“Why George Floyd mattered—to us all,” is the subject line of an all-employee email sent yesterday by U.S. Bank CEO Andy Cecere. The bank is headquartered in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed by police on Monday. “As many of you know, I tend to be a private person,” Cecere begins. “I try to lead by doing what’s best for the bank, and I typically don’t share my personal thoughts or opinions unless necessary. It’s unusual for a CEO, but it’s where I’m most comfortable. I’m not comfortable today. I’m disturbed by the death of George Floyd …”
At the Founders Meeting of the Executive Communication Council in February in Phoenix, one of the liveliest of many lively discussions had to do with CEOs, and their changing role in American life, should they choose to accept it.
With the American president providing no commonly accepted moral leadership, all kinds of people—especially corporate employees—are looking to CEOs to weigh in on all manner of social issues, from gay rights to immigration.
And CEOs, long regarded (and self-regarded) as dealmakers, decision-makers and beancounters—find themselves bewildered at being asked to make a statement on the death of Kobe Bryant, an example that came up in our meeting.
The phenomenon isn’t totally new—I’ve been writing about it for several years—but coronavirus has accelerated it. And for some CEOs, it does seem to be sinking in. This went out to all U.S. Bank employees yesterday. (Hat tip to Target speechwriter Chris Truscott—Target HQ is next door to U.S. Bank, in Minneapolis, for passing it along.)