Heifetz founded the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School where he is the King Hussein bin Talal Senior Lecturer in Public Leadership. Heifetz played a pioneering role in establishing leadership as an area of study and education at Harvard, in the United States, and around the world. His research addresses two key challenges: developing a conceptual foundation for the analysis and practice of leadership; and developing transformative methods for leadership education, training, and consultation.
Heifetz co-developed the adaptive leadership framework with Riley Sinder and Marty Linsky to provide a basis for leadership practice and research. His first book, Leadership Without Easy Answers (1994), is a classic in the field and has long been one of the ten most assigned course books at Harvard and Duke Universities. Heifetz co-authored the best-selling Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Change with Marty Linsky, which serves as one of the primary go-to books for practitioners across sectors (2002, revised 2017). He then co-authored the field book, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing your Organization and the World with Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky (2009). His HarvardX online course, Exercising Leadership: Foundational Principles (2020), reached 200,000 people within its first year.
Heifetz began his focus on transformative methods of leadership education and development in 1983. Drawing students from throughout Harvard’s graduate schools and neighboring universities, his courses on leadership are legendary; his core course is considered the most influential in their career by Kennedy School alumni. His teaching methods have been studied extensively in doctoral dissertations and in Leadership Can Be Taught, by Sharon Daloz Parks (Harvard Business Press, 2005).
A graduate of Columbia University, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard Kennedy School, Heifetz is both a physician and cellist. He trained initially in surgery before deciding to devote himself to the study of leadership for solving systemic problems in societies, businesses, and nonprofits. Heifetz completed his medical training in psychiatry to provide a foundation to address the political psychology of leadership. As a cellist, he was privileged to study with the great Russian virtuoso, Gregor Piatigorsky.
- Leadership from the Inside Out: The Personal Capacity to Lead and Stay Alive
- Art and Practice of Leadership Development
- Leadership Has No Easy Answers
As one of the leading writers and thought leaders on the topic of leadership, Heifetz readily admits there are no easy answers for leaders--but he does provide some practical lessons for practicing better, more effective leadership at all levels of an organization.