A selection of titles about a skill that’s currently in high demand.

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Charan, Ram. Leadership in the era of economic uncertainty: the new rules for getting the right things done in difficult times. McGraw-Hill, 2009. 138p ISBN 0071626166, $22.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE November 2009

It is no hyperbole to say that businesses are currently facing the worst economic crisis in a long time. Every metric—unemployment rates, company closings, layoffs, corporate profitability—affirms the desperate market conditions that CEOs and their companies face. Charan, a well-known consultant who has the ear of America’s top business leaders, offers a cure to confront these challenges. On the surface, these suggested cures seem quotidian—take care of your cash, be flexible, execute your strategy. But, in Charan’s opinion, it is the obvious that is typically forgotten in moments of crises. In a book that literally seems to speak directly to corporate leaders and oftentimes seems as though it was dictated and not written (a minor shortcoming), Charan points to a wealth of companies (e.g., DuPont, Wal-Mart, Wipro) that have successfully focused on the basics and consequently managed the downturn better than others have. In this slim volume, deliberately kept short for busy executives, Charan reiterates emphatically the importance of basics to steer the corporate ship. Summing Up: Recommended. Professionals and practitioners. —R. Subramanian, Montclair State University

Encyclopedia of crisis management, ed. by K. Bradley Penuel, Matt Statler, and Ryan Hagen. SAGE Publications, 2013. 2v ISBN 1452226121, $350.00; ISBN 9781452226125, $350.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE August 2013

The increasing severity of both natural and man-made disasters, e.g., Hurricane Katrina, the BP gulf oil spill, and the Japanese earthquake/tsunami, highlights humankind’s increasing vulnerability to hazards. This two-volume set offers a basic introduction to the emerging field of emergency and crisis management, focusing on agencies, theories, techniques, standards, and approaches developed to mitigate these disasters. This encyclopedia features 385 alphabetical entries with titles such as “Disaster Recovery,” “Emergency Support Functions,” “Hazard Vulnerability Analysis,” “Smallpox,” and “Spaceflight.” Each entry is cross-referenced and includes suggestions for further reading. A reader’s guide categorizes the entries into broader areas, such as “Nongovernmental Organizations” and “Categories of Crises.” This resource excels in examining crisis management from multiple perspectives and reflects a wide variety of mitigation approaches. However, it could have benefitted from articles focusing on specific events and their management, e.g., the Exxon Valdez oil spill or Chernobyl. Nevertheless, it is a good introductory source to a growing and increasingly vital field of study. Included are a list of articles, a resource guide, an appendix, a glossary, and an index. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates, general readers. —C. A. Sproles, University of Louisville

Gilpin, Dawn R. Crisis management in a complex world, by Dawn R. Gilpin and Priscilla J. Murphy. Oxford, 2008. 210p ISBN 0195328728, $39.95; ISBN 9780195328721, $39.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE May 2009

Gilpin (Arizona State Univ.) and Murphy (Temple Univ.) ask, “To what extent is it possible to control events and stakeholder responses to them in order to contain escalating crises or safeguard an organization’s reputation?” Their book is multidisciplinary (communications, physical sciences, psychology, and business) and strongly theoretical in orientation. They employ tools of complexity theory to suggest a new approach to crisis management for complex systems. The book is divided into three parts. Part 1, “Complexity, Crisis and Control,” contains a review of the history of the field of crisis communication, an overview of key principles of complexity theory, and a redefinition of the concept of predictability. Part 2, “The Complexity of Knowledge and Learning,” explores and integrates important concepts such as information and assimilation, organizational learning, and sense making in decisions. The last part, “Reconfiguring the Dominant Paradigm,” reframes the dominant crisis paradigm in complexity theory terms. Crisis assumptions made before, during, and after a crisis are challenged using the complexity theory lens. For example, complexity-based crisis planning may work better than traditional approaches given uncertainty, lack of control, and emotion. This well-written book is valuable for research and practice. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate, research, and professional audiences. —M. L. Nathan, Lynchburg College

Heifetz, Ronald A. Leadership without easy answers. Harvard, 1994. 348p ISBN 0-674-51858-6, $24.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE June 1995

This pioneering study constitutes one of the most insightful and innovative approaches to leadership studies in over a decade. Heifetz’s revisionary model of “adaptive leadership” is the product of his ten years of experience as the Director of the Leadership Education Project at Harvard’s JFK School of Government. The author contends that the contemporary American crisis of leadership has been misdiagnosed owing to outmoded and severely flawed notions of leadership that have mistakenly identified the nation’s leaders within the limiting boundaries of authority and technical expertise. Akin to Machiavelli’s The Prince, Heifetz masterfully presents his new leadership model by intertwining general theory and prescriptive practical guidance through fertile historical and work-place case studies. Heifetz’s goal is nothing less than a summoning for a new social contract that seeks to revitalize America’s civic ethos by adopting leadership strategies to empower the citizenry rather than to merely enhance the authority of the leader. Although one might disagree with a particular stratagem proffered by Heifetz, the upshot of this study should place it in the front line in leadership historiography for years to come. Summing Up: General; upper-division undergraduate through faculty. —R. J. Lettieri, Mount Ida College

Janis, Irving L. Crucial decisions: leadership in policymaking and crisis management. Free Press, 1989. 388p ISBN 0029161614, $27.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE June 1989

Janis, an academic psychologist, is a leading researcher of decision making. This volume presents illustrative examples and theory on how crucial decisions are made at the highest levels of government and business. The compelling theme is that too often decisions involve faulty processes and, at worst, seat-of-the-pants judgments. In the private sector, 50-year-old corporations represent just 2 of organizations created; better decisions would increase this survival rate. And in government, for example, President Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs disaster and President Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War could have been averted. To avoid woeful outcomes, Janis urges “vigilant problem solving,” which includes (1) carefully specifying the problem and tentative solutions; (2) adequate information to search for solutions; (3) reformulating solutions in light of more and better alternatives; and (4) evaluating and selecting the best solution. Janis details this problem-solving process. Sociologists, psychologists, business faculty, and decision makers can benefit from this carefully written, informative book. It ranks among the best on the topic. Summing up: Academic and public library collections. —C. Tausky, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Johnson, Tim. Crisis leadership: how to lead in times of crisis, threat and uncertainty. Bloomsbury Business, 2018. 252p index ISBN 9781472942821, $35.00; ISBN 9781472942845 ebook, $23.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE May 2008

Johnson (Deloitte) provides readers with a three-part book that places the concepts of crisis and leadership in perspective. In part 1, Johnson borrows from a cited 1998 Academy of Management Review article and defines a crisis as “a low probability, high impact event that threatens the viability of the organization.” He concludes that crisis leadership requires the same capabilities needed for successful day-to-day organizational effectiveness and efficiency and discusses three preparatory activities. The opening chapter in part 2 discusses a crisis leader’s critical operational and emotional responsibilities, and subsequent chapters address decision-making and strategy, team leadership, public leadership, private leadership (better characterized as self-management), and standing down the crisis management team once a crisis is resolved. The only chapter in part 3 focuses on the things that self-development, the organization, academia, professional organizations, executive educators, and consultants must do to prepare crisis leaders. Throughout the book, Johnson references classic and contemporary authors representing an array of academic disciplines, all of which are cited appropriately. Undergraduate and graduate students in business, leadership, and risk management will benefit greatly from this book, especially if it is used as a secondary text. It can also serve as a supplemental resource for crisis leadership–related professional development programs. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —M. J. Safferstone, formerly, University of Mary Washington

Koehn, Nancy. Forged in crisis: the power of courageous leadership in turbulent times. Scribner, 2017. 517p index ISBN 9781501174445, $35.00; ISBN 9781501174469 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE March 2018

Koehn (Harvard) worked for 10 years to craft this epic work, which tells the story of five individuals who overcame compelling challenges while demonstrating exemplary leadership. They found themselves in circumstances they were not responsible for creating. Yet they succeeded. Five chapters tell tumultuous and unexpected stories: Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to reach the South Pole failed, but his quest resulted in bringing his entire team home from Antarctica; Lincoln’s determination to save the Union, fight, and win the Civil War and craft the Reconstruction; Frederick Douglass’s ability to rise above the graphic dehumanization of slavery to become a highly respected abolitionist; Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s implicit understanding of the threat that Hitler and the Nazis posed, resulting in his resistance to the Third Reich; and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which clearly articulated the dangers of chemical pesticides and precipitated the beginnings of the environmental movement. Each biography traces the five individuals’ development from childhood to adulthood, highlighting the factors that impacted them as professionals and, more importantly, the lessons they learned. The book’s final chapter describes the leadership elements the five demonstrated, all of which are relevant for today’s leaders. This book would be an outstanding primary text for undergraduate and graduate leadership, management, and business history courses. Summing Up: Essential. All readership levels. —M. J. Safferstone, formerly, University of Mary Washington

Spector, Bert A. Discourse on leadership: a critical appraisal. Cambridge, 2016. 314p bibl index ISBN 9781107049789, $110.00; ISBN 9781107279162 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE February 2017

The majority of adjectives commonly used in reviews fall short in adequately describing the captivating Spector text. Discourse on Leadership reveals the depth of the author’s preparation in the discipline of history and deals with the depth of the facts, ideas, and arguments that is the literature of leadership. Profoundly demonstrative of an intellectual history of ideas, the text has order and a strong sense of chronology and provides readers a glimpse into the mind of the historian and his art form. In addition to the sense of history, readers’ attention must be drawn to gender and race as a lens to leadership discourse in chapter 5. The second among many hallmarks is evident in the author’s presentation in the epilogue. With a sense of humility and of the important work of others, readers cannot but be impressed with the time line presentation. This reviewer’s sense of this presentation is that it is refreshing and fits well with the author’s discourse objective. The Spector text will certainly be an essential addition to any academic library and may well be a great addition for serious students of leadership. A job well done! Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —J. B. Kashner, College of the Southwest

Tibbo, Bill. Leadership in the eye of the storm: putting your people first in a crisis. Toronto, 2016. 202p index afp ISBN 9781442649941, $34.95; ISBN 9781442621831 ebook, $34.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE April 2017

We live in a world where the unexpected has become the norm on a personal and corporate level. At the organizational level, understanding how to respond to a crisis is of critical importance. Recognizing and developing appropriate strategies when an event occurs requires a thoughtful and considered approach for the good of the organization and its people. Tibbo offers insights into the most effective and practical methods of crisis response based on his over 30 years of assisting both public and private institutions. Tibbo assists organizations in focusing on a core principle: “If you rebuild your people, you rebuild your organization.” Through examples of crisis such as the SARS outbreak in Toronto, the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and earthquakes in Turkey, Tibbo outlines how organizations effectively support their business processes by first attending to their employees. This book provides insightful stories and thoughtful directives for those responsible for organizational health. Recognizing the inherent value of employees over product in a crisis situation supports organizational stability. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. —T. M. Mckenzie, Gonzaga University