7 CEOs You Should Pay Attention To During the COVID-19 Crisis

Though every business leader is currently under great pressure, these seven CEOs have distinguished themselves – some by displaying great leadership, and others by continuing to create value during the COVID-19 crisis.

Is your company struggling to envision what the business world will be like after the COVID-19 lockdown? Are you looking to move in the same direction as the major corporations? The pandemic has rocked the financial world in a way that we have not seen in modern history. 

The uncertainty that the virus has caused is sure to impact all companies, many of which will have difficulty finding their way back to normalcy after the lockdown has subsided. In situations of great doubt, the best thing a small business can do is look toward the larger companies and their leadership for guidance. 

In this guide, we will highlight the CEOs from seven of the world’s largest and most profitable companies to see in what directions they are steering their companies during and after the COVID-19 outbreak. 

About COVID-19

Even at this late stage in the pandemic response, we are still learning new things about COVID-19 and how it spreads. The first thing any responsible business leader will do is to thoroughly educate themselves about exactly what they are up against. The COVID-19 virus is a member of the coronavirus family. This family of viruses originates from China; the SARS and MERS viruses also hail from the coronavirus family. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have released general guidelines that businesses open during the pandemic outbreak should abide by. As the leader of your company, it is incumbent upon you to make sure you have safe working conditions for employees. Keep social distancing practices, protective gear, and frequent hand washing at the forefront of your pandemic response efforts. 

1. Doug McMillon (Walmart)

Pictured above, Doug McMillon became the CEO at Walmart on February 1, 2014. As the number one company on the Fortune 500 list, Walmart leads the way in profits and business standards. In a piece done by CNN on the response to the pandemic lockdown, McMillon described the change in people’s spending priorities as the quarantine progressed. 

The CEO stated that as people stayed in their homes, their focus shifted towards different products to sustain their lifestyles indoors. He identified games, puzzles, and other “timeless” forms of entertainment and education as the purchasing trend that followed the consumables, which led during the initial spending frenzy. 

As the number one company on the Fortune 500 list, Walmart leads the way in profits and business standards.

2. Chris Kempczinski (McDonald’s)

On November 4, 2019, Chris Kempczinski was elevated to the position of CEO of the McDonald’s Corporation. Kempczinski was promoted from his role as president of McDonald’s USA to the CEO just a few months before the virus was declared a pandemic.

As an “essential” company during the lockdown, the business was on the front line of the foodservice mission to feed the quarantined; this meant protecting the health of the workers and patrons of their establishments around the world. The CEO took action to initiate social distancing among workers and customers while shutting down dining areas and touchscreen kiosk stations. 

3. Mary Barra (General Motors)

Mary Barra became the first female CEO at General Motors on January 15, 2014. GM assumed a unique role during the pandemic. The CEO stated, “We are proud to stand with other American companies and our skilled employees to meet the needs of this global pandemic.” 

Among the many pandemic efforts, GM pledged to work with Ventec Life Systems to build ventilators needed during the quarantine. 

4. Arne Sorenson (Marriott)

On March 31, 2012, Arne Sorenson became the CEO of the Marriott Hotel chain. As the leading hotel chain in the country, the company is expected to lead the way. Sorenson showed vision by offering free rooms to medical workers that were responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Marriott hotel in Vienna.

5. Mark Hoplamazian (Hyatt)

Mark Hoplamazian became the CEO of the Hyatt hotel chain in December of 2006.

 The Harvard graduate was forced to make some difficult decisions during the pandemic. Hoplamazian took the bold step to cut the salaries of the company’s executives during the pandemic. The CEO pledged to forego his own salary for the months of April and May 

6. Ray Scott (Lear Corporation)

While Lear Corporation isn’t necessarily a household name, the company earns $21 billion annually and sits at 147th place on the Fortune 500 list. Ray Scott became the CEO at Lear in 1988. Scott led the way in producing pandemic safety protocols based on CDC guidelines.

Lear Corp. published its 50-page safety policy manual on their website so other businesses could implement their own program and tackle the pandemic head-on. 

7. Jeff Bezos (Amazon/Whole Foods)

As the most profitable website on the internet, Amazon has risen to iconic status since its inception in 1996. As the founder, Jeff Bezos has been the company’s CEO from the beginning. 

When the pandemic began to spread, Bezos sold shares of his company to avoid taking unnecessary losses. By being the key supplier of delivered goods during the pandemic, Bezos was able to earn $24 billion amid the pandemic lockdown. As the owner of both Amazon and Whole Foods, Bezos was in a privileged position during the lockdown. 


It is apparent that there are different approaches to the pandemic lockdown. Based on the insight given by these professionals and the directions in which they are directing their companies, it is clear that bold and decisive action is the best way to emerge victorious from this crisis. What can you do to empower your company in the face of great uncertainty?

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