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How to lead in a crisis

Experts share leadership tips for times of uncertainty and upheaval.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Theres a long tradition of using military approaches to fight financial crises.

Why military phrases are so popular in the corporate fight against Covid-19

John Engen
Member exclusive by John Engen

Corporate war rooms are having a moment right now. In a lot of ways, that’s no surprise: The challenges of managing a business through something like the novel coronavirus pandemic screams for a centralized command-and-control structure.

Leaders are usually fond of military metaphors in times of crisis. Already during the pandemic, US president Donald Trump has declared himself a “wartime president;” governors and generals have made frequent battlefield references; and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has often sounded like he’s getting entangled in a two-front war, with Covid-19 and with Trump.

Corporate leaders are on wartime footing as well. The CEOs of AT&T, Bank of America and Marriott all have compared efforts to confront the pandemic to epic battlefield conquests. Ignacio Alvarez, CEO of Popular, Inc., the Puerto Rico-based bank Banco Popular with a large presence in New York City, says that responding to the changes and challenges presented by Covid-19 is indeed “like fighting a war.”

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