There is nothing quite like a global economic crisis to challenge leaders to focus, innovate, inspire and learn. Collected here are the thoughts of individuals who are doing just that. Burberry Group CEO Angela Ahrendts is “re-forecasting almost every week” and taking advantage of a refocused brand to weather the storm. Dave Checketts, chairman of New York-based sports ownership group SCP Worldwide, holds fast to his belief that leaders with character can find success even in the worst of times. Kenneth Moelis, head of the Los Angeles investment banking firm Moelis & Co., has decided to swim against the tide, recruiting more than 150 people and opening offices in Chicago, New York and Boston. At the Department of Homeland Security, secretary Michael Chertoff sees instructive commonalities between the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terror attacks. General Mills’ chief marketing officer Mark Addicks uses imaginary kids to understand how his products can fit into real kids’ lives. And Digital Network Group founders Jim Smith and Vikrant Kothari have created a company to meet the information technology needs of non-profit organizations and also to help mentor disadvantaged young people.

Checked Growth: How Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts Is Steering the Company through a Volatile Economy

Since arriving at Burberry Group in January 2006, CEO Angela Ahrendts has seen the Burberry brand “purified,” its luxury line diversified, its retail reach extended, and its global organization centralized and connected with a new SAP-based IT backbone. Now Ahrendts is banking on these changes to weather the global economic downturn. The company is “re-forecasting almost every week,” she noted during her keynote presentation at the recent Wharton Women in Business Conference.

Sports Executive Dave Checketts on Ambition, Passion and ‘Difficult People’

As Dave Checketts, chairman of New York-based sports ownership group SCP Worldwide, tells it, mastering the art of the confrontation took him years. He learned by tangling with some real intimidators, including a nose-to-nose battle of wills with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at Madison Square Garden in 1996. During a recent Wharton Leadership Lecture, Checketts noted the key role that passion plays in the sports business — or any other.

Finding Opportunities amid the Wreckage

At a time when many bulge bracket investment banks are drowning as a result of the financial crisis, Moelis & Co. is swimming against the tide. Founded in July 2007 by Kenneth D. Moelis, a Wall Street veteran, the Los Angeles-based firm has been busy hiring. In just about 15 months, it has recruited more than 150 people, including some 100 bankers, besides opening offices in Chicago, New York and Boston. How will the continuing financial turmoil affect the fledgling investment bank’s business? What opportunities can investors find amid the wreckage? In an interview with Knowledge at Wharton, Moelis discussed these issues and more.

Chertoff on the Government’s Role in Managing Risk — Both Natural and Man-made

Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff, in a recent Wharton Leadership Lecture, addressed areas in which regulation — in moderation — can reduce risk in the marketplace. Such measures, he said, can mitigate risks posed by a wide range of threats, from hurricanes to terrorism and even global financial meltdowns.

General Mills CMO Mark Addicks and His Imaginary Friends

Josh and Charlie are not real, but they help General Mills chief marketing officer Mark Addicks see his customers’ wants and needs. At a recent Wharton Marketing Conference, Addicks said the imaginary kids are called “brand champions.” Their job — to help executives build a marketing campaign, but also to create an enthusiastic community and promote an entire lifestyle around a consumer product.

Digital Network Group’s Innovative IT Approach to Mentoring Both Students and Non-profits

Jim Smith and Vikrant Kothari each had ambitions to start a company whose focus would be on using information technology as a way to help solve social problems. But it wasn’t until they met in Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives that their idea came together in the form of the Digital Network Group. Two affiliates under the Digital Network Group umbrella include one targeted to helping non-profits develop innovative and long-term IT strategies; the other is a service program that shows how IT and mentoring can help disadvantaged young people, from middle school on up, become productive members of society. Smith and Kothari spoke to Knowledge at Wharton about these initiatives.