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Laura Walker ’87 Discusses Leadership in Times of Crisis

Walker spoke on May 5 as part of the Yale School of Management’s Becton Fellowship Program.

Times of crisis necessitate decisions that can define a business leader’s career and legacy, Becton Fellow Laura Walker ’87 told a Yale School of Management audience on May 5.

“Decisions are magnified during crisis, and they can define your leadership,” said Walker, the founding president and CEO of New York Public Radio, who is now an executive fellow in residence at Yale SOM.

An advisor to New York Public Radio and Common Sense Media, Walker spoke as part of the Becton Fellowship Program, which brings practitioners from private and public institutions to share their insights with Yale SOM community. Edieal Pinker, deputy dean and BearingPoint Professor of Operations Research, moderated the online Zoom discussion.

Acknowledging the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, Walker discussed the challenges of leading during crisis and the lessons that can be learned through it. She also discussed the “high-impact entrepreneurship” movement, which includes nonprofits like Endeavor and Springboard Enterprises. The movement focuses on identifying and supporting entrepreneurs with the greatest potential around the globe, especially women.

Walker encouraged students to continue building their networks during the COVID-19 crisis by reaching out to old contacts and cultivating existing ones.

More than ever, the world now needs those who can lead through crisis and ambiguity, Walker said; “virtual leadership skills” will grow increasingly important, she added.

“Perhaps the most important question you can ask is, ‘How do you harness your skills to help solve the world’s most complex problems?’” she said. “Can you use this time to tackle some of the most pressing problems that have become even more transparent today?”