Last week I was speaking with Ron Nersesian CEO of Keysight Technologies. As background they are a $3.2 billion company with 12,600 employees, founded 75 years ago by William Hewlett and David Packard and today are leaders in electrical engineering innovation. As Ron and I talked more I heard the story of what really happened October 8, 2017 in the massive California wildfires. While the story of the fires is known by many, what struck me was the response by this CEO and his team. Everyone galvanized and acted as one with the focus on saving and protecting every personally. Immediate decisions were made because they were the right thing to do, resulting in 119 employees who lost their homes to receive $10,000 and the 1,502 people who were displaced to receive $1,000. When I asked Ron what he learned from this he responded, “It was important to lead not only with my head and logic, but also with my heart and intuition. I tried to connect on a personal level with people who were shocked, scared and hurting, as they had lost everything in a traumatic life-threatening situation; they have helped the company during their employment, most for decades. I wanted Keysight to help employees through this temporary situation, and support them even better than they could imagine. Leading with the heart.”
Most CEOs can lead in calm waters, but the mark of a great CEO is made when leading under pressure.