Rice U. expert: Southwest pilot exemplifies ‘in extremis’ leadership


David Ruth

Jeff Falk

Rice U. expert: Southwest pilot exemplifies ‘in extremis’ leadership

HOUSTON — (April 18, 2018) — Navy veteran pilot Tammy Jo Shults’ actions in the cockpit of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 April 17 exemplified “in extremis” leadership, in that passengers’ lives depended upon her ability to execute under pressure following the in-air failure of an engine, said Tom Kolditz, a leadership scholar and executive director of Rice University’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders.

Credit: 123RF.com/Rice University

Kolditz, a retired brigadier general, is a leading expert on leadership in extreme circumstances and has researched and analyzed the performance of leaders “in extremis” (Latin for “at the point of death”). He is available to discuss his insights with the news media.

Kolditz’s work explains how to develop leaders like Shults, who have the capacity to handle crisis at all levels but especially when lives are at stake. The research, captured in the book, “In Extremis Leadership: Leading as if Your Life Depended on It,” included more than 175 interviews from combat zones and from leaders such as climbing guides, SWAT team chiefs, large-formation skydiving organizers and others who lead in routinely dangerous places.

Kolditz 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.

Kolditz led the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy 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 appointed 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 Department of Defense and for a year as a concept developer in the Center for Army Leadership. He 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 recently received the Warren Bennis Award.

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 Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at 713-348-6775 or jfalk@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.

Follow the Doerr Institute for New Leaders via Twitter @DoerrInstitute.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

Related materials:

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

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.