During the current global recession, much attention has been devoted to the mistakes that sparked the financial and economic crisis, in hopes of not repeating them. Less has been given to what’s been done well amid the turmoil—to learn, for example, how best to lead a company through these tough times.
To contribute to that understanding, we interviewed the leaders of 14 major companies (for more on each of them, see sidebar, “Who’s who,” in the attached PDF), all seasoned CEOs or chairmen, asking them to reflect on what they felt they had learned. We were keen not to limit their comments to the current recession and therefore also asked them to consider previous challenges they had faced in a turnaround or a crisis. The companies they lead are in different industries, face different challenges, and have performed quite differently. 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.
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