James Lukaszewski, The Lukaszewski Group, a division of Risdall Public Pelations

Title: President

Age: 72


Crisis management guru James Lukaszewski, president of the Lukaszewski Group, is out to help save business leaders from themselves with his latest book on responding when something is “leaking, foaming, stinking or burning.”

The book — “Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication: What your CEO Needs to Know About Reputation Risk and Crisis Management” — is Lukaszewski’s 12th and was named one of the 30 best new American business books of 2013 by Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

Lukaszewski, Soundview noted, introduces a concept that leaders rarely deal with in crisis and response planning: managing the victim dimension of a crisis.

“The problem with crisis is that it creates victims,” Lukaszewski (loo-ka-SHEV-skee) said. “Manage the victims, and frankly a lot of other things that happen that are bad, like bad news coverage, tend to go away.”

Stopping the production of new victims is the first of five crisis management steps that Lukaszewski prescribes taking during the “golden hour,” or the first 60 to 120 minutes of a crisis.

He advises taking care of victims and survivors; communicating with employees and stakeholders; contacting authorities and those indirectly affected by the crisis; managing the “self-anointed and the self-appointed,” ranging from the news media to angry neighbors.

The Minnesota-raised Lukaszewski spent 25 years building a national reputation among crisis communications and management consultants before returning in 2011.


Q: You’ve said that “crisis management is common sense at lightning speed.” What prevents common sense?

A: This is the great conundrum. When someone calls me, one of the first questions I have to ask is, ‘What were you thinking?’ Why do smart people do such dumb things? Because they do, I have a career.

Q: Why aren’t leaders better equipped to respond?

A: Today’s managers are hugely overconfident, they get huge paychecks that reinforce this and they’re simply taught that they can handle anything. There needs to be a much bigger emphasis on managing the victim dimension in a crisis.

Q: What influence do you see this book having?

A: Books like this can set standards. My writings are so ubiquitous that I believe this book will have a really positive impact on how crises are managed and how leaders lead across the world.