IOSC Keynote Speaker

Dr. Leonard Marcus

Dr. Leonard Marcus
National Preparedness Leadership Initiative


Keynote Session


Preparedness oftentimes manifests as a logistical process, ensuring that the equipment, supplies, and resources are ready to go in an emergency. What does it mean to be prepared to lead? What does it mean to be ready to lead? And when a crisis occurs, what does it take for a leader to apply emotional intelligence and an open mindset to meet the challenges?

This session provides an applied introduction to Meta-Leadership, an original model of crisis leadership developed by Dr. Leonard Marcus and his colleagues at Harvard University. Constructed from direct field experience of crises studied over twenty years, the Meta-Leadership model is a robust and vibrant reference point for crisis leaders as they prepare, ready, and respond to crises.

One key responsibility of the crisis leader is bringing together the people, resources, and assets required to meet the crisis head-on. Dr. Marcus will describe the research that led him and his National Preparedness Leadership Initiative colleagues to develop the framework and practices of Swarm Leadership.

About the Keynote

Dr. Marcus is a trailblazer in crisis leadership studies and teaching. Shortly after 9/11, the federal government asked him and the Harvard Kennedy School’s David Gergen to establish the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (NPLI) at Harvard University. For twenty years, the NPLI has embodied a unique combination of on-scene crisis leadership research, original development of key themes and practices such as Meta-Leadership, Swarm Leadership and The Walk in the Woods, along with assistance to leaders in times of crisis.

During the Deep-Water Horizon crisis, Dr. Marcus was on scene in Louisiana and Washington, observing and meeting with key leaders responsible for the crisis response. Since then, he has lectured around the world on leadership practices designed for such events. Through the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Marcus actively worked with government and business leaders, teaching and advising people around the world. Shortly after the national emergency was declared and FEMA was placed in the lead of the U.S. response, Lenny met each evening with FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor to discuss and advise on the work and leadership of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. He also directed the Aviation Public Health Initiative, in which the NPLI worked with leaders of the domestic aviation carriers to lower the risks of COVID transmission on aircraft and in airports.


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