Podcast: To Lead Through a Crisis, You Need the “Straight, Unvarnished Truth”
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Leadership Careers Dec 23, 2020

Podcast: To Lead Through a Crisis, You Need the “Straight, Unvarnished Truth”

On this episode of The Insightful Leader: Carbon’s Ellen Kullman, former CEO of DuPont, on having the right people around to hold up a mirror.

Crises teach you a lot about your leaders.
Based on insights from

Ellen Kullman

Jörg L. Spenkuch

Listening: To Lead Through a Crisis, You Need the “Straight, Unvarnished Truth”
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Ellen Kullman had been CEO of the 3-D printing startup Carbon for just three months when COVID-19 hit the U.S. this past spring. Like most of us, she knew the virus would disrupt businesses and lives, but had no idea to what extent.

But although this pandemic is obviously unique, Kullman is no stranger to leading a company through crisis. Before becoming the CEO of the California-based company, she spent 27 years with chemical giant Dupont, and was ultimately appointed chairman and CEO in 2009—becoming the first woman to lead the more than 200-year-old company.

Throughout her seven-year tenure as CEO of Dupont, Kullman led through a number of challenges, including most dramatically a proxy fight with an activist investor—a fight she won.

Earlier this year, Kullman—a Kellogg School alumna—spoke with Kellogg professor Jörg Spenkuch as part of a leadership and crisis management speaker series.

During this conversation, you’ll hear Kullman talk openly about her experiences leading a company through crisis. She also offers advice to aspiring leaders based on her years climbing the career ladder at DuPont. But we’ll begin this conversation with Kullman discussing her current role at Carbon, and what happened in March when coronavirus cases began to rise.

Note: The Insightful Leader is produced for the ear and not meant to be read as a transcript. We encourage you to listen to the audio version above. However, a transcript of this episode is available here.

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