Are You Ready for Your Make-or-Break Leadership Moment?

September 18, 2019

Book Review by Andy Ghillyer

If you review the daily calendar of any business executive, you will probably see meetings with the standard company departments––finance, operations, sales, and HR. What you won’t find is a scheduled meeting for a crisis.

In their new book, You’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When it Matters Most, the co-authors Leonard Marcus, Eric McNulty, Joseph Henderson, and Barry Dorn, propose that crisis management is no longer a matter of if, but when.

The different types of crises that can impact a business can seem overwhelming. From media controversies, product recalls, and data breaches, to fires, floods, oil spills, hurricanes, active shooters, bombs, and pandemics, every business needs a leader who is capable of stepping forward to calm the panic and make pragmatic decisions in the midst of chaos.

Meta Leadership

The authors propose a framework of Meta Leadership to underscore the need to remain conscious of the bigger picture as you address: “multiple interconnected factors,” in a crisis. They identify three dimensions within this framework––the person, the situation, and connectivity––and examine them across a diverse range of examples.

The Person

The ‘you’ in You’re It has a deliberate double meaning. To lead in a crisis, you as an individual will need to suppress your ego and lean on your emotional intelligence to lead the plural ‘you’ who are all involved in the crisis. In the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013, it took only 102 hours to bring the immediate crisis to an end. If the first responders, law enforcement, politicians, business leaders, and citizens of Boston had let their egos drive their individual responses, chaos would have ensued. As it was, everyone knew what was expected of them and demonstrated exceptional leadership and courage––Boston Strong.

The Situation

Cognitive biases can directly impact your perception of what is going on and blind you to the rapidly emerging reality. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, city officials were focused on responding to wind damage. Their lack of attention to the accompanying storm surge that overwhelmed the city’s levy system led to the deaths of almost 1,500 residents. The cognitive bias of a “wind event,” left the city unprepared for the eventual “water event,” that Katrina became.


Crisis management requires a multiple stakeholder solution. Assuming that you are expected to find all the answers or believing that you alone can fix the crisis are recipes for disaster. When the blowout preventer failed on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, it initiated a whole series of separate situations within one crisis – political, environmental, economic, and legal. Each of those situations required a prompt response from pragmatic leaders. Instead, aggressive infighting between multiple state agencies for leadership positions, resources, and media attention, extended the eventual capping of the well by several weeks until September 17, 2010.

You’re It is a timely read for turbulent times. The Meta Leadership framework and comprehensive examples will help you be better prepared for any crisis you may have to face.


Andy Ghillyer

Andy Ghillyer is a Contributing Writer at Soundview. He lives in Tampa, FL where he specializes in writing for the B2B and academic markets while raising a growing menagerie of cats and dogs. His other reviews are here.


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