Nancy Koehn's 'Forged In Crisis' Shares Insight To Five Historical Leaders

Mar 16, 2018

Most people are familiar with the phrase “a born leader,” but are leaders truly born?


In her book, Forged in Crisis, historian Nancy Koehn makes a convincing case that the roots of leadership are not simply a matter of birthright. Rather, effective leaders are forged through their ability to confront adversity, see the humanity in others, and make difficult choices.

To illustrate her point, Ms. Koehn walks us through the lives and crises faced by five leaders throughout history, including British Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, German pastor and anti-Nazi activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and American biologist and writer Rachel Carson. While they lived in different times and confronted different challenges, this disparate group also shared some commonalities that enabled them to become extraordinary leaders, as Ms. Koehn explains in the book.

Nancy Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School, where she holds the James E. Robison chair of Business Administration.  She has coached leaders from many organizations and speaks frequently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Aspen Ideas Festival and the World Business Forum.