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CEO reflections on leadership lessons from the global pandemic: back to basics during crisis

Clinton O. Longenecker (The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA)
Jenell Wittmer (Department of Management, The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 7 June 2024

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Abstract

Purpose

The current study qualitatively examined the challenges and lessons learned from Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The current study draws upon previous crisis leadership research to understand and classify the most important lessons learned from CEOs.

Design/methodology/approach

A total of 30 in-depth, structured CEO interviews were conducted with large, multi-divisional organizations across market sectors that included healthcare, automotive, steel, agriculture, logistics, distribution, banking, financial services, light manufacturing and industrial services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Three separate judges performed a content analysis, and three main themes (eleven overall lessons) emerged related to high-level leadership lessons learned through the pandemic.

Findings

The leadership lessons that emerged overwhelmingly focused on the importance of emphasizing leadership fundamentals during crisis. CEO’s shared the importance of getting “back to basics” during the pandemic. The current study presents these leadership lessons, along with insights for leadership practices and development, as well as future research. Additionally, questions for reflection are posed to stimulate current and future leaders’ growth and development.

Originality/value

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted leadership and organizations in an unprecedented manner. Previous research has outlined the leadership traits and behaviors needed to successfully lead through organizational crises. However, little research has examined CEO level lessons learned, focusing on learning from such crises.

Keywords

Citation

Longenecker, C.O. and Wittmer, J. (2024), "CEO reflections on leadership lessons from the global pandemic: back to basics during crisis", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/LODJ-08-2022-0385

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2024, Emerald Publishing Limited

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