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Patricia Russo’s Strategies For Survival In Times Of Crisis

The CEO who revived Lucent after the 2002 telecom crash shares her perspective

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In 2002, Pat Russo took the helm of a company drowning in debt and decimated by the dot-com disaster. One of just six women CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies at the time, Russo deftly steered the company through the monumental challenge of retrenching after seeing its revenues slashed nearly in half, all the while bolstering morale among remaining employees.

Under her steady hand, Lucent survived the crisis, regained profitability and went on to strengthen its market positions in emerging areas like optical and wireless networks. Today, Russo serves as director of General Motors, Merck & Co., Hewlett Packard Enterprise and KKR. Chief Executive recently had the chance to talk with Russo about leading a company in times of turbulence. Excerpts of that conversation, edited for length and clarity, follow.

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