How leaders’ reputations can either shine or decline during COVID-19

Those who’ve responded to this crisis with empathy, generosity and genuine warmth have reaped profound reputational rewards.

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As CEOs scramble to handle major economic disruptions caused by COVID-19, their responses to the epidemic are skewing consumer sentiment toward their corporations and themselves.

In some cases, sentiment toward CEOs fell dramatically. In other instances, CEO reputations improved markedly, new research shows.

The CEO Leaderboard produced by communications firm SJR ranked public perceptions of Fortune 100 CEOs and how those perceptions changed over the course of the pandemic.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos fell from ranking 59 to 98. Amazon suffered well-publicized employee walk-outs and employee complaints of unsafe working conditions. Bezos used Instagram — to release a video that feels cold and distant, according to SJR.

Despite facing similar employee health issues, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon improved his ranking from 57 to 17. His visits to store and fulfillment centers, frequent social media posts, and appearances in a national television commercial promoted the perception that he cared about employees. SJR cites a post, apparently a selfie, in which McMillan praised Walmart personnel.

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