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We live in a time when our collective faith in national figures and leaders in general is waning, says author Nancy Koehn, historian and professor at Harvard School of Business. It is a time when gurus rise up wanting to add something new from their personal experience to the leadership rhetoric.

Koehn takes a different path. Her recent release, Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times, draws on the lessons learned from the lives of five historical figures: Ernest Shackleton, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Rachel Carson.

Each have diverse backgrounds, genders, racial identities, and cultural personalities, but they also have two things in common: personal strength and a deep sense of “obligation to do what is right.” Charting each of their stories, Koehn identifies how each one came to recognize their leadership capability in a moment of crisis that demanded it.

Koehn’s storytelling is engaging even as she identifies the strengths of a leader. As a historian, her information is well researched. She concludes by suggesting that lessons learned from past leaders might offer much to present and future leaders. Emotional intelligence, determination, bravery, and levelheadedness are some of the characteristics shared by these leaders.

An excellent and accessible read that invites leaders to learn lessons from the past in order to be the leaders we need for a turbulent present and future. (Scribner)

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