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Harvard Kennedy School

Senior Executives in State and Local Government

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Senior Executives in State and Local Government

Next dates

Jun 3—21
15 days
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
USD 16500
USD 1100 per day
Jul 8—26
15 days
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
USD 16500
USD 1100 per day


Senior executives in state and local governments face greater demands from a skeptical public today than at any time in recent decades. Across the country, revenues have fallen sharply, the need for services has spiked, and trust in government has plummeted. To exercise effective leadership in this difficult environment, officials in government and nonprofit organizations need the knowledge and skills to develop creative solutions under tight constraints and increased public scrutiny.

The Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government provides a balance of traditional and hands-on learning experiences to help seasoned public officials meet the changing needs of their constituents and communities. In particular, this program enables participants to become more effective public managers by:

  • Challenging assumptions about how to exercise leadership in the public sector.
  • Developing new conceptual frameworks for addressing policy issues.
  • Examining innovative partnerships and new models of collaborative governance.
  • Exploring the relationship between citizens and their government.
  • Understanding the behavioral dimensions of decision-making.
  • Exchanging ideas with experienced faculty and a diverse group of colleagues.

This three-week program operates as an interactive classroom, where faculty and participants work together on real-life case studies and learn from each other. One of the most frequently cited problems of public officials is how to create and engage in public discourse about difficult subjects. Participants will be in an environment where the classroom serves as a forum for raising difficult issues and practicing the skill of creating and maintaining a conversation that leads to change.


Using the case method pioneered at Harvard, participants in Senior Executives in State and Local Government will analyze and discuss real-life situations selected to provoke insight into a wide array of strategic management and leadership issues. The objective is to get you to think through problem-solving methods and possible solutions.

In the last two weeks of the program, you and fellow participants will discuss actual challenges in your own organizations. This activity serves to bridge the gap between conceptual learning and actual experiences.

Key topics covered during the program will include the following:

  • Leadership - Exercising leadership without authority, and analyzing and managing dynamics that impede progress.
  • Negotiations - Moving beyond positional bargaining to build strong, resilient relationships with key partners.
  • Public/Private Partnerships - Creating new and non-traditional alliances among the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to build support for effective solutions.
  • Cooperative Governance - Developing new operational methods and governance arrangements that can increase capacity and reduce costs.
  • Behavioral Decision Making - Reducing decision biases in an organization, and designing smart accountability systems for decision-making.

Experiental Exercise, Outward Bound, Thompson Island

At the end of the first week, students are required to participate in a tailored one-day experiential program at Outward Bound on scenic Thompson Island, part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area. The program is an extension of the previous week's classroom work and addresses the theory and practice of leadership, communication style, and personal, professional and team dynamics. It is an essential element of the curriculum.

Through the Outward Bound process, participants are encouraged to examine and challenge their assumptions and reflect on personal practices and learning. The Outward Bound experience serves as a learning laboratory which creates an opportunity to investigate and compare perspectives and those of colleagues. By the end of the day, participants recognize transference and relevance to their work environments, offering the opportunity to keep the aspects that are functioning well, and to consider changing those less optimal.

Who should attend

Senior Executives in State and Local Government is designed for all senior-level executives working with state and local governments—including government officials, elected officeholders and executives with nonprofit organizations, community foundations, national associations and private corporations. Professional expertise and experience is critical to the learning process and each session’s members reflect a broad spectrum of functional responsibilities and geographical diversity.

Recommended applicants include:

  • Elected and appointed officials and their deputies, including mayors, state senators and representatives, members of parliament, secretaries of state, attorneys general, treasurers, comptrollers and auditors
  • Leaders in public safety, such as police, fire, EMS, sheriff and health departments
  • Department heads and deputies, including chiefs of staff, public affairs officers and town managers
  • Program directors of nonprofit organizations
  • Policy advisors
  • General counsel
  • Chief financial officers
  • Chief information officers
  • School superintendents
  • Librarians


David C. King is Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at The Harvard Kennedy School and Faculty Chair of the Masters in Public Administration program. Professor King chairs Harvard’s Bi-Partisan Program for Newly Elected Members of the U.S. Congress, and he directs the Program for Senior Executives i...


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