Ron Heifetz

How Should We Think About Leadership Issues?

Ronald A. Heifetz 

is the Senior Lecturer in Public Leadership, co-founder of the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of GovernmentHarvard University, and co-founder of Cambridge Leadership Associates.

Known for his seminal work during the past two decades on the practice and teaching of leadership, his research focuses on how to build adaptive capacity in societies, businesses, and nonprofits. His book Leadership Without Easy Answers (Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1994) has been translated into many languages and is currently in its 13th printing. He also coauthored the bestselling book Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading with Marty Linsky (Harvard Business School Press, 2002). His most recent book, ""The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization""(Harvard University Press, 2009). A sequel to ""Leadership On The Line"", it provides a more hands-on approach to identifying personal and organizational practices related to mobilizing organizations around adaptive challenges.

Formerly a Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Heifetz works extensively with leaders in government, nonprofits, and business. His consultations and seminars with individuals, executive committees and leadership teams focus on the work of leaders in generating and sustaining adaptive change across political boundaries, operating units, product divisions, and functions in politics, government agencies and international businesses. For example, Heifetz spoke as a part of the non-profit Central New York Famous Entrepreneurs Series in March 2009.

Recently, Heifetz' work on adaptive leadership has garnered attention in educational fields by promoting a new approach towards leadership education that focuses on teaching leadership in ways that build capacity to address adaptive leadership problems. In the book, ""Leadership Can Be Taught"", Sharon Daloz Parks writes about the processes and practice of Heifetz in his classroom teaching leadership to upcoming leaders. Named ""case-in-point"" (CIP) teaching, this method focuses on implementing aspects of Heifetz' work within the class itself, thereby turning the classroom into a leadership laboratory where learners can analyze on the immediate, relevant leadership dynamics occurring before them. CIP has four main distinctions: 1) authority does not equal leadership, 2) understanding the difference between technical and adaptive challenges, 3) Power (of the individual) vs. progress, and 4) Personality (of the individual) vs. presence (skills & practice). The benefits of Heifetz' CIP model help bridge the current disconnect between learning, teaching, and applying leadership whereby educators may discuss leadership cases or examples within the classroom, but often leave the analysis of impact of personal leadership behaviors to individual reflection outside of the classroom. CIP focuses on bringing leadership to the forefront by analyzing behaviors occurring within the classroom space. To date, a number of leadership educators at universities and organizations across the nation, most notably the University of Minnesota, University of San Diego  as well as the Kansas Leadership Center, utilize CIP practices in their work.

Heifetz is a graduate of Columbia University, Harvard Medical School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is also a cellist and former student of Gregor Piatigorsky.



  • Heifetz, Ronald A., Grashow, Alexander, and Marty Linsky. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Harvard Business Review Press, 2009.
  • Heifetz, Ronald A., and Marty Linsky. Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading (Chinese translation). Bardon-Chinese Media Agency, 2003.
  • Heifetz, Ronald A., and Marty Linsky. Liderazgo Sin Limites: Manual de Supervivencia para Managers. Paidos, 2003.
  • Heifetz, Ronald A., and Marty Linsky. Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. Harvard Business School Press, 2002.
  • Heifetz, Ronald A., and Marty Linsky. I Skudlinjen, Hvordan man overlever i Lederskabets Jungle. Borsens, 2002.

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