Learning How to Lead Through Crisis: A Conversation with Stephen Tang

#podcast podcast Jun 06, 2024

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How can leaders learn to guide their teams through crisis?

Stephen Tang, CEO and author, shares his journey of leading through multiple crises over his career. Growing up as the son of Chinese immigrants, Tang learned the values of hard work, self-determination, and the importance of education. His academic journey, culminating in degrees in chemistry, chemical engineering, and an MBA from Wharton, laid the foundation for his diverse career.

Throughout his career, Tang held prominent roles in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors, with a focus on the life sciences and global public health initiatives. His experience during crises like 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic provided valuable insights into leading through adversity.

Tang reflects on the challenges of the pandemic, highlighting the need for leaders to adapt and cultivate resilience in themselves and their teams. He emphasizes the importance of self-awareness, vulnerability, and trust-building in effective leadership, drawing from his own experiences.

During the pandemic, Tang led OraSure Technologies in developing FDA-approved home tests for infectious diseases, including COVID-19. This endeavor required rapid adaptation, innovation, and building trust among team members working remotely.

Tang's trust formula—credibility multiplied by intimacy divided by risk—served as a guiding principle in navigating the uncertainties of the pandemic. He emphasizes the significance of leading with vulnerability, acknowledging mistakes, and fostering trust among team members.

Looking ahead, Tang discusses the shift to hybrid work models and the evolving role of leadership. He advocates for a holistic approach to leadership, recognizing the importance of embracing the individuality and well-being of employees.

In his book, A Test for Our Time: Crisis Leadership and the Next Normal, Tang shares insights from his experiences, emphasizing the importance of empathy, authenticity, and adaptability in leadership. He encourages leaders to lead wholeheartedly, acknowledging the interconnectedness of personal and professional lives.

Tang believes in the power of intergenerational mentorship and the need to empower emerging leaders earlier in their careers. He envisions a future where leaders foster connection, mentorship, and collaboration to address complex challenges facing society.

As organizations navigate the uncertainties of the post-pandemic world, Tang's insights serve as a roadmap for leaders seeking to navigate crises with resilience, empathy, and purpose.

Episode Minutes:  

  • 4:00 — Overcoming Obstacles and Embracing Resilience
  • 16:00 — The Trust Formula: A New Leadership Paradigm
  • 34:00 — Empowering Generations: The Role of Modern Elders

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