Leadership in Times of Crisis

Keynote Summary: Leadership in Times of Crisis

Domain 6: Business Insight

Speaker: Harry Kraemer, Jr., Executive Partner, Madison Dearborn Partners and former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Baxter International

  • Whether it’s a time of crisis or not, leadership starts with your ability to lead yourself. You’re likely to feel worry, fear, uncertainty, stress and pressure during a crisis – but if you wait until you’re feeling these emotions to start managing them, you’re already too late. Knowing yourself and the values that are important to you are implicit requirements for leading yourself.
  • That’s why Harry Kraemer does a 15-minute self-reflection at the end of each day, asking himself: What did I say I was going to do today? What did I actually do? What am I proud of? What am I not proud of? How did I lead people? How did I follow people? If I lived today over again, what would I have done differently? These questions apply not just to his business life, but all other important dimensions of his life (as a father, leader, son, spouse, spiritual person, etc.).
  • A phenomenal IR officer (IRO) is someone who is a business person working with senior management to move the company forward. As a result, the IRO has the capability to become a treasurer or division president or general manager (although Kraemer clarified that’s not to say someone wouldn’t choose to stay in IR). Another helpful attribute is the ability to “lead up” – leadership is not solely a top-down action. Last but not least, he recommended building relationships and business knowledge by volunteering for projects to gain broader experience or (when we get back to the office) eating lunch with people from different departments.
  • In a crisis, success is partly accepting the “new normal” (“we know what we need to do [during the pandemic], wear a mask, socially distance and wash your hands 20 times a day”). And it’s partly mindset. Kraemer pointed out that the men who survived the Hanoi Hilton were not the ones who focused on when they would be freed, they were the ones who said, “We will get through this, and we will get home.”

For more information, visit www.harrykraemer.org.