Leadership is important to the survival of every small business. In times of crisis, leadership is critical. We sat down with Governor Larry Hogan to get his perspective on leadership during a pandemic.
What is your overarching leadership philosophy?
When I was first elected governor, I committed to create an environment where the best ideas could rise to the top based on their merit, regardless of which side of the aisle they come from. I truly believe that no problem faces us that hard work, honesty, and courage cannot solve if we work together, and as a result, our administration has consistently delivered real, bipartisan, common sense solutions to the serious problems that face us.
How is leadership during a crisis different than day-to-day operations?
Since we declared a state of emergency back in March, this crisis has evolved rapidly, and has required an all-hands-on-deck effort from our entire team. We have been singularly focused on keeping Marylanders safe and saving lives, and we’ve had to make difficult decisions very quickly in response to the facts on the ground. Every governor in America has had to negotiate these twin crises, and strike the right balance between addressing dire public health concerns and the worst economic collapse of our lifetimes. The expert advice of our Coronavirus Recovery Team has been invaluable, and even as we continue making strides on our road to recovery, we are maintaining close communication with these health experts and business leaders every day.
Living through a pandemic has not been easy, and you have received both praise and criticism as our governor. How did that impact you as a leader?
I understood very quickly that this was going to be the toughest challenge we’d faced, but also the most important thing we ever did. I also understood that leadership is about making the right decisions, not necessarily the most popular decisions. From day one, we have remained committed to being open and transparent with the people of Maryland, heeding the advice of our doctors and public health experts, and taking whatever actions are necessary to help hard-pressed Marylanders and small businesses get through this difficult period.
You served as chairman of the National Governors Association and governor of Maryland. How did you balance both of those leadership roles?
It has been an immense honor to lead my colleagues during this difficult time. America’s governors are on the front lines of this crisis, and we have been in close, almost constant communication since the very beginning. As NGA chairman, I have had the opportunity to lead dozens of calls with the White House to present and push for our shared priorities to the federal administration, and I am proud to have led the fight for more federal support for the states.
Who did you turn to for guidance during the height of the pandemic?
At the beginning of this crisis, I convened a Coronavirus Response Team made up of some of the smartest doctors and public health experts in the world. As we moved into the recovery phase, we also brought in leading business, economic, and labor experts. We transitioned to a Coronavirus Recovery Team, which has been advising us and helping guide our real-time decisions on Maryland’s reopening and recovery process.
What role does communication play in leadership, particularly during a crisis?
It is critical, especially during a crisis, to maintain clear and consistent communication with the public. We have made it a top priority to keep the people of Maryland informed of the actions we are taking and why we are taking them. We have been honest and transparent about the facts on the ground, and Marylanders have been engaged and responsive every step of the way.
What is the most impactful lesson you learned during the pandemic?
This pandemic proved what we have known all along—that sometimes, the very worst circumstances bring out the very best in Marylanders. Our state has overcome daunting challenges before, from riots in Baltimore City to devastating flooding in Ellicott City. But even when faced with a global pandemic and serious economic setbacks, Marylanders have found ways to step up and help one another. I think that’s what we’ll remember most when we look back on this moment in our history.
You are a former small business owner. What leadership skills will be most important for business owners during the recovery period?
I am a lifelong small business owner who ran for governor so that we could get people back to work and grow Maryland’s economy. Now more than ever, business owners need to be creative, resourceful, and resilient. We have been so impressed by the innovative approaches businesses have taken to continue serving their communities throughout this crisis, and that same creativity has been essential as they modify operations to reopen safely. Our local businesses have made incredible sacrifices to help us flatten the curve, and we remain committed to doing everything possible to help them weather this storm and get back on their feet.
The State of Maryland, like the rest of the nation, is facing twin crises: the fight against COVID-19, and our response to the economic fallout. America has seen an unprecedented economic collapse over that past few months, and Marylanders have not been immune. As governor, in addition to defeating this deadly virus and saving thousands of lives, there is nothing more important to me than getting our economy and our people back on their feet.
Fortunately, here in Maryland, we were able to keep more than 70% of our state economy open throughout this crisis. And now, with our safe, effective, and gradual recovery plan, Maryland is again open for business, with 98% of our economy open and able to operate in a safe way. Because of our early and aggressive actions, our unemployment rate is much lower than the national average, far better than most states in America, and the very best in our region.
I couldn’t be more proud of the way Marylanders, and especially our small business community, have risen to this challenge, and I know that together, we will continue to lead on the road to economic recovery.”
— Larry Hogan, Governor
This article is featured in the 2020 edition of The Daily Record’s Expanding Opportunities Resource Guide for Small, Minority and Women Businesses. Published in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs, Expanding Opportunities explores diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation in Maryland’s small business community. Read more from Expanding Opportunities on this website or read the digital edition.