setback – a “crucible moment,” as Gergen calls them — how do you, as a young leader, find the resilience to recover and push yourself forward? When is it the right time for you to enter the public arena? How do you find your voice and mobilize others? How do you build and nurture a strong team? How do you build and sustain a social movement?
For answers, Gergen draws on life journeys of leaders from different points in history, seeking out parallels and differences that can help students in their own leadership development. The leaders studied reflect the diversity of those who have struggled to create a more just and open world. The coursework includes biographical readings, leadership literature, films, classroom discussions, and also guest appearances by a diverse set of leaders who have wisdom to impart.
This past Spring Gergen published an inspiring playbook for emerging change-makers called Hearts Touched with Fire. In the book Gergen has collected many of the stories and lessons learned from his years closely studying leaders, and he issues a call to the younger generations around the world to step up and lead through the array of challenges we are facing today. Both Gergen’s new book, and his previously published classic Eyewitness to Power are excellent companion readings to MLD-322 and other leadership development courses at Harvard Kennedy School like the courses in adaptive leadership, moral leadership, public narrative, and, also, American presidential leadership.