The full version of this post appears on www.conantleadership.com. Doug Conant is a board member at the Center for Higher Ambition Leadership and lead faculty in our Higher Ambition Leadership Initiative (HALI) development program for emerging leaders. The thoughts expressed in this post are consistent with our philosophy and the HALI curriculum.
As leaders striving for mastery, we tend to spend a lot of time thinking about, discussing, researching, and practicing our leadership. As well we should. It takes a lot of effort and resolve to become competent in a quality way. But sometimes it can seem there are infinite ways to talk about leadership and limitless things to learn. Aspiring and experienced leaders alike may become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of data, advice, wisdom, models, and approaches there are available. To stay focused, it helps to have a firmly rooted point of view – a leadership philosophy that is adaptive and flexible, yet anchored in unwavering values and time-tested truths. Leaders need words to live by. Words can guide our behaviors and keep us pointed towards our “true north.” If you hope to elicit high performance with integrity, there will have to be something you stand for that drives consistency in your actions and words. Here are the words we live by at ConantLeadership, culled from the experiences of our Founder & CEO, Doug Conant’s over 35 years leading in the corporate arena. Hopefully they will be helpful to you as you navigate the stormy seas of leadership.
1. To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace. A pithy, but firm, reminder that you cannot expect exemplary or enduring results for all stakeholders without an engaged and productive workforce. Remember, leadership is all about the people. You’ve got to make yourself wholly available to people with your head, heart, and hands. It is unrealistic to expect extraordinary effort and performance without creating an environment where people feel extraordinarily valued. Give them the energy to fight the good fight for the enterprise and they will do the same for you.
2. The action is in the interaction. You’re likely familiar with the relentless demands of the modern workplace: meetings, emails, text messages, questions to answer, problems to solve, fires to put out. It’s easy to conclude there is less and less time to get “real work” done. But reframing these “disruptive” moments as opportunities, rather than hindrances, has powerfully expanded the possibilities of our leadership work. We choose to view every “interruption” