Leading Strong in a Crisis

The spread of the coronavirus continues to take its toll on the economy.

Now CEOs are seeking drastic measures to bolster business while protecting the well-being of their employees. 

Even in last Monday’s evening news conference, President Donald Trump discussed ways Congress will possibly seek to offer economic relief to the nation during this season. 

While maintaining a strong economy is a frequent struggle, this widespread virus presents a whole new battle for CEOs.  Many leaders are discovering their own ideal ways of navigating their businesses during this current health crisis. 

Marc Cenedella, CEO of Ladders, a recruiting company in New York, took a unique approach early on. Ahead of many companies, Cenedella had the idea to send his team on a practice remote schedule or, what he called in his interview with the Washington Post, “a simulated coronavirus lockdown.” Before any New York cases had even been reported and as the City Mayor Bill de Blasio had recommended residents continue to commute to work, Cenedella decided to attempt a one-day trial for his entire team. 

The hope was that this “lockdown” would allow Cenedella to see what this type of workday would require. Starting the day out with a Google Hangout welcome call, Cenedella wanted to ensure that his employees had everything they needed and also would become comfortable in the routine as a team. Before the scare of a future spread would require Ladders to work remotely, as many similar businesses are now, Cenedella’s strategy set his company well ahead of the curve. 

As Cenedella’s proactive leadership has kept his business operations steady, many leaders are now seeking ways to work ahead of the impact of this crisis. Nearly all airlines are being deeply affected by this virus. Many CEOs are adjusting to secure the longevity of their companies and to ensure their customers keep coming back.

Qantas Airways Limited, Australia’s largest airline, announced several major measures to cut costs. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce implemented significant changes for this year. The airline cut nearly a quarter of its flights over the next six months. Its executive leadership team will take a 30% pay cut and Joyce, himself, has decided to forgo any pay for the rest of the fiscal year. 

Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, feels the airline has practiced precautions for some time and is choosing to clearly communicate with customers. In a recent email addressed to all of Delta’s customers, Bastian describes past viruses that challenged company operations and health regulations. The email also included a full report on the measures Delta is taking to help customers have a “healthy flying experience.” 

Bastian addresses further precautions the airline has taken, such as a command center now established in Atlanta, and a website created specifically to inform customers of flight changes as well as updated State Department travel advisories. In addition, Bastian chose to eliminate flight change fees in affected areas. 

As the email states, “Transparency is one of our core values, and we are committed to keeping you fully informed as the situation evolves.” Bastian’s core values have allowed him to prioritize customers in the face of an outbreak.

Hopefully, this virus soon diminishes, yet it reveals how we as leaders can overcome these challenges with how we lead. For any leader who has taken steps to secure the future and health of his or her business during this health scare, it clearly requires degrees of risk, humility and wisdom. 

Leading through a crisis is never comfortable. But if you can lead with a similar judgment and precautions as some of these CEOs, you will be more likely to still have a business to lead by the end of this crisis.