As a young aid worker, Sasha Chanoff was sent to evacuate a group of refugees from the violence-torn Congo. But when he arrived he discovered a second group. Evacuating them too could endanger the entire mission. But leaving them behind would mean their certain death.
All leaders face defining moments, when values are in conflict and decisions impact lives. Why is moral courage the essential factor at such times? How do we access our own rock-bottom values, and how can we take advantage of them to make the best decisions? Through Sasha’s own extraordinary story and those of eight other brave leaders from business, government, nongovernment organizations, and the military, this book reveals five principles for confronting crucial decisions and inspires all of us to use our moral core as a lodestar for leadership.
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About the Author
David Chanoff has authored or coauthored nineteen books and written for publications such as the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, American Scholar, and American Journal of Education.
David Gergen is a CNN Senior Political Analyst and has worked as an adviser to four U.S. Presidents. He is also the co-director for Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Read an Excerpt
Throughout history, leaders have experienced “crucible moments”— times when they are suddenly thrust into the middle of a crisis and must quickly gather their wits, sort out right from wrong, and act decisively. Those moments oft en shape them for the rest of their lives. In the case of the best leaders, those tests also become the making of their moral centers.
Think of a young Gandhi early in the 20th century, beginning his life as a barrister in a foreign land, South Africa. The moment when a conductor threw him off a train because he was Indian was not only a humiliation, it was a crucible that propelled him to become a protest leader and eventually win independence for his native people.
Think of the personal dilemma Eleanor Roosevelt had in 1918 as her husband Franklin returned home with pneumonia from a transAtlantic voyage. She had to help him with his luggage and in opening his trunk discovered a packet of love letters exchanged with Eleanor’s social secretary. A mother of six and a strong believer that her husband would be a great American leader, Eleanor had to decide quickly whether to leave or stay in her marriage. She stayed and helped him become president. But more than that, she began to devote herself to service outside the home, and she became a towering figure in securing human rights in America and the world beyond.
Or think of two very different men at mid-century: one a young Martin Luther King Jr., taking up his pastorate in Birmingham, being thrust into racial conflict when whites threw Rosa Parks off a public bus. King went to his pulpit to urge his parishioners to protest but soon saw. that despite his contrary inclinations, he must go to the streets, too. His protests brought a civil rights revolution. Not long thereafter, a man who was sometimes King’s opponent, Bobby Kennedy, went to Mississippi and discovered hunger and discrimination that horrified him. He became an immensely important voice for social justice.
Crucibles are moments that can change lives and change history. And so they have in the case of Sasha Chanoff and his dad, David. Early in the pages of this stirring book, they tell the story of Sasha’s own crucible in the heart of Africa. There he faced, for the first time, life-and-death decisions about how to respond to a refugee crisis. And there, from that moment, Sasha discovered his own moral values and how they transformed him into the world-class leader he has become today.
These crisis situations, the authors tell us, oft en go much further than simply putting people in touch with the values they need in order to become authentic leaders. “Dilemmas,” they write, “require decisions; decisions require actions. Sometimes the required actions reach deep. They generate a full investment of the self—that is to say, they constitute a calling. When that happens, it not only opens us up to who we are but to what we are.” In other words, crises have the power to reveal qualities we harbor within ourselves that may have previously gone unrecognized. They can clarify our sense of ourselves and our capabilities.
After his Congo experience, Sasha founded RefugePoint, an NGO that works throughout Africa to find solutions for individuals and communities in imminent danger. They acted not a moment too soon. The world is now experiencing its biggest refugee crisis in recorded history: more than 60 million people are now displaced by conflict across the globe. The migrant crisis could destabilize Western Europe, and it is causing enormous human suffering in other continents such as Africa.
RefugePoint has become one of the most successful organizations in the world in addressing this catastrophe. Over the past decade, it has successfully helped more than 32,454 refugees gain access to resettlement. It has also become a role model for countless others. In 2013, on behalf of the Gleitsman Foundation, I was proud to present to Sasha the prestigious Gleitsman International Activist Award, bestowed every other year by a global selection committee representing the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. Students and faculty alike were enthralled by Sasha’s story and by the lessons he brought to his leadership.
Happily, Sasha and his dad have now turned his experiences and lessons learned into this important book about moral leadership, From Crisis to Calling. It is a work that has application far beyond the refugee world: leaders of NGOs, corporate leaders, and leaders of public institutions face crucible moments, too—times when they face dilemmas, must choose between right and wrong, and then act decisively. Unfortunately, the leaders who make the right moral choices can stay anonymous and unrecognized. But the dozens of scandals we see in business, politics, and even in the nonprofit world remind us that these dilemmas are constant, and indeed, the seductions that lead to moral failure are always present, always beckoning. Crucibles cannot be avoided. The question the Chanoff s address is: how can we best prepare for them before they arrive?
The Chanoff s trace a five-step pathway that starts with being prepared and opening your eyes, then moves to confronting yourself, knowing yourself, and taking courage. Importantly, they teach these lessons through stories that are gripping in their drama and power. From two prominent CEOs, the emergency director of an international NGO, and a former US surgeon general to a distinguished business professor, a family physician, and a former Navy SEAL, Sasha and David bring together the journeys of individuals from all walks of life.
From Crisis to Calling serves several purposes. It acquaints readers with stories about the meaningful role moral values play in decision making and leadership. It explains ways we can reveal the inner qualities that we all share yet not all of us find. And it prepares us to take the steps that may well help us fulfill our potential as leaders.
From Crisis to Calling is also an antidote of sorts. While the public failings of leaders cover the front pages of newspapers and lead the nightly news, Sasha and David bring us the stories of unsung leaders who have faced tough decisions with morality and grace. They remind us that empathy and compassion—altruism—are deeply rooted in us. That they are there to be nurtured. Novelist Graham Greene once wrote of “those interior courts where our true decisions are made.” The Chanoffs, father and son, dive deep into our interior courts, looking for, and fi nding, the inner qualities that define the truly great and good leaders among us.
Table of ContentsIntroduction: The Five-Step Pathway to Moral Decision Making
Part One: The Congo Rescue Story
1. Be Prepared: Confronting the Unexpected Dilemma
2. Your Values in the Balance: Opening Your Eyes, Confronting Yourself, Knowing Yourself
3. Take Courage: Making the Decision, Implementing It
Part Two: The Moral Decision Pathway
4. Empathy: Where the Moral Sense Comes From
5. Self-Knowledge: How Self-Knowledge Impacts Leadership and Organizations
6. Calling: How Crises Lead to Callings
A Final Word
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“Ask yourself who am I, when faced with making tough decisions?” says Sasha Chanoff, RefugePoint Founder, as he introduced his upcoming book, From Crisis To Calling: Finding Your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions. I met Sasha and his father, David during a Meet the Author Event at Berrett-Koehler, as they explained the concept behind their book. From Crisis To Calling: Finding Your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions by Sasha Chanoff and David Chanoff is ideal for all types of leaders from church and religious groups and business owners to C-Suite executives. During the time that Sasha told us about the premises behind From Crisis To Calling: Finding Your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions by Sasha Chanoff and David Chanoff it put me in the remembrance of the movie, Hotel Rwanda. Whether you are familiar with the movie or not, let me tell you a little bit about the backdrop of the book and how it applies to the Five-Step Pathway to Moral Decision Making that was created. In 1994, there was a mandate to eradicate the Tutsi population. The Rwanda genocide (aka the genocide against the Tutsi), lasted for over 100 days with over 500,000 killed by the high-level Hutu government. This genocidal act occurred during the Rwandan Civil War, that began in 1990. Sasha and colleague, Sheikha Ali were asked by their boss, David Derthick, International Organization for Migration (IOM) to oversee an evacuation of 112 Tutsi men, women, and children and was provided with a list of those evacuees. They were strongly advised not take anyone else from the compound, except for those on the list. As Sasha and Sheikha were at the compound preparing to evacuate the evacuees according to the list, they were told about over twenty women and children (including infants that looked like dolls), in a tent, that had been held in a military prison, in Kanagawa, for sixteen months. The individuals appeared to be close to death with graying skin, unaware of their surroundings and shock like appearance. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) asked for Sasha and Sheikha to take these women and children as well during their evacuation. The question is should Sasha and Sheikha deviate from the list or stay focused on the task at hand? Sasha was set as the leader because Sheikha was known to having such a soft heart. The Five-Step Pathway to Moral Decision Making consist of the following values: 1) Be prepared, 2) Open your eyes, 3) Confront yourself, 4) Know yourself and 5) Take courage, that will position you as an effective leader when being faced with those defining moments. Sasha used these elements to help him to navigate his way through the tough decisions that he faced, of evacuating the 112 vs the women and children from the tent.
As I sat down to write this book review an online article in the Huff Post grabbed my attention proclaiming Afghan Refugee Crisis Worsens. It seems the news is dominated by more and more crises related to refugees who are suffering greatly in violence–torn regions. This book would have been much more uncomfortable to read had it not been for the authors’ presentation of the storyline through the moral compass of each person involved in the refugee evacuation. In the second half of the book, the five principles of moral decision making are conveyed through stories about corporate heroes of today. Here are the 5-steps to moral decision making which are in the book called The Five Principles – building blocks to making moral decisions: 1. Be prepared 2. Open your eyes 3. Confront yourself 4. Know yourself 5. Take courage The subject of this book, From Crisis to Calling is about developing authentic leaders who make decisions based on deep personal values that positively affect their lives and the lives of their organizations. Leaders of this deep moral character will build cultures of trust, fairness, equitability, and ethical leadership. One final thought from the authors, “Empathy is the essential need of great leaders who are intentional about building their organizations and communities.” Whether leaders or lay people, life’s tough choices need to be infused with moral sense – empathy, compassion, altruism. A book summary is published here: http://bizcatalyst360.com/from-crisis-to-calling-finding-your-moral-center-in-the-toughest-decisions/