Weekly Webinar Series Offers Guidance for Leading in Difficult Circumstances

April 21, 2020

In times of crisis, leaders must be the torchbearers who give light to others. Doing so requires more than professional expertise. To help leaders bring to bear all their skills and knowledge in precarious situations, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business‘ Executive MBA Strategic Leadership program is presenting Leading in Trying Times, a weekly webinar series held Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. EDT. The webinars are free and open to all.

Mike Grojean, director of the program, said the webinars offer short, timely touchpoints every week that leaders can apply to guiding their organizations through the current upheaval.

“I know from experience that in times of crisis, strong leadership is the differentiating factor that saves lives and livelihoods,” Grojean, who served as an operations officer in the Pentagon’s Army Operations Center during 9/11, says. “We are bringing together thought leaders from both inside the college and our external network to address key issues that leaders currently face.”

The webinar series, which began on March 25, has received an enthusiastic response. Grojean says that the audience so far has spanned company presidents, Executive MBA students, emergency room doctors, public officials and more.

Jayme Sperring, a former president of North American operations for a midsized oil and gas services company, sat in on some sessions. He found the presentations fitting and relevant.

“I think it’s applicable, it’s prudent and I think they’ve done a good job so far,” Sperring says. “The content aligns with what people are interested in now: ‘How do I lead through this much uncertainty and ambiguity?’ ‘How do I strike a decent balance between work, homeschooling and all the other issues we face on a regular basis now?’”

Cody Wilson, pricing manager with Eastman Chemical and EMBA Strategic Leadership 2020 candidate, has taken valuable lessons from the webinars.

“The discussions have reinforced that leadership can occur at any level and should be exercised across the organization in order to survive tough conditions,” he says. “The series reminds me to be a standard bearer for unity, positivity and creativity to manage our way through this situation.”

The upcoming segments should likewise offer material to inspire and equip leaders at all levels to steer their organizations through these unprecedented times. The remainder of the series includes the following:

  • Apr 22, Making decisions under fire: Brigadier General (ret) Scott Brower – former commander of 5th Special Forces Group, acting senior commander, 101st Airborne; chief of staff for Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s COVID-19 Unified Command
  • April 29, Communication in difficult times: Amy Cathey, executive director, Graduate and Executive Education: Healthcare, Leadership & Strategy, Executive Education, Physician Executive MBA
  • May 6, Culture change: from disruption to advantage: Amy Cathey and Bryan Bonuomo (EMBA-SL, ’06), founder and principal consultant at Patonce Partners
  • May 13, Crisis versus opportunity: what does your business look like after (TBA)

Previous installments of the webinar can be reviewed at the Leadership in Trying Times webpage.


Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist (865-974-3589, rmcnutt4@utk.edu)