Kwame Owusu-Kesse at the Harlem Children's Zone
Do you-as leader, an individual within an organization, or running your own business-know when to say yes and when to say no? How do you make decisions about your own career and life? How do you counsel others who ask you for career and life insights? Owusu-Kesse is not only a new CEO of a nonprofit organization changing the lives of tens of thousands of children and young adults, but he also took this position while the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the world, and more specifically in the streets and homes of Harlem, New York. Now the newly selected CEO has a major decision to make, one which could change the trajectory of his own career, the organization he is tasked to lead, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of children and young adults beyond Harlem. A group of philanthropic organizations have asked Owusu-Kesse to take the lead in coordinating the scaling of the Harlem Children's Zone place-base model nationally, beginning in a dozen major U.S. cities. What should the response of the CEO be to this extraordinary request? How should he make the decision? How does he think about the children and families within Harlem who already require his full attention amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial reckoning, renewing a sense of urgency to address rampant inequalities? How does he think about inspiring and leading his organization of 1,800 professionals who are already tired and depleted? Should he seriously take on a national effort at this time?
- 2021 HBS
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