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New Leadership for Changing Times

What does true leadership look like in these challenging times? In conjunction with Axios, SJR recently hosted a discussion around the importance of executive leadership during times of crisis.

Featuring a chat with our CEO Alexander Jutkowitz and interviews with Larry Merlo of CVS Health and Accenture’s Julie Sweet, this virtual event, New Leadership for Changing Times, unpacked how CEOs are preparing for an uncertain future. Here are six tips for leading during times of unprecedented change.

1. Join the conversation, but be real

For the first time, companies in all industries, all around the world, are facing the same challenging circumstances — and many brand leaders might not know what to say. According to Alexander Jutkowitz, the most important thing is for brands to actually join the conversation, but in a meaningful, authentic way.

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2. Social change starts with being uncomfortable

Today’s workforce is interested in working for companies that have purpose and create positive impacts. But according to Jutkowitz, organizations need to be sure that their communications and their actions align, or they’ll be called out for it. That means companies need to get used to pushing boundaries into the uncomfortable.

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3. To drive positive change, move quickly and take action

When Julie Sweet first started as CEO in September 2019, she received two pieces of advice from her peers: appoint your leadership team right away, and always act quickly. Both day-to-day and in times of crisis, Sweet encourages her team to respond quickly to challenges and take action to drive positive change.

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4. Open the lines of communication

When it comes time for businesses to go back to the office, look to CVS — they’ve been at work this whole time. Early on, Larry Merlo and his team established three guiding principles: safety, security, and communication in order to evaluate which aspects of the new normal will become part of tomorrow’s everyday routine.

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5. In times of crisis, establish peace of mind

As an essential business during a health crisis, CVS faces the unique challenge of working to help their communities during a time when many of its employees are facing the exact same problems. Merlo recognized that CVS would not be able to help its customers without first  establishing peace of mind for his colleagues, for both those working virtually and those in the stores.

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6. Invest in your people

Over the past three decades, Accenture as an organization has never had a headquarters, so at the top, the leadership has always been virtual. As the rest of the company adjusted to virtual work in March, the company partnered with Thrive Global to focus on sustaining the mental wellbeing of its employees. In the last few months, Sweet has noticed that it’s been obvious which companies have invested in their people, and which companies have focused elsewhere.

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