Rice U. expert: Thai cave crisis calls for ‘in extremis’ leadership

EXPERT ALERT

David Ruth
713-348-6327
david@rice.edu

Jeff Falk
713-348-6775
jfalk@rice.edu  

Rice U. expert: Thai cave crisis calls for ‘in extremis’ leadership

HOUSTON — (July 5, 2018) – Since June 23, members of a soccer team — 12 young boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach – have been trapped in the vast and monsoon-flooded Tham Luang Cave network in northern Thailand.

Credit: 123RF.com/Rice University

The situation calls for “in extremis” leadership, said Tom Kolditz, a leadership scholar and executive director of Rice University’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders. 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.

“The qualities and character required of leaders change dramatically when lives are on the line,” said Kolditz, who used data gathered in both military combat and dangerous civilian settings to establish solid theory and practice around leadership in perilous contexts. He found that successful leaders in extremis possess an inherent motivation for the task, embrace continuous learning, share risk with their followers, adopt a lifestyle in common with their followers, are highly competent and inspire trust and loyalty in others.

Kolditz was interviewed as a global expert during the 2010 Chilean miners crisis. “Leaders can cause these young people to be virtually free of panic and post-traumatic stress disorder or can enact permanent psychological harm by doing the wrong things,” Kolditz said of the situation in Thailand.

Kolditz’s 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.

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.

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.

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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

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About Jeff Falk

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