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The Prepared Leader

Emerge from Any Crisis More Resilient Than Before

Erika H. James and Lynn Perry Wooten

From their unique perch at the top of two most prestigious institutions, Erika H. James and Lynn Perry Wooten provide a roadmap for leaders to help them lead through any crisis.

The next crisis might be here now, or it might be around the corner. In The Prepared Leader: Emerge from Any Crisis More Resilient Than Before, two history-making experts in crisis leadership—James, dean of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Wooten, president of Simmons University—forcefully argue that the time to prepare is always.

In no other time in recent history have leaders in every industry and on every continent grappled with so many changes that have independently and simultaneously undermined their ability to lead. The Prepared Leader encapsulates more than two decades of the authors’ research to convey how it has positioned them to navigate through the distinct challenges of today and tomorrow. Their insights have implications for every leader in every industry and every worker at every level.

In their fast-reading and actionable book, James and Wooten provide tools and frameworks for addressing and learning from crises, and they provide insight into what you need to know to become a Prepared Leader, including:

  • The five phases of crisis management and the skills you need for each phase. They examine how the National Basketball Association and its commissioner, Adam Silver, responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Making the right decisions under pressure and how to avoid common mistakes. They reveal how Burger King CEO Jose Cil began planning for the aftermath of a crisis right in the middle of one.
  • Building a crisis leadership team and how to lead one that you’ve inherited. They detail how Wonya Lucas, CEO and President of the Crown Media Family Networks, aligned and mobilized an executive team during a time of crisis.

James and Wooten argue that—in addition to people, profit, and the planet—prepared leadership should be the fourth “P” in a company’s bottom line. They bring decades of world-renowned research on crisis leadership, diversity and inclusion, management strategy, and positive leadership to the table to help leaders better prepare themselves to lead through crises—and for whatever lies around the corner.

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About the Authors

Praise for The Prepared Leader

“The Prepared Leader is a strong roadmap for how to lead during a crisis, filled with relatable, real-world examples. I found myself nodding my head and saying ‘yes’ while reading. The book also inspires us all and reminds us that with preparation, companies and their team members can emerge from challenging times stronger and more resilient than ever, and spawning a new phase of innovation.”

—Roz Brewer, Chief Executive Officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance

“Brilliant and fast-reading, The Prepared Leader, by Erika H. James and Lynn Perry Wooten, is a must-read for anyone who aspires to successfully navigate a major crisis—for the sake of their organization, their employees, and their customers. Their research supports what I’ve experienced leading a company in a time of crisis: developing the right skills, continuing to learn, and leveraging the power of a diverse and knowledgeable team are all essential aspects of becoming a Prepared Leader.”

—Ed Bastian, CEO, Delta Air Lines

The Prepared Leader is a timely assessment of what it takes to be an effective leader in our hyper-connected world. In detailing how best to identify and plan for a crisis of any size, Erika H. James and Lynn Perry Wooten provide an informed strategy any executive can employ. However, by including thoughtful methods for learning from our challenges, James and Wooten ensure every reader can take away invaluable lessons to prepare us for an unknown future.”

—James Gorman, Chairman and CEO, Morgan Stanley

“By definition, the specifics of a crisis can’t be predicted. But the best leaders both anticipate areas where a crisis might emerge, and they prepare themselves and their teams to respond. The Prepared Leader, by Erika H. James and Lynn Perry Wooten, is an excellent playbook for doing both. The frameworks and processes they share are world-class.”

—Reggie Fils-Aime, Former President and COO of Nintendo of America, and Author, Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo

The Prepared Leader was written for this moment—but it stems from years of research and the personal experience of two remarkable and pathbreaking leaders. Seizing on the premise that you can prepare for crises—after all, they are both inevitable and increasingly common—frees us to manage with greater capacity and control and to seize the unique opportunities revealed in the urgency of the moment.  Wooten and James have written this book for all of us who lead organizations, teams, and enterprises in an exceedingly complicated world.”

—Judy Samuelson, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Business & Society Program

“This book is truly special and right on time. In their important new book, Erika H. James and Lynn Perry Wooten provide aspiring and established leaders with a roadmap for navigating competing crises such as racial injustice, political upheaval, economic instability, and pandemic recovery. For leaders of organizations fighting and advocating for societal change, The Prepared Leader is an essential read, revealing how we can shape better outcomes. This book is a must read.”

—Wes Moore, Bestselling Author and Former CEO, Robin Hood Foundation

“Erika James and Lynn Wooten have created a guidebook for those who know we need to be a Prepared Leader. You’ll learn how we humans are hardwired to prevent us from absorbing a threat. They explain how this realization is a critical step towards developing the mindset necessary to become the leader we want to be. We probably won’t know exactly what the next crisis will be, but we can be prepared. With real world examples of leaders who flourished in the crisis of COVID to those who failed spectacularly in the tectonic shift in racial justice, every chapter has something to teach us.”

—Karen Finerman, CEO & Co-founder, Metropolitan Capital Advisors

“Erika H. James and Lynn Perry Wooten present a practical and insightful tour through the critical elements of effective crisis management. Crises are inevitable but the key to leadership through one is building resilience before the crisis—feedback and learning loops are essential to prepare leaders for the serious challenges they must address. James and Wooten show that crises provide risks coupled with opportunities and that the leaders who thrive during crises are those who push themselves to learn thoroughly and rapidly and to seize on both wins and losses.” 

—Ruth Porat, SVP & Chief Financial Officer, Alphabet and Google

“In my experience, crises are inevitable; the question is how you respond. In their well-researched and actionable new book, The Prepared Leader, Erika H. James and Lynn Perry Wooten share the stories of the companies that have successfully navigated crises and offer guidance to help organizations prepare for and manage through uncertain times and challenging moments.”

—Vikram Malhotra, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company, and Chair, Wharton Graduate Executive Board

“Erika H. James and Lynn Perry Wooten’s The Prepared Leader is more than just a smart take on the lessons learned from the private sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. This book offers a wealth of insights and best practices that empower managers at any level to successfully navigate whatever crisis comes their way. A must-read for managing the unexpected in an ever more complex and interconnected world.”

—Alex Gorsky, Executive Chairman, Johnson & Johnson

“Dean James and President Wooten have penned an indisputable blueprint of how to successfully manage, leverage, and emerge victoriously from any global crisis. More importantly, they invite leaders to be deeply introspective to challenge themselves to an elevated level of leadership.”

—Carla Harris, Senior Client Advisor, Morgan Stanley, and Author, Lead to Win and Expect to Win

“Erika H. James and Lynn Perry Wooten have written a brilliant new book, The Prepared Leader. In it, they lay out a practical framework to help leaders build teams, manage through crises, and help their institutions emerge even stronger. I only wish the book had been available as we navigated the Great Financial Crisis!”

—F. William (Bill) McNabb III, Former Chairman and CEO, Vanguard Group

“Combining extensive experience and evidence, this dynamic duo has created the road map you need to prepare for the unexpected.”

—Adam Grant, “10 Books to Enrich Your Thinking”; Wharton School professor and bestselling author, Think Again

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