April 2, 2020
Having hosted two previous discussions with leading economists on the near-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic on GDP, Walker & Dunlop on Wednesday focused on what it will take to get through the crisis: strong leadership. That applies both to public policy makers and heads of companies in commercial real estate.
To drill down into what constitutes strong leadership in adverse times, Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker turned to Nancy Koehn, whose 2014 book “Forged in Crisis” provided the subtitle for the third in the company’s series of webcasts on navigating the current markets.
The Harvard Business School professor called the pandemic “a defining crisis for our times,” as the Civil War was for the U.S. during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. The ways in which Lincoln in wartime and Ernest Shackleton on a polar ice floe each rose to the occasion were part of the conversation.
Among other hallmarks, Koehn said, a great leader combines “brutal honesty and incredible hope.” She cited another wartime leader, Winston Churchill, who once began a speech with a bleak assessment before describing the tools Great Britain would use to overcome the situation, and drew a parallel to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom she said has grown remarkably in stature as a leader in his handling of the pandemic.
Another hallmark of great leadership in a crisis, Koehn said, is the ability to map out long-range goals even when confronting circumstances that would seem to weigh against achieving them. She pointed to Lincoln’s drawing up a blueprint for the Reconstruction long before the conflict between North and South was decided.
Drawing on positive assessments from both current St. Louis Fed president James Bullard and former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, Walker described himself as “nervously optimistic” about the prospects for an economic rebound. Replays of the hour-long webcast are available here.
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Paul Bubny