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Wharton Dean Erika James (Photo from Office of University Communications).

In a new book, Wharton School Dean Erika James discusses her research on how leaders can navigate crises and prepare themselves for unforeseen challenges in their field.

The book — titled “The Prepared Leader: Emerge from Any Crisis More Resilient Than Before” and co-authored by Lynn Perry Wooten, president of Simmons University — was published in September by the Wharton School Press. In an interview, James told The Daily Pennsylvanian that she hopes the book will help people learn to recognize challenges as a means to better prepare them with navigating future unexpected situations.

The book also discusses how leaders can learn from crises after they happen.

“Leaders are actually intentional about finding ways to leverage that crisis experience to turn it into an opportunity,” James said.

James, who became dean of Wharton July 1, 2020, began serving as dean around the same time that Wooten became president of Simmons University. James said that beginning each of their respective new roles during the pandemic helped complement the authors' collective research on crisis management.

“We were able to leverage our scholarship while writing this book, and also living out what we were writing about,” James said.

James said that while tasked with making decisions about Wharton during the pandemic, she relied heavily on the knowledge of other members on her team to help with decision making.

Applying crisis leadership to her time at Wharton during the COVID-19 pandemic, James said that there is now an opportunity to embed change within higher education. As an example, she listed leveraging technologies in "ways that we wouldn't have before.”

She added that when she first assumed her current role as dean, she was focused on responding to the new information about the pandemic prior to looking at Wharton’s strategic focus.

“As we started to learn more how to navigate in this new world, I was able to then have much more of a strategic focus on the school again, and really highlight where I saw Wharton going into the future," James said. 

“The Prepared Leader” also highlights the phases of crisis management and how Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, responded to the administrative challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to crisis management, the book discusses decision making and common mistakes during crises with regards to Burger King CEO José Cil. It also features CEO and President of the Crown Media Family Networks Wonya Lucas' experience in mobilizing a leadership team during a crisis.

In addition to “The Prepared Leader,” James and Wooten — who met during their first year of graduate school at the University of Michigan — also co-authored “Leading Under Pressure: From Surviving to Thriving Before, During, and After a Crisis” in 2010.

James — who is the first woman and first person of color to be appointed dean of Wharton — was recently ranked No. 14 in The Pennsylvania Power of Diversity: Women 100 by City & State Pennsylvania.