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A Salute to CEOs

Written by Phil Bressler

March 23, 2021

Most would agree that to say this last has been challenging for everyone is an understatement. In the business world, CEOs and business owners, especially, have had to adapt, lead and survive like never before. It’s hard enough running a business in “normal” times, let alone during a global pandemic. The range of stories told over the last year got us thinking—what are the traits of great leaders and CEOs who have risen to the top during the dramatic impact of COVID?

Let’s start with the most important leadership competencies. There are endless opinions and resource materials on this topic, but we’ve settled on the follow information from the Harvard Business Review—a 2016 study done by Dr. Sunnie Giles that captures a handful of the most common and desirable leadership traits:


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This data comes should come as no surprise. Today’s business leaders have a long list of responsibilities and challenges to tackle each and every day. They have to be pretty darn good at a lot of things! 

During this past year, however, several of these competencies have become even more valuable than ever before:

Ethics & Safety

It’s ironic that this category was ranked highest in non-COVID years, and these are the attributes considered most crucial when both ethics and safety issues have been pushed to their limits over the past year. 

Many industries have always promoted safety, and companies large and small have followed practices as prescribed by OSHA. But every single workplace, no matter the industry or size, has had to adjust very quickly to keep everyone safe from COVID. Company leaders have had to make significant decisions on the spot to ensure the safety of themselves and their employees—all while continuing to manage business as well as possible in a marketplace in flux, as everyone from consumer to supplier faces similar challenges, extreme uncertainty, and daily upheaval. Not to mention the heightened civil discourse, human ethics, and many other emotionally-charged issues also impacting the workplace. 

Perhaps in “normal” years, we took ethics and safety for granted. But as we’ve learned and continue to learn, paying attention to these core attributes absolutely matters, and actually can mean the difference between life and death. 

Empowering Others & Flexibility

In our lifetime, nothing else has had as much of an impact on how business is conducted as this pandemic. Hats off to the business leaders who adapted quickly, remained positive, and created flexible environments where employees were supported while trying to manage life (and work) the best they could. Many of us thought we’d just be working from home for a few weeks, but that changed quickly, and our CEOs had to lead through it all. 

Connection & Belonging

Hey, CEO—please direct vision, communicate and inspire; do your “normal” job; oh, and make sure the rest of us stay connected to each other even when working remotely part or full time! Great leaders and CEOs have risen to the challenge, have innovated, and have found ways to nurture and even grow a sense of community and belonging. “We’re all in this together” really does have a way of connecting us like never before. 

I recently participated in a client’s “town hall” staff meeting on Zoom. Contrary to what I expected, the level of creativity, fun, engagement, and sense of shared mission came through loud and clear. The CEO of this company has continued to lead and lead well.

In conclusion, all of us at Rhycom simply wanted to pause for a moment to say “thank you”—to our client leaders, our partner leaders, and our own leadership—for not only managing through the normal challenges of business, but also for leading us through a unique situation that was never taught in business school. We salute you. And we thank you. But… let’s not do this again!  

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