incorrectly assume that the problems will be rectified quickly andunderestimate the cash needed tomake it to the other side. Thankfully, our growth and capitalizationplan has positioned our companyvery well, enabling us to betternavigate the crisis.”
Confronting the challenge
In a time of economic and socialdisruption, we all have responsibilities: to ourselves, to our familiesand to our neighbors. But it is thebusiness leader who has the greatest responsibility. You must notonly steer your company throughuncharted waters, but must alsoserve as a beacon in the community, a light towards which we canturn for assurance. For this to happen, the CEO and other businessleaders must adhere to certainpractices during a crisis.
We’ve seen it far too often: Whenbad times occur, leaders disappear. Rather than step forward,they turn to their legal staff andcommunications department andask them to draft a response.
Press releases, emails and socialmedia posts then go out. Themessage is almost always abouthow serious the company takesthe current situation; how thecompany is making every effort torespond; and how it is committedto supporting all of its stakeholders during the crisis. The effort isalways professional and almostalways rings hollow. Rather thana human response to a humantragedy, it sounds like an automated recording you get when you callthe Department of Motor Vehicles.
The role of the leader is iconic.
Many companies are identified,
not by their products or services
but by the individuals who lead
them. In a time of crisis, leadership
means stepping to the forefront
with total transparency.
Transparency requires leadersto communicate often and personally—not through proxies. Forexample, the CEO must clearlydemonstrate that he is followingevery aspect of the evolving situation and adjusting the company’s response accordingly. TheCEO must be honest about whathe knows and does not know. Ifnecessary, the CEO must detaileverything he and his team aredoing to address the crisis. Members of the team should be introduced and allowed to take part inthe public discussion.
Susan L. Combs, CEO of Combs
& Company in New York City, rec-
ognized the importance of trans-
parency when she was personally
diagnosed with COVID19:
“If I simply disappeared, it
would not only have a damaging
effect on company morale, but
create uncertainty with our clients.
Instead, I decided to announce
my condition on both Facebook
and my personal blog, then lever-
age Zoom to hold online meetings
where I openly discussed my
progress. By doing so, I was able
to reassure my team as well as
others who had also contracted
Modern business is driven bythe numbers; facts and figuresthat enable us to plot the trendsthat predict the outcomes. Beingdependent on the numbers, fartoo many CEOs and leaders areprone to suspend decisions forlong stretches of time as they waitfor the full body of facts to emerge.Waiting for all of the facts to comein before determining what to do isa mistake. Because a crisis is constantly evolving, it’s never possibleto have all the facts.
Leaders cannot allow uncertainty to breed indecisiveness. Duringa crisis, a company’s stakeholderswant reassurance. And the onlyway for them to feel reassured isto know that the CEO and leadership is not only acting decisively,but with intent. Equally important,the CEO must recognize that thereis no single, all-encompassingdecision. Some decisions will beincremental, others temporary.
The CEO may announce a work-from-home policy, implementcollaboration tools, or expand paidsick leave. What’s most importantis that the CEO is seen by thecompany’s stakeholders as being