Juneau, Alaska’s Successful Response to COVID-19: A Case Study of Adaptive Leadership in a Complex System

  • James E. Powell (Creator)
  • Robert W. Orttung (Creator)
  • Sean Asikłuk Topkok (Creator)
  • H. Akselrod (Creator)
  • Joseph Little (Creator)
  • Peggy Wilcox (Creator)



Juneau, Alaska, kept COVID-19 deaths lower than in other similar jurisdictions. We argue that adaptive leadership—the early decisions and actions of Juneau’s leaders, effective communications, and emergent new collaborative structures—in the context of municipal ownership of key assets enabled Juneau’s success. The result of 61 interviews and follow-up research, this case study contributes a better understanding of which institutional design, communication, and collaborative factors mattered in responding to the pandemic. Adaptive leadership provides a better explanation for Juneau’s success than alternatives that focus on its isolation, home-rule status, and socio-economic structure.
Date made available2022
PublisherSAGE Journals

Cite this