Selfless leadership during a pandemic: 3 actions for CEOs

When leaders self-sacrifice, like take pay cuts or give up their benefits, employees are more committed to their companies and feel better about their leaders during a crisis, according to research from Stefanie Johnson, PhD, an associate professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado's Leeds School of Business.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Dr. Johnson discussed how some companies whose leaders stepped up to support their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic will be better positioned after the crisis is over. She cited examples like Patagonia's CEO Yvon Chouinard, who announced the company will pay all employees during the pandemic, even though Patagonia stores had to close. CEOs for Hearst, LinkedIn, Twitter, Morgan Stanley and others have also committed to no layoffs.

According to Dr. Johnson, effective strategies to support employees during difficult times fall into three categories. CEOs and leaders should: 

1.  Take the same hits as their staff
2. Give with a larger purpose in mind
3. Be aggressively transparent, even if the message is hard

"Self-sacrifice is not just about the company doing what's right. If you are going to ask your employees to sacrifice, you need to sacrifice as well. If you expect your team to behave safely, you as a leader should behave safely. If you expect your team to get down in the trenches, you should be down there with them. No one likes the leader who throws their team on the front line while they sit in their office," she wrote.

Read the full article here.


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