Leading during crisis: Notable quotes and qualities from Experience Makers Live

by Zach Baumgarten

posted 08-19-2020

It takes steady leadership to keep a business afloat when the waters are choppy.

“Anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm,” said Scott Monty, CEO of Scott Monty Strategies, calling on a quote from ancient Latin writer Publilius Syrus, at Adobe’s Experience Maker Live event late last month.

But as we all know, the current business landscape is anything but. In his session, titled “What we look for from executives in a crisis,” Monty outlined six attributes leaders must possess to navigate and lead their teams through times of crisis – all supported by words of wisdom.

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Attribute 1: Courage

Monty kicked off with a quote from American writer Maya Angelou: “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

Given the current state of racial, political, and social tensions, many business leaders face the challenge of having the courage to speak out for what they believe is right and not be afraid of backlash. This means the courage to say something from the heart and not with a generic public relations statement.

Monty pointed to Mark Mason, the CFO of Citi, for a blog post he wrote about the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. Mason could have “gone on with business as usual,” Monty stated, but instead he courageously opened up about his own experiences as a Black American.

Attribute 2: Resilience

In the same vein as Winston Churchill’s quote, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm,” Monty said, “It’s what you do from the failure that’s important.”

Monty cited Greg Shugar, CEO of Beau Ties Ltd. of Vermont, for excelling in a time of adversity. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced Americans to quarantine in their homes, it became clear that dressing up in a suit and tie was no longer relevant. As a result, Shugar refocused his business on making masks and continued to bring in revenue.

Attribute 3: Generosity

Monty mentioned Fred Rogers (a.k.a. Mr. Rogers) for his “ability to give without the undo thought of gain,” adding that this quality is necessary in a mutual caring relationship. True generosity, Monty said, is when leaders do the right thing simply because it is right and not to gain something in return.

He pointed to Airbnb CEO Brain Chesky, who in May laid off around 2,000 workers due to the pandemic’s impact on the travel industry. Chesky tweeted a link to a website showcasing them and their specified talents as a way to help them gain new employment. Chesky’s actions showed that “this is a CEO that … clearly wanted to do the right thing, and he showed generosity in doing so,” Monty said.

Attribute 4: Transparency

Monty called up a quote from ancient philosopher Pliny the Elder – “What is there that doesn’t appear marvelous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time?” – to highlight the importance of transparency. He argued that “leaders that show transparency show a high degree of confidence in their work and in doing so create a sense of trust among people.”

Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott, exemplified transparency by deciding to publicize his chemotherapy treatment and allowing people to see him without his hair, Monty said. Not only was this move courageous, but the transparency signified “that what Marriott was doing was in the best interest of the employees and customers,” he said.

Attribute 5: Integrity

Echoing Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote, “The time is always right to do what is right,” Morty said integrity is simply “doing the right thing even when no one is looking.”

Nike and its 2018 partnership with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick exemplifies integrity, Monty said. At the time, NFL owners were unwilling to sign Kaepernick to a contract after he knelt for the national anthem, and the league faced public backlash for the national anthem protests. However, Nike decided to take a risk, which showed “integrity on their part,” Monty stated. “They’re [not] doing this to seek fame or jump on the latest trend; they’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Attribute 6: Empathy

Monty talked about Queen Elizabeth II and her recent address to British citizens regarding COVID-19. During her speech, the Queen referred back to her first public address in 1940, when she was forced to move to the countryside during the midst of World War II. By referencing a time period characterized by similar feelings of fear and anxiety, Queen Elizabeth II “showed a sense of empathy with her fellow Britains by understanding the resilience they needed to demonstrate and how they all needed to get through this together,” Monty said.

In closing his session, Monty highlighted a quote from the book Leadership in Turbulent Times, by Doris Kearns Goodwin: “A leader’s strength ultimately depends on the strength of his bond with the people.” According to Monty, a leader’s bond with employees is dependent on “respect, reliability, and trust,” which must be maintained “in the calm times as well as in the stormy time.”

Topics: COVID-19, Customer Stories, Leadership, Experience Cloud