Robert A. Jensen

Chairman of Kenyon International Emergency Services, Writer, Crisis Management Expert and Explorer

Robert A. Jensen is the man you have seen, but never knew it. He is the Chairman of Kenyon International Emergency Services, a company founded in 1906. He has spent a large part of his adult life responding to events such as the Oklahoma City Bombing, the 9/11 Terrorist attacks, the 2003 Bali Bombings, the Bombing of UN Headquarters in Baghdad, Hurricane Katrina, the South Asian Tsunami, the Haitian Earthquake, and the Grenfell Tower Fire, to name a few.

In 1998, after 10 years in the US Army he joined Kenyon, a public company. He became the CEO in 2003 and took the company private in 2007. He has also written two books – one a technical book for planners and practitioners – Mass Fatality and Casualty Incidents and the other, a memoir, Personal Effects: What Caring for the Dead Teaches Me About the Living. He has published pieces in major outlets such as USA Today; and is frequently sought out as a contributor on crisis management and business leadership for national and international media.

Robert approaches speaking as storytelling – transporting the audience to different places, times, and experiences, bringing to life the events he has seen firsthand. He highlights the key lessons he has observed — in leadership, crisis management, and transitioning through life-changing events to a new normal. Robert has spoken to many corporate leaders and business teams, as well as at INTERPOL, World Travel and Tourism Conferences, the International Air Transport Association, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the Royal United Services Institute, and UK Foreign and Commonwealth’s Wilton Park.

Robert has also been a law enforcement officer and firefighter. He grew up on the west coast of the United States, has lived and worked in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He and his husband, Brandon, and their dog adopted dog Stella, now divide their time between Key West and Houston. He loves the water, photography and outdoors.

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Personal EffectsWhat Recovering the Dead Teaches Me About Caring for the Living
St. Martin’s Press

The owner of the world’s leading disaster management company chronicles the unseen world behind the yellow tape, and explores what it means to be human after a lifetime of caring for the dead.

Adventure My job and passion for life has taken me around the world. I have traveled through 98 countries and counting. I have lived and worked in multiple countries. I was in Germany as the Berlin Wall was brought down. I have driven from Beirut to Damascus and on part of the old Silk Road in Iraq. I have been to Italian Pyramid at Mount Everest, and I have hacked my way through the Peruvian jungle and dived in many of our oceans. Life is for living and exploring. There are lessons and experiences gained from these adventures that are worth sharing.
Leadership Leadership is learned; good leadership makes a huge difference in business or government. It is absolutely crucial in change management or responding to a crisis. As a leader, I have to take risks, make decisions often with either too little or too much information, and filter through lots of advice – there are always people happy to give advice, without taking responsibility. My decisions have had major impacts on people, businesses, governments, and communities. I have some hard-won lessons; teaching points learned from the streets, the fields, and the real and often unforgiving world.
Communication For me, figuring out the influence of culture, personal experiences, audience expectations, how to prepare information that will be translated, and most importantly being transparent so words have only one meaning is key. I often deliver really bad news, tell people no, and do not always have the answers. Fear of these things paralyzes organizations, causing disruption and confusion even in the best of times. In a crisis it can be deadly and destroy reputations. I share real-world examples and solutions that really are not that hard to apply.
Business & Management My job has never been to meet the status quo. My job is going into situations that are very bad and stopping them from getting worse. That means managing multiple complex simultaneous operations. It is not only about leadership, but about organizing, motivating and getting people, many of whom have never worked together before, quickly working towards a common goal, focused on the future, not the past. It is providing reassurance to both the people working and the customers. This is how you solve problems, turn businesses around and deliver superior service.
Outside the Box When I go to work, it is because the ordinary systems have failed, often publicly and with disastrous results. We are dealing with challenges and problems that aren’t solved by doing business the way it has always been done. Solutions to competing problems and interests must be found and found quickly. This means looking at the big picture, considering all the alternatives, the work-around solutions, not accepting that it can’t be done or won’t work, but instead being innovative and creative. My life has been “thinking outside the box."

Robert A. Jensen’s op-ed in USA Today.

Read Robert A. Jensen’s thoughts on tragedy for the Houston Chronicle.

Keep up with Robert A. Jensen on his website.

Follow Robert A. Jensen on Twitter.

Check out this feature on Robert A. Jensen in GQ.

Praise for Personal Effects "Robert A. Jensen's revelations of recovering the dead create a gripping and page-turning experience, indeed. But what stood out to me was his deep concern, respect for and commitment to giving the proper tools to those left behind; the ones forced to pick up the pieces in their grief and cobble them together into a new life. By showing—and not merely telling—them that their loved ones will not be forgotten, he plays a role in alleviating their suffering, and teaches us all of the importance of doing the same."
— Rebecca Soffer, coauthor of Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome.

"Gruesome details and corporate indifference abound as Jensen recounts disasters such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the Grenfell Tower fire in London . . . . Readers with a strong stomach will be fascinated by this up-close look at what it means to take charge of the response to an unspeakable tragedy."
Publishers Weekly

"Robert A. Jensen delivers a powerful and riveting book of the toughest work a kind person can do. I could not stop reading until I finished every word, and then with tears streaming down my face, In the midst of the most horrible tragedies, there is one person you want to be there—Robert A. Jensen."
— Mary Schiavo, Former Inspector General of the US Department of Transportation and CNN Aviation/Transportation Analyst