The Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership reflects GSPIA’s commitment to producing professionals who adhere to the highest standards of ethics and public accountability. The Johnson Institute provides students, faculty and the community at large with opportunities to engage in disciplined reflections and rigorous inquiry on issues of ethics and accountability that are of particular interest to the public and nonprofit sectors.

Our Mission

The mission of the Johnson Institute is to enhance professional and institutional ethics and accountability in public leadership. We accomplish this mission through an integrated portfolio of programs including:

Teaching: The Johnson Institute provides classroom instruction and experiential learning opportunities for GSPIA students and for experienced public service executives. The Leadership Portfolio Program is a 15 month leadership development program for exceptionally promising and motivated students. 


Research: The Johnson Institute conducts basic and applied research on leadership and accountability in public service leading to publications in top journals. We also regularly publish case studies profiling the accomplishments of winners of our Exemplary Leader Award. The cases are available for classroom use here and at other institutions.

Outreach: The Johnson Institute promotes discussion and debate on timely public policy issues that involve leadership in the public sector. When possible also provide leadership consulting services, usually free of charge, to public and nonprofit organizations. The Nonprofit Clinic gives graduate students the opportunity to serve as management consultants to nonprofits in the Pittsburgh region.


These three aspects of the Johnson Institute mission work in concert to enhance the quality of public leadership in government, nonprofit, and nongovernmental organizations in Pittsburgh, the Nation, and abroad.

Upcoming Events
Featured Video
Leadership Portfolio Video
The Johnson Institute’s Leadership Portfolio Program (LPP) provides a select group of exceptional students with classroom and community-based opportunities to enhance their leadership skills and credentials.  Students reflect on their experience in the program.

Recent News
November 23, 2015

The Johnson Institute is pleased to announce that a team of GSPIA faculty, staff and alumni recently received an honorable mention for best paper at the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action Conference.  Director Kevin Kearns, Institute Administrator Lydia McShane, and alumni David Bell (PhD) and Bobbi Deem (MPA) conducted intensive interviews with CEOs and board chairs for their exploratory study, How Nonprofit Leaders Evaluate Funding Sources: An Exploratory Study of Nonprofit Leaders. To read the paper, click here.

October 21, 2015

The Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership is one of a few University of Pittsburgh institutes to take part in the launch of the Elsie Hillman Civic Forum. The Forum is designed to bring together community leaders and young people for educational programs, research projects, and mentoring. The forum’s purpose is to encourage students to become involved in the Pittsburgh region’s civic growth.  Read More.  

October 05, 2015

The Workforce Development Global Alliance (WDGA) will honor GSPIA Professor Kevin Kerns for his commitment to servant leadership with the 10th Annual Dr. Wangari Maathai Humanitarian Award, Tues., November 3. According to WDGA’s announcement, the award recognizes Kearns for his "unprecedented levels of servant leadership, commitment and impact to mankind from local to global communities."

April 14, 2015

The Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership recently held its annual Exemplary Leadership award ceremony at the O'Hara Student Center in Oakland. Each year, the Johnson Institute honors an individual whose leadership exemplifies the values of the Johnson Institute – effectiveness, integrity, and accountability – in some form of public service. This year's recipient is Sandra Taylor, president and CEO of Sustainable Business International LLC, a consulting business she launched in 2008. 

March 31, 2015

On February 18 Professor Kevin Kearns, Director of the Johnson Institute, provided an executive seminar on Leadership and Strategy to battalion chiefs and other leaders of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). Kearns is among experts from leading institutions around the country who have been retained by Columbia University to serve as faculty for the Fire Officers Management Institute (FOMI). Kearns has served in this role for three years.

Featured Research

The Johnson Institute’s Case Study Series features the outstanding accomplishments of the Institute’s Exemplary Leadership Award Winners. The 2014 Case Study, Mark Nordenberg and the University of Pittsburgh, exemplifies the characteristics of a true leader. Read more.

Featured Publications
Johnson Institute Releases 2013-14 Annual Report

The Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership annual report features the teaching, research, and ongoing public service efforts of the Institute.  This year’s annual report recognizes two local leaders that exemplify the mission and values of the Johnson Institute: Founder and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation Bill Strickland and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.


Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership
3917 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260