mayors + city leaders



The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative offers a robust leadership development experience for mayors and senior members of their teams to foster their professional growth and to advance key practices and capabilities in city halls throughout the world.


For Mayors

Up to 40 mayors participate in a yearlong program that begins with an opening reception in New York City followed by three days of classroom learning, candid peer conversations, field experiences, and evening activities. Mayors continue to reconvene for two hours every six weeks for classes via a state-of-the-art virtual classroom.


In the Classroom

In-person and virtual sessions, taught by Harvard faculty, provide mayors a chance to step back from day-to-day responsibilities and focus on their personal leadership and organizational practices within their city. Key concepts include:

  • Exercising courage and leading with and beyond formal authority

  • Building high-performing teams and organizations

  • Motivating change and mobilizing others

  • Experimentation and innovation

  • Collaborating across departments and sectors

  • Citizen engagement

  • Using data and evidence to improve decision-making

Programming puts mayors in the center of their experience as active participants, not just observers. Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School faculty draw upon participants for real-world insights and expertise while engaging them in activities that expand their leadership abilities. Mayors emerge with practical knowledge they can apply to their daily challenges as soon as they return to their city halls – along with a network of leading mayors to draw upon for peer learning.

For an example of what the three-day, in-person convening entails, please see the 2018 mayors' curriculum here.


Beyond the classroom and back at city hall

In addition to the core classes, each mayor leads their cities’ participation in the following:


Senior leaders’ involvement.  Mayors nominate two top-level leaders critical to running their government to participate in coordinated programming.

Leadership assessment. Mayors complete a personal leadership assessment with results debriefed by a professional coach who provides actionable, insightful feedback through subsequent coaching sessions.

Ongoing capability-building. In addition to core classes, each city commits to advancing improvements in one or more key practices (e.g., innovation, collaboration, use of data and evidence) for which they receive additional programming and support. Senior leaders, working alongside their mayors, play a leading role in this work.



For Senior Leaders

The mayors' work is strengthened by coordinated programming for senior leaders from each mayor’s city. Programming for senior leaders provides them with the opportunity to focus on their own development as leaders and as agents of change – and equips them to build the capacity to solve problems and lead sustained organizational improvement over time. Several critical concepts are covered with both mayors and senior leaders to reinforce a common understanding and vocabulary across leadership teams.

Senior leader nominees should be central to executing the mayor’s change agenda and have significant responsibility for policy, performance, and people.  Examples include deputy mayors, chief operating officers, chiefs of staff, and city managers.  Mayors from cities with Council-Manager forms of government should aim to secure the participation of the city manager. 

For an example of what the four-day, in-person senior leaders' convening entails, please see the 2018 curriculum here.


Additional Support

The Initiative offers additional support to cities to aid in their progress and deepen their engagement, learning, and ability to affect change, through support from fellow participants and other mayors, Harvard faculty and students, and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and through direct support from the dedicated Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative team at Harvard University.   

Deeper skill-building. Additional online sessions to expand learning around specific leadership skills (e.g. motivating change by communicating a personal narrative), that mayors and senior leaders want to enhance.

Fellowships. Harvard graduate students competitively selected for fellowships in the offices of participating mayors, where students are matched according to skills sought by the mayor.

Research and networks. Support from the Initiative’s faculty, dedicated staff, and students in research, identifying best practices, and making connections to experts and practitioners.


Program Participation

The success of the program requires a mutual commitment between participating mayors and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. The Initiative is sensitive to the fact that there are many demands for a city leader’s time, and is therefore committed to fully maximizing the time spent by the mayor and leadership team engaging in the program. By taking part in the program, mayors commit to the following:

  • Participating fully and actively in all in-person sessions in New York City and then in the required six sessions every six weeks via a virtual state-of-the-art classroom

  • Nominating and ensuring the full participation of two senior leaders from their administration to participate in the similarly intensive complementary senior leaders track

  • Completing a personal leadership assessment with results debriefed by a professional coach

  • Following the kickoff in July, committing their city to advancing improvements in one or more key practices for which their city will receive additional programming and support – and following up with their teams to ensure and promote progress

  • Sharing progress, challenges and insights with the Initiative throughout the year, including participating in a 30-minute onboarding call before the program begins and three additional check-ins throughout the program



Participation in the program is fully funded—including tuition, accommodation, meals, and airfare. Please note that public officials, including any employee of a government entity, should consult applicable rules and regulations to ensure that their attendance (including the acceptance of related costs) complies with such rules and regulations.

The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative is made possible by a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of their Government Innovation portfolio, which focuses on building problem-solving capacity within local governments and spreading innovations that work.


More Information

For any questions about the program, please contact us or email