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COVID-19: The Ultimate Pressure Test for CEOs

This crisis gives helps us hone principles of leadership and put them into action

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I have been getting twenty to thirty inquiries a day from my fellow CEOs looking for insights. Many ask how their organizations should be transitioning to a virtual operation and protecting their workers. Those in more dire straits seek counsel to make hard decisions about furloughs, layoffs, and sustainability of the enterprise itself. Leaders of the financially solvent as well as the fully leveraged are earning their executive salaries more than ever before.

The research division of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is already tracking the impact of COVID-19. We’ve learned that if the outbreak necessitates quarantine conditions for three months or longer, almost one-fifth of enterprises anticipate revenue losses greater than 50 percent; 5 percent of enterprises anticipate a full and irrevocable loss of the business. There are 165 million workers in the U.S. There’s no question these are trying times.

No one feels that more than the chief executive officer—with the exception of your chief human resource officer. HR’s mission is to build better workplaces for a better world; when the world is in crisis, as head of the largest organization devoted to the HR profession, believe me when I say I feel all the stressors.

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