The importance of vulnerability in COVID-19 messages

As many leaders seek to engage their stakeholders and workforces around the issues posed by the coronavirus crisis, messages that acknowledge fears resonate.

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There are many messages being shared by executives around the COVID-19 pandemic.

One common response is what consumers and stakeholders might expect: Leaders address the facts of the crisis. They acknowledge that things are going to change for employees and customers.

Others, however, take a different tack. They inject their own fear. They acknowledge what their audience is also feeling—uncertainty.

There is power in messages from leaders who are willing to talk about the elephant in the room—that we don’t know when this will be over, what the consequences might be, and how things might be changing all around us in ways we can’t yet understand.

Contrast the drumbeat for reopening the economy with that of Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson who received many plaudits for his heartfelt message online:

A message to Marriott International associates from President and CEO Arne Sorenson.

— Marriott International (@MarriottIntl) March 19, 2020

Another leader who models what it means to share their vulnerability is Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

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