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This CEO’s advice for leading during crisis: ‘Focus on what you can control’

September 30, 2020, 10:19 PM UTC

Ellen Kullman, CEO of 3D-printing startup Carbon, knows a thing or two about corporate crises. 

She became CEO of chemical giant DuPont at the end of the 2008 financial meltdown. As she said during Fortune’s online Most Powerful Women Summit on Wednesday, “Nobody knew what was going to happen or how the recovery would start.”

Fast-forward to today, and Kullman faces a similar crisis in her new position at Carbon. Just a few months into her job, the startup—like many other businesses—was rocked by the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.

It was a tough position to be in for Kullman because, as a newcomer, she “didn’t have strong relationships across the board with the team.”

To build camaraderie and steer the ship, so to speak, Kullman has been busy holding virtual meetings with her employees. “I had to take the time to spend with others that were not only maybe a direct report but an important person at the organization,” she said.

As she learned from her previous experience during a recession, “you need to focus on what you can control.” Leaders can’t spend time “worrying about things you cannot impact,” she said.

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