Notable, Quotable Chief Executives Put the Pandemic into Words

By Sarah Bostwick Stromoski Senior Manager, CEO Engagement, CECP

Take a break from your day to scan how chief executives of the world’s largest companies are experiencing the pandemic. The wordsmiths below made us at times laugh, dread, empathize, cry, respect, applaud, and hope.

  • Liverpool Football Club Manager Jürgen Klopp: “It’s not important what famous people say. I wear a baseball cap and have a bad shave. My opinion of Coronavirus is not important.” Reuters – Mar 3
  • Target CEO Brian Cornell: “Normally, you’d view us as competitors, but today we’re focused on a common competitor, and that’s defeating the spread of the Coronavirus.” White House Press Conference– Mar 13
  • LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault met France’s call for hand sanitizer in 72 hours with a one-word text message giving the green light: “Excellent!!” Financial Times – Mar 19
  • Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson in his announcement of furloughs and pay cuts: “I have never had a more difficult moment than this one.” Twitter– Mar 19
  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: “There is no instruction manual for how to feel at a time like this.” Amazon blog – Mar 21
  • Chuck Robbins, CEO of WebEx owner Cisco: “This whole teleworking thing — as much as we sell it to our customers, I’m not sure I want to do it 100% of the time.” New York Times – Mar 23
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai: “It was not easy to help my teenage daughter to understand what is going on.” New York Times – Mar 23
  • Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield: “I did the all-hands [team meeting] from the laundry room … [last week was] probably the most productive week of work in the company’s history.” New York Times – Mar 23
  • Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks club in the National Basketball Association: “I’m rich. I’m lucky. I’m blessed. It’s not going to cost me nearly as much as it would cost the hourly employees to go without pay.” Fortune – Mar 26
  • BlackRock CEO Larry Fink: “Long-term thinking has never been more critical than it is today. … Focusing our expertise and capabilities on major public challenges – is our purpose in action.” Letter to Shareholders – Mar 29
  • Blackbaud CEO Mike Gianoni: “Higher purpose has taken on entirely new meaning and importance during this unprecedented time.” Press release – Mar 30
  • Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky: “Taking multiple shots on goal increases my confidence…This is not about competition between companies. This is a competition against corona[virus].” Fortune – Mar 31
  • Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian: “It is a conflict between our purpose as a company, which is to care for people, and the things we have to do because we are charged with ensuring the financial future of Hyatt.” Fortune – Mar 31
  • General Motors CEO Mary Barra on manufacturing ventilators: “There’s nothing more entrepreneurial than seeing an urgent need and meeting it.” LinkedIn – Mar 31
  • Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina: “Go back and try again.” It’s her response to the common objection, “I can’t find a slate of qualified, diverse candidates.” Chief Executive – Apr 3
  • Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg: “The network is robust. We are prepared for it.” Harvard Business Review – Apr 3
  • Zoom CEO Eric Yuan: “‘If we mess up again, it’s done.” Wall Street Journal – Apr 4
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon: “Entering into a crisis is not the time to figure out what you want to be.” Wall Street Journal – Apr 6
  • Reckitt-Benckiser CEO Laxman Narasimhan: “The other day [my 79-year-old mother] walked into one of my video meetings and said, ‘You haven’t taken the garbage out.’ ” Wall Street Journal – Apr 6
  • Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison: “Purpose elevates us from survive to thrive. Purpose clearly shows up in world-class leaders in a crisis.” Korn Ferry – Apr 10
  • Unilever CEO Alan Jope: “Couldn’t each country just take a point of gross domestic product and allocate it to healthcare?” Yale Business Sustainability Summit – Apr 15 

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