top of page

You're It - Book Review

1 January 2023
Dr. Moria Levy

"You're It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When It Matters" is a book written in 2019. The book was written by Marcus, McNulty, Henderson, and Dorn, directors and faculty members of the "National Preparedness Leadership Initiative". The authors lead the Harvard NPLI team: National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, an initiative launched in the United States by government leaders and executives from Harvard University following the events of 2019. The team developed concepts and tools that can help leaders, whether in preparing for and responding to an emergency or in day-to-day life in a world that is full of complex systems.

Book Map:


Background - the need and solution

The need: complex systems

The solution: meta-leadership

Developing meta-leadership

The leader as a person

Responding to the situation



Conflict resolution

Controlling the curves

Designing changes


Although the book was written from the point of view of people in public positions who are required to prepare for an emergency and know how to deal with it successfully, it is suitable for any manager, regardless of who he is, in a complex world where meta-leadership is required; Anyone can get tools for life from him. I recommend reading the book.

Background - the need and solution

The need: complex systems

A system is a collection of interconnected parts that act or move together, where the movement of one affects the others.

The system's complexity characterizes the interfaces between the parts, when it will not always be easy to predict how the movement of one will affect the other.

An effective leader in a complex system requires:

  1. To know that the organization in front of him consists of complex problems and challenges and simple and linear tasks,

  2. Know how to separate and identify what is what.

  3. Adjust the tools and answers to each type separately.

How do you deal with complex challenges and problems?


  • Taking a step back and looking at the big picture

  • Stakeholder mapping (who is in favor, who is on the fence, and who is against)

  • Identifying the specific patterns of the conduct.

Conduct (one or a combination of the following):

  • Dissolution and reorganization that produce order and balance

  • Decomposing a complex problem into simple problems

  • Harnessing the factors that are "in favor" of the action, and recruiting those that are "on the fence".

All this while using tangible knowledge, the search for the hidden knowledge that cannot be found, the collection of the knowledge that is not accessible, and the imagination of the abstract knowledge that cannot be known.

The solution: meta-leadership

Leadership means that we are not only responsible for ourselves but are required to act when others trust us, and we lead and inspire action.

In complex systems, an important element of leadership is the ability to cooperate with organizations that do not belong to the immediate circle of the leaders, and to help guide them; Especially in times of crisis when the phenomenon is not predicted in advance. This is meta-leadership. Leadership engages, connects and creates influence beyond the authority of formal influence; who see themselves as part of the same big system.

In the use of meta nomenclature one attributes to something greater, in vision, understanding and action; In downward leadership, toward colleagues, upward, and beyond.

Meta-leadership manifests itself in five characteristics:

  1. Unity of a meaningful task: everyone sees it in common, and is ready to act for it. Make sure the mission captures all relevant people regarding the mission.

  2. Generosity of spirit and deed: towards each other. See MGGA tools later in the summary for creating opportunities for everyone.

  3. A good work interface: when everyone has areas of responsibility and authority, everyone remains solely on their own, but helps others to succeed in theirs.

  4. Ego-free and blame-free behavior and conduct: everyone is busy acting for the benefit of the future. No one blames the others, no one tries to appropriate the glory. A lot of "we".

  5. Relationships based on trust.

A meta-leader defines and marks a purpose, an environment around which everyone gathers together.

A meta-leader is required to merge his own points of view and those of others, while overcoming personal cognitive biases, and while dealing with different points of view, and from this merging, put together a complete picture and act for the common good.

A meta-leader is required to know how to operate a complex system (details above).

A meta-leader is required to manipulate and balance the forces of authority and influence. And to know when to insist and stand your ground, and when to cautiously support others who take the lead.

Meta-leadership is a creation of swarm leadership; Leadership in which they act as a hive, on the one hand in a decentralized manner, on the other hand, with a shared meaning and purpose.

Meta-leadership is a strategy and method that can be developed through study and practice. However, each leader will adapt it to his personality and style.

Developing meta-leadership

The leader as a person

The first step in leadership is the inward-looking of the leader into himself, as a person.

  1. The understanding that when there is a stressful situation, one escapes from a circle of action to a circle of survival ("down to the basement"). Recognizing this situation, and developing the leader's ability to pull himself out, and return to action, as quickly as possible. The leader's problem is not going down to the basement; It happens to everyone. The problem could be the depth of the basement, and the time required to get out of it and start a new boot.

  2. Developing emotional intelligence, especially self-awareness.

  3. Creating and maintaining systems of trusting relationships.

  4. The ability to recognize mistakes (and there will be some), admit them, and learn from them.

And remember: at the end of the day, leadership is tested by how the audience perceives the person in front of them as a leader.

Responding to the situation

Difficult situations are often characterized by a sharp turn of hostile and complex change.

