Leadership in times of turmoil

April 20, 2020

Four-star Admiral James Stavridis and former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson distinguished themselves as exceptional leaders during times of crisis.  Join us on Transition Lab to learn how effective leaders operate during times of uncertainty. Stavridis and Akerson discuss how public and private sector leaders can navigate the challenges posed by the coronavirus.   

Read the highlights:

Dave: “What is the size and scope of the COVID-19 crisis?”

Admiral Stavridis: “This is the biggest crisis the nation has faced since the second world war, and that’s going back over 70 years. I think the only way I can categorize it from relatively recent life events from the 21st century, is that this combines the worst of the 2008 financial crisis with 9/11. In that sense, this is a dagger pointed at the heart of the U.S. and global economy.”


Dave: “What attributes do the best leaders possess in times of crisis?” 

Admiral Staviridis: “[The leadership skills] I’ve found that transferred seamlessly [from military to business] are two very basic things that are effectively the same: a sense of integrity and the need for honesty. At the Navel Academy, we have an honor code: we don’t lie, cheat or steal. I think that’s a basic framework, but leaders know that they have to have that bedrock of integrity… 

Secondly, the ability to communicate, to take an idea and inspire others, is both a technical skill – to think and speak, present well – but also a creative skill, taking what you’ve come up with and moving it across a wide frame. 

Thirdly, both in the military and the business world, innovation is critical. Steve Jobs, who knew a lot about innovation… He said that, ‘the difference between leaders and followers is the ability to innovate.’ And I think that is true. It was true for me in the military when I changed the command structure of U.S. Southern Command… you have to be able to innovate.”

Dan Akerson: “Integrity is absolutely critical to being an effective leader. People are going to watch how you conduct yourself in good times and bad when the pressure is on and not.”