Executive Director, Center for Public Leadership

Job Summary

The Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) seeks a highly effective and experienced leader to serve as Executive Director (ED). The ED must be able to mobilize a highly motivated and talented staff to deliver on the Center’s vision and promote a workplace grounded in respect and excellence. In addition to successful experience in management, strategic leadership, and implementation the ED must share a dedication to nurturing a rising generation of public leaders, a capacity to collaborate across a wide spectrum of senior leaders and faculty across the Harvard community and beyond, and an ability to serve as a visible, effective advocate for the Center’s mission to inspire and enhance the capacity for principled, effective public leadership.

Reporting to the Faculty Co-Directors (Co-Directors), the ED will manage CPL’s core staff, operations, and programs and work with the Kennedy School’s leadership, faculty, students, donors, and other key stakeholders to ensure that the Center’s initiatives move forward and are integrated into the larger mission of HKS.

With the Co-Directors, the ED will develop the overall strategy and goals of the Center and will then be responsible for overseeing day-to-day implementation to ensure the Center delivers its priorities. The ED will help to build and grow a sustainable fundraising framework for the Center. In addition to working closely with students and staff, the ED will support faculty affiliated with the Center.

The ED is a strategic thought partner to the Co-Directors who leads the execution of plans for moving the Center forward; a collaborative relationship builder who can work effectively with faculty, staff, university leaders as well as internal and external stakeholders; a strong manager and leader who will engage, motivate, and mentor staff; and a creative problem solver who will anticipate issues and roadblocks along the way. The ED represents the Center with a strong command of where the organization is and is heading. We believe in fostering a collaborative, diverse and inclusive community of staff, students, and faculty; we seek applications from candidates who can demonstrate through their work and service, a commitment to collaboration, diversity, inclusion and belonging.

The Center for Public Leadership has three primary workstreams: student education (e.g., fellowships, programming); faculty scholarship (e.g., research, pedagogical innovation); and on-campus and broader community engagement (e.g., events, communications, resource development). These workstreams are supported by the Center’s administrative, finance, engagement, and program functions. The Executive Director will contribute to the content of these activities and serve as overall manager. In the performance of this work, the ED, along with the Co-Directors, acts as the key liaison between the Center, HKS leadership, and the broader HKS and Harvard Community, in addition to organizations and leaders beyond the University.

Position Description

  • Strategy Development and Implementation: Advises the Co-Directors on development of the Center’s strategic vision and priorities. Leads implementation, ensuring Center’s staff, budget, and other resources are used effectively in alignment with the Center’s priorities.
  • Operational Excellence: Ensures a high level of professionalism, teamwork, and focus on excellence by overseeing clear, effective structures and processes; directly manages, supports, and empowers a Director-level management team; fosters a culture that is both accountable and collaborative, demonstrates a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging; oversees Human Resources, including organizational development and employee relations.
  • Fundraising: Works with Center Co-Directors to build a sustainable fundraising framework for the Center, including building and fostering relationships with donors, foundations, other potential partners, and CPL’s Leadership Council. Works with HKS and University Development offices to develop these relationships.
  • Institutional Alignment: Serves as a key liaison between the Center and the Kennedy School, other centers across Harvard and the wider Harvard community, ensuring that the Center’s work is aligned with and complements the broader institutional priorities.
  • Finance: Oversees financial management of Center. Provides financial oversight for the Center’s research programs and initiatives, including oversight of gifts, endowments, and sponsored funding.
  • Engagement: Oversees the Center’s overall engagement with stakeholders including students, alumni, faculty, and the broader community. Oversees communications, events, and practitioner programs.
  • Students: Oversees the CPL Programs team, and in coordination with the Co-Directors, faculty, and staff, ensures that the Center’s student fellowships and student programs deliver excellence in leadership development. Acts as a resource for student networking and collaboration.

Basic Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree.
  • 8 or more years of increasingly progressive senior management experience in the private, public, or non-profit sectors.
  • Demonstrated experience with fundraising, donor relations, donor engagement, and/or board management.
  • Demonstrated experience, interest, or education in the areas of leadership, public policy, and/or education.
  • Demonstrated leadership and team management experience.

Additional Qualifications and Skills

  • Demonstrated ability to translate strategic vision into concrete actions with measurable results.
  • Superior strategy, fundraising, organizational, and financial management skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to manage and lead in academic or related organizations including foundations, university research and development centers, government, impact-oriented private sector, and consulting.
  • Demonstrated ability to collaborate with diverse stakeholders, including faculty and students, colleagues and constituents, donors and board members, and cross-sectoral leaders in practice.
  • Commitment to a culture of respect and excellence.
  • Passion for education, public leadership, and public policy.
  • Experience working across large organizations to prioritize, balance multiple tasks, problem solve, and work effectively within a bureaucratic structure.
  • Experience in foundations and higher education is a plus, particularly an understanding of how research is translated into practice through collaborations, training, and outreach.
  • Master’s degree is a plus, though not a requirement.
  • Ability to travel is required.

Work Format Details

This is a hybrid position that is based in Massachusetts. Additional details will be discussed during the interview process. All remote work must be performed within one of the Harvard Registered Payroll States, which currently includes Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Washington, and California (CA for exempt positions only). Certain visa types and funding sources may limit work location. Individuals must meet work location sponsorship requirements prior to employment.

About the Center for Public Leadership
With an annual budget of over $12 million, almost 40 full-time staff, over 50 affiliated faculty, and supporting approximately 120 student fellows, the Center for Public Leadership’s mission is to inspire and enhance the capacity for principled, effective public leadership in government, politics, civil society, and business. We pursue our mission in a learning community of students, scholars and educators, practitioners, staff, and alumni, to bridge theory and practice in three interwoven streams of work: scholarship, education, and community engagement.