After leaving the "basement", the leaders of the program developed a set of moves to formulate appropriate thinking and action processes:

They suggest a loop (OOP-DAC) based on the known OODA (quality) loop:


  1. Observe: gathering information, while refining and reducing it to the most important and contributing information.

  2. Orient: looking for social and physical patterns that will help in understanding the overall picture.

  3. Predict: based on the identified patterns, predict what the next developments will be. The intention is to create a forecast, or a collection of possible forecasts with estimated probabilities, which will help define the course of action for the future.

  4. Decide: commit to act in a certain way (trap: it's easy to keep gathering information and delay action).

  5. Act: according to the decision.

  6. Communicate: pass on the information to the various parties who need to know. Be sure to flow information in as well.


The importance of engagement is clear. It is critical. It is a key to failure or success.

It is possible to promote connectivity, of any kind, even under competitive conditions, using a MGGA tool:

  • Mapping: knowing and understanding an existing situation.

  • Gaps: identification

  • Giving: deciding where to give up

  • Acceptance: The deal that defines what each party receives.

The application of connectivity is in the following directions of action:

  • to subordinates

Intentional: making each of the subordinates a success, thanks to his (or her) abilities.

Outline: A collaborative approach.

Recommendation: Stick to the values, even if the price is the disciplinary treatment of a dishonest employee.

  • to superiors

Reporting on actions and recommending a way of conduct and behavior in issues related to the leader

Recommendation: Sensitive conduct in a situation of conflict when disturbed by the supervisor's course of action while doing what seems to be the best course of action in the long run.

  • To colleagues - other stakeholders in the organization

Intentional: coordinating efforts to leverage the relative advantages of each body

  • Leadership beyond borders - outside the organization

Delineating the big picture in which a variety of people, in different organizations, with different goals, and different values, act as an enterprise of entities as "we" for a common purpose - the unity of the mission.

Recommendation: Carry out, celebrate, and communicate concrete activities that produce part of the success. Don't leave them all in the conceptual stage only.

Recommendation: Be a role model.

Recommendation: activity according to the 5 characteristics of meta-leadership above.


  • Clarify the purpose and infuse meaning into the activity

  • Avoid getting stuck in place

  • We will balance the interconnectedness of the collaborations between management processes and leadership processes.


Conflict resolution

The program leaders have developed a method for resolving conflicts which they call "walking in the woods":

  1. Self-interests: listening to all the interests of the stakeholders in the conflict

  2. Increased interests: understanding the different points of view; Identify points of agreement and points of disagreement.

  3. Informed interests: brainstorming processes for finding creative and successful solutions.

  4. Edited interests: clarification of the "give-and-take" required to obtain a result beneficial to the various parties. Everyone agrees on the result.

Tip: Flexibility in using the method depending on the circumstances

Controlling the curves

Meta-leadership requires the ability, in times of crisis or organizational transformation, to make sharp turns and change behavior and direction.

The significant example, by the way, given in the book for this matter is from the State of Israel and the development of its resilience in the face of the many crises and threats.

The tools:

  1. Confidence in the way of action

  2. Multiple preliminary preparation and practice

  3. The combined action of different organizations together (swarm leadership)

  4. Focusing efforts to create a small, determined, and productive group that performs the turnaround together.

And... utilizing the crisis as a turning point, also for positive directions and needs.

Designing changes

Contrary to most of the written literature on proactive change management, this book, naturally, refers to examples of it - the changes that fall upon us, and how we manage to shape and influence them as well.

The proposed concept is based on smart management of The time and effort For the best treatment of threats and challenges, since in times of crisis time is an enemy (for example - rapid treatment of rescue forces, changes the results of a disaster).

The goals:

  • Reducing the height of the threat or challenge.

  • Ascent and peaking are managed and controlled.

  • A controlled descent, when in the process additional threats or challenges that have started are noticed and started to be dealt with.

Proposed way of action:

  • Identifying the threats, challenges, crises, disasters facing us.

  • Evaluating the spectrum of times (ascent, peak, descent, including height, and including overlap between more than one).

  • Controlled management is established by the OOP-DAC loop.


  • The conduct is for the whole range of times: in the present - in immediate care; for the future - with appropriate preparation; and to the past in rehabilitation and getting out of the given situation.

  • Sometimes it is also correct to slow down actions and not just to speed things up, for example when the leader estimates that the most important thing is to create a feeling of calm.


The book offers a collection of tools for a leader. But he also mentions that the leader needs support and an additional person to consult with, and it is not always appropriate to receive it from the various circles of partners or from family members who would not necessarily give a critical point of view. The authors recommend contacting someone external - a colleague who can encounter similar situations, and can serve as a professional support network.

The book calls us all to become meta-leaders, and to see where it is right, and where it is possible to influence, on as many circles as possible. This is how we will, all together, make the world a better place (M.L.).

book cover
bottom of page