‘The Prepared Leader’: Erika James and Lynn Perry Wooten

Wharton Dean Erika James and Simmons University President Lynn Perry Wooten discuss their new book, 'The Prepared Leader,' and how they found the motivation and the staying power during the pandemic to write it.

Erika James and Lynn Perry Wooten made history in 2020, when they took up leadership positions at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Simmons University, respectively. Distinguished scholars of crisis management and long-term collaborators and coauthors, they faced an interesting challenge, and an opportunity: applying what they’ve learned through their shared research over the past two years to lead their organizations through a crisis of unprecedented dimensions.

Wharton Dean Erika James and Lynn Perry Wooten.
Wharton Dean Erika James (left) and Simmons University President Lynn Perry Wooten. (Image: Knowledge at Wharton)

James and Wooten have been studying crisis leadership for more than 25 years, and have considered crisis in its many forms: natural disasters, lawsuits, profit types of crises. During the pandemic, the two wrote “The Prepared Leader: Emerge from Any Crisis More Resilient Than Before.” They highlight why being prepared for crises is something leaders need to work on constantly, adding prepared leadership to the traditional “Three Ps” of business school education: profit maximization, people, and planet.

“Preparation really is fundamental to all of the other three P’s,” says James. “Without preparation, you will not be able to maximize profits. Without preparation, you won’t be able to leverage and sustain our planet. Without preparation, you won’t be able to really effectively lead and manage and support people. So preparation really undergirds all aspects of profit, people, and planet.”

In the book, James and Wooten talk about the crisis team and how it needs to be “diverse in perspective.” “Surrounding yourself by trusted colleagues and experts is a really important factor in helping take the organization effectively through a crisis,” says James. “When we talk about diversity, we generally assume a very narrow definition, and we think about race and gender. Yes, those characteristics are certainly important in responding and problem-solving, but they’re not all of what we’re referring to when we describe diversity. Diversity of perspective really matters.”

Read more at Knowledge at Wharton.