Masters of Leadership: Mitt Romney 

Inaugural speaker at NVTC and CTA's virtual leadership series focuses on how business leaders should plan for the reopening of the economy.

By Mark Toner

Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told technology leaders Tuesday that, as states gradually reopen their economies for business, their leaders need to plan carefully.

“It’s getting to be time for people to be seeing a pathway for each of the major economic elements of our society to get back engaged,” said Romney, the inaugural speaker in the Masters of Leadership series. Produced by the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Consumer Technology Association, the event was moderated by bestselling author Gary Shapiro, CTA president and CEO and NVTC board member. 

Even as the economy restarts, Romney cautioned, it won’t be “everything’s back to normal” until a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus is introduced, requiring businesses to plan carefully as activity resumes at different times in different sectors. “We can hope that there’s going to be a vaccine or treatment which will make all this go away in a big hurry, but we can’t plan for that,” Romney said.  “What we therefore need to plan for is this virus continuing in our society for at least the next year… I suggest that for every enterprise, people say ‘alright, how do we operate my business in the coming year,’ assuming we’re not going to have those deus ex machina solutions.”

Speaking via Zoom from Capitol Hill, Romney drew from his own experiences as a business leader to offer advice on navigating the uncertain future caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve never seen a downturn like this, and businesses being impacted the way they’re being impacted today—25 or 50 years from now, executives will be asked ‘what did you do? How did you live day to day? What happened in your business? Were you able to save it?”

“This is a good time to be planning what you’re going to look like when COVID-19 is over,” Romney added. “Our businesses are going to change, our business models will change… so thinking about how to recast your enterprise, not just for this two-year period, but for the time thereafter, is an important task.”
More immediately, Romney also urged business leaders to focus on the present-day wellbeing of their team members. “Find a way to keep in touch with them, to activate them and to have them involved in important projects…. To maintain the psychological health of your entire enterprise,” he said. 

Romney also spoke about three principles that drove business decisions when dealing with struggling enterprises during his time as cofounder of private investment firm Bain Capital—an “honest assessment of where we are,” including challenges; a narrow focus on the two or three most important things needed to turn the business around, and selecting “the right team” to lead transformation.
Labeling his own state of Utah and Virginia as technology leaders, Romney stressed the importance of their aggressive efforts to attract business. He also credited Bobbie Kilberg, who is retiring as NVTC’s CEO after 22 years, calling her a “powerhouse” and “an absolutely determined individual who is an extraordinary leader in part because she has fundamental principles she adheres to.”

The next Masters of Leadership event is on Monday May 11 and will feature the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and Johnny C. Taylor Jr., President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). For more information, click here.


Mark Toner is a Reston-based technology writer.