Originally from Geelong, Australia, Dean Williams has been a faculty member at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government since 1999, based at the Center for Public Leadership. In recognition of his teaching he has regularly received the most influential course award, and in 2013 received the prestigious Carballo Award. In 2014 he was a visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.
At Harvard's Center for Public Leadership, he is responsible for the World Leaders Interview Project – a research project that is drawing lessons and insights on leadership from successful (and some unsuccessful) world leaders. He also chairs the executive education course called The Global Change Agent Program, where more than 60 change agents from around the world gather at Harvard to enhance their capacity to lead and orchestrate change.
He served for five years as the Chief Adviser to the President of Madagascar, leading one of the most innovative development reforms in Africa. He has also led major change processes, facilitated leadership development initiatives, and conducted extensive research with governments, corporations, or educational systems in India, Australia, Nigeria, Singapore, Brunei, East Timor, Japan, Colombia, Cambodia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. He is currently the director of the Social Leadership Singapore program, an intensive development initiative that has been contributing to building leadership capacity for Singapore's social and cultural sector since 2009.
Dean also spent two years on the island of Borneo studying adaptation and change in nomadic tribes, and served as a senior adviser to the Sultanate of Brunei. In his younger years he was a factory worker at Ford Motor Company. As a consultant he led the successful organizational transformation process of the Australian bank Suncorp, and for two years he was the chief consultant to the Government of Queensland, leading a process of comprehensive reform of the State educational system. In the United States he designed and directed a major Harvard initiative to develop the leadership capacity of Superintendents of Education in twelve urban centers. In East Timor he helped build the leadership capacity of the former guerrilla fighters, the civil society and the new government and advised the President and Prime Minister during a difficult period of transition.
He continues to work with businesses, governments, and institutions around the world on building leadership capacity to respond to the demands of leading in a complex world. He earned both Master's and Doctoral degrees from Harvard University, specializing in leadership studies and organizational development. His dissertation was on the Matsushita Seikei-Juku in Japan. He is the author of Real Leadership: Helping People and Organizations Face Their Toughest Challenges. His new book is, Leadership for a Fractured World: How to Cross Boundaries, Build Bridges, and Lead Change.