Rice expert available to discuss crisis leadership in wake of Texas tragedy

Rice University
Office of Public Affairs / News & Media Relations


David Ruth

Amy McCaig

Rice expert available to discuss crisis leadership in wake of Texas tragedy

HOUSTON — (Nov. 7, 2017) – In the wake of the worst mass shooting in Texas history, Rice University’s Tom Kolditz, a crisis leadership scholar and director of the Doerr Institute for New Leaders, is available to discuss leadership in the face of devastating tragedy.

Tom Kolditz (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

Tom Kolditz (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

Kolditz is one of the world’s foremost researchers and writers on leadership in dangerous and tragic situations. He helped design development programming for a foundation in Newtown, Conn., following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The first 72 hours following a tragedy are critical, Kolditz said, because that’s when emotions are most raw and when statements and actions by leaders are both most appreciated if sensitive and least forgivable when not.

“Community leaders must remember that in recognizing the fallen, they’re leading the living into the next chapter of their lives,” he said. “Leaders must focus on the needs of others while keeping their own emotions in check.”

Kolditz also said that statements by leaders are not about making things easy on the grief-stricken (which he says is impossible), but rather about sharing pain and focusing on the victims.

And while leaders can offer to participate in funerals and other rituals following great tragedy, the focus should always be on others.

“The focus should never be on politics or the leader themselves,” Kolditz said.

Kolditz acknowledged that while Sutherland Springs will never be the same, the close relationships forged in small towns are highly beneficial for resilience and will help prevent some of the long-term negative outcomes like posttraumatic stress disorder and depression.

“I am optimistic about the future of this town,” he said.

Kolditz also noted that other communities can learn from this and be better prepared for their own disasters.

“Communities with well-established rituals ultimately fare better in situations such as this one,” Kolditz said. “Communities need to build their resilience before tragedy strikes.”

Kolditz short biography:

Prior to joining Rice, Kolditz taught as a professor in the practice of leadership and management and director of the Leadership Development Program at the Yale School of Management.

A retired brigadier general, Kolditz led the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at West Point for 12 years. In that role, he was responsible for West Point’s teaching, research and outreach activities in management, leader development science, psychology and sociology and was titled professor emeritus after retirement. His career has focused on either leading organizations himself or studying leadership and leadership policy across sectors.

Kolditz served for two years as a leadership and human resources policy analyst in the Pentagon and for a year as a concept developer in the Center for Army Leadership and was the founding director of the West Point Leadership Center. He was instrumental in the design and formation of the Thayer Leader Development Group and is the managing member of Saxon Castle LLC, a leader development consultancy. Kolditz is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, the Army’s second-highest award in order of precedence and was recently bestowed the Warren Bennis Award. He is the author of “In Extremis Leadership: Leading As If Your Life Depended On It,” which explains how leadership lessons and principles in evidence in dangerous settings also apply to leading in business and everyday life.

Kolditz holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Vanderbilt University, three master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Missouri.

To schedule an interview with Kolditz, contact Amy McCaig, senior media relations specialist at Rice, at 713-348-6777 or amym@rice.edu.

Rice University has a VideoLink ReadyCam TV interview studio. ReadyCam is capable of transmitting broadcast-quality standard-definition and high-definition video directly to all news media organizations around the world 24/7.


This news release can be found online at http://news.rice.edu.

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Related materials:

Tom Kolditz bio: https://doerr.rice.edu/content/tom-kolditz-0

Photo link: http://news.rice.edu/files/2017/09/170426_-Doerr_fitlow_085-1658web.jpg

Photo credit: Rice University/Jeff Fitlow

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,879 undergraduates and 2,861 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for quality of life and for lots of race/class interaction and No. 2 for happiest students by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to http://tinyurl.com/RiceUniversityoverview.

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About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.