Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University

Program Overview

The Advanced Leadership Fellowship is designed to enhance and leverage the skills of highly accomplished, experienced leaders who want to apply their talents to solve significant social problems, including those affecting health and welfare, children and the environment, and focus on community and public service in the next phase of their careers.

In January of 2009, a select group of Harvard Advanced Leadership Fellows embarked on a flexible, enriching, pioneering year of preparation to jump-start their next career. Our sixth cohort began this January and we are now accepting expressions of interest for the next group of global leaders who will join us in January, 2015.

Advanced Leadership Fellows have structured opportunities to exchange ideas with peers and faculty as well as flexible, individualized opportunities to work towards their own goals. They may mentor students, lead study groups, and with faculty permission, sit in on relevant courses throughout many parts of the University. A Partner Program enables a spouse or partner to accompany the Advanced Leadership Fellow as a program participant. Advanced Leadership Fellows participate in a unique interfaculty Core Course, lead by distinguished faculty from many fields. AL Fellows meet and engage with other leaders grappling with major social and global challenges, as they explore new solutions to some of the most pressing needs facing the world's communities. They travel on guided field immersion trips that enrich their understanding of the complex nature of social institutions.

The year leads toward development and refinement of the Fellows' plans for their next stage work. This may include:starting a foundation or social enterprise, building a campaign for a cause, authoring a book or publication, or another accomplishment with the potential for big impact on a major social problem. In the Fall of the Fellowship year, each AL Fellow will present their plans to peers, faculty, colleagues, and the Advanced Leadership community.

Network membership will continue beyond the Fellowship year, with AL Fellows joining in future activities as they contribute to the collective success of a growing global network of like-minded, accomplished social innovators.

The Program

During their year at Harvard, Fellows will be able to take advantage of the vast intellectual resources of the University to learn, teach, mentor, consult, reflect and plan in preparation for their post-Fellowship project. Click here to view the 2015 Program Calendar.

Core Course

Challenges and Opportunities in Advanced Leadership (COAL), the Core Course, is conceived as a developed whole, with a flow of topics that build on one another. Fellows will participate in a series of faculty lead sessions that focus specifically on the leadership dimensions of their learning about problem areas: leadership gaps, leadership skills, and opportunities for intervention. There are extensive readings and preparation assignments for each session. The Core Course will include dinner and will provide a unique peer learning experience as well as an opportunity to learn from guest speakers who have successfully made the transition to new leadership roles in their later stages of life.

Think Tanks

describe the imageFellows will participate in intensive problem-focused  interactive modules called "Think Tanks." Think Tanks provide deep dive investigations into the substance of a target field to provide knowledge about important ideas, forms of practice, problems, and opportunities to apply advanced leadership to fill a gap and address problems. Think Tanks provide the opportunity to think about the similarities and differences among institutional sectors, and develop an understanding of the common challenges and leadership skills required to address social problems in domains such as education, health, urban life, conflict or poverty. Think Tanks ask Fellows to think critically about current practices and look beyond established norms to seek new solutions.

Field Experiences

Through a global conference or field experiences, Fellows will have the opportunity to understand global and regional issues first-hand. These experiences also provide an opportunity to meet with community leaders, NGO's and global thought leaders engaged in compelling research and work around the world. This will include faculty led programs as well as individual on-site experiences that Fellows develop for themselves.

Course Auditing

describe the imageCourse audits offer Fellows another opportunity to customize their learning to their project areas. With faculty permission, Fellows audit one to two courses per semester, subject to availability. Courses are available in many parts of the University. Course audits provide Fellows with in-depth knowledge in a particular subject field, and contribute to an integrated program of study related to their desired next pursuits. Courses may be in wide ranging areas, such as applied skills (e.g. finance, marketing, non-profit governance), regional studies, or other areas of professional interest.

Student Interaction

Through their interaction with students, Fellows will be able to share their life experience and wisdom. Fellows will be expected to participate in or lead study groups in which they would explore their topic of interest. These study groups will have a multiplier effect by expanding opportunities for degree students in the professional schools to learn from these accomplished leaders and to co-construct with them action plans and designs to intervene in improving social sector conditions around the world.


cohort picIndividual project development is a major outcome of the fellowship year. With guidance from core faculty, Fellows will be able to develop and refine their specific plan for their public service project such as a social venture, book project, joining an existing non-profit foundation launch, or a campaign for a cause.

The capstone of the Fellowship year will be the Final Symposium where Fellows will present their social purpose project plans to an audience of their peers and beyond. The Advanced Leadership Initiative will continue to recognize the accomplishments of the Fellows and foster a network where Fellows from across cohorts will be able to interact and provide support and advice as they advance their social sector projects.

The Advanced Leadership Initiative is embracing a historic opportunity to leverage the experience and wisdom of a generation and to mobilize it as a force for positive change addressing some of the most pressing and urgent global and social issues of our time. By establishing a new higher education pathway, the Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellowship seeks to educate, engage, and inspire experienced leaders to find new meaningful vocations that will benefit society as well as enrich Fellows' own lives and sense of purpose.