Doing Well Amid the Turmoil

The global recession has its share of villains, and many of them have been well-covered by the media. Less in the spotlight are those people who have exercised strong leadership in their companies, despite pressure to compromise their beliefs in response to the current crisis. A recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly includes interviews with 14 CEOS and chairmen from a variety of industries as they continue to navigate these tough times.

The article was written by Michael Useem, director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at Wharton; Michael Patsalos-Fox, a director in McKinsey’s New York office; and Dennis Carey, a senior client partner at Korn/Ferry International. The business leaders’ insights break down into six general categories: Confront reality; at board meetings, put strategy center stage; be transparent with employees; be transparent with investors; build and protect the company culture; and keep faith with the future. The 14 executives in the article include Edward Breen (Tyco International), George Buckley (3M), R. Kerry Clark (Cardinal Health), Jay Fishman (Travelers), Eric Foss (Pepsi Bottling Group), Herbert Henkel (Ingersoll Rand), Phillip Hildebrand (HealthMarkets), Michael Jackson (AutoNation), A.G. Lafley (Procter & Gamble), Terry Lundgren (Macy’s), Robert S. “Steve” Miller (Delphi), William Nuti (NCR), Richard Schneiders (Sysco) and Ronald Sugar (Northrop Grumman).

The executives interviewed for the article are “in different industries, face different challenges, and have performed quite differently,” the authors note. “We are attempting neither to judge their performance nor to draw up a set of rules on how to lead through tough times. Instead, what emerges from the interviews is agreement on some broad principles that can help guide behavior in the executive suite and the boardroom, as well as interactions with employees, customers, and investors.”

For related articles on leadership, see:

In the Game of Business, Playing Fair Can Actually Lead to Greater Profits

The Mindset of a Problem Solver