Nancy Koehn

James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

Nancy F. Koehn  is a historian at the Harvard Business School, where she holds the James E. Robison Chair of Business Administration. Koehn’s research focuses on effective leadership and how leaders, past and present, craft lives of purpose, worth, and impact. Her forthcoming book, Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times, spotlights how five of history’s greatest leaders managed crises and what we can each learn from their experience.

Koehn is also the author of Ernest Shackleton: Exploring Leadership; Oprah (Brand) Renew; Oprah: Leading with Heart; The Story of American Business: From the Pages of the New York Times; Brand New: How Entrepreneurs Earned Consumers’ Trust from Wedgwood to Dell; and The Power of Commerce: Economy and Governance in the First British Empire. She is also a contributor to Creative Capitalism: A Conversation with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Other Economic Leaders; Remember Who You Are: Life Stories That Inspire the Heart and Mind; Beauty and Business; The Intellectual Venture Capitalist: John H. McArthur and the Work of the Harvard Business School, 1980-1995; Creating Modern Capitalism: How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions; and Management Past and Present: A Casebook on American Business History. She has written and supervised cases on Starbucks Coffee Company, Ernest Shackleton, Oprah Winfrey, Bono and U2, Whole Foods, Stonyfield Yogurt, Wedgwood, Estée Lauder, Henry Heinz, Milton Hershey, Celeste Walker, Marshall Field, Dell Computer, and other leaders and organizations.

Koehn consults with many companies and speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival, and the World Business Forum. She is a frequent contributor to American Experience and has appeared on the PBS NewsHour, A&E’s Biography, Good Morning America, Bloomberg Television, CNBC’s The Money Wheel, CNN’s Money Line, and other television programs. She writes for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and Harvard Business Review, and is a weekly commentator on National Public Radio. In 2012, Poets and Quants ranked Koehn as one of the World’s 50 Best Business School Professors. She is also a director of the clothing retailer, Fashion to Figure.
Before coming to HBS, Koehn was a member of Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences for seven years, first as a graduate student in history and then as a lecturer in the history and literature concentration and the department of economics. Koehn earned a master of public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government before earning her M.A. and Ph.D. in history from Harvard.

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