The Wharton Center for Leadership and Change Management began its research of leadership during and in preparation for catastrophes in 2008 when Mike Useem, the Center’s director, along with Howard Kunreuther, the Co-Director of Wharton’s Risk Management and Decision Processes Center were asked to chair the Council on Mitigation of Natural Disasters created at the World Economic Forum.
The council, comprised of experts from the business, academic and government communities, initially focused on how leaders prepare for and act during natural catastrophes. The group soon realized that the tools required to lead in these disasters were directly applicable to other low probability but high consequence events such as financial risks, flawed governance, and disruptive technologies.
In 2010 members of the council co-authored Learning from Catastrophes, a book that provided a framework and a core set of principles for designing strategies for managing these kinds of risks.
The success of this book prompted Jay Fischman, the CEO of Travelers Insurance to propose the Travelers/Wharton Partnership for Research on Risk Management and Leadership, a joint venture between the Travelers Companies, the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center and the Wharton Center for Leadership and Change Management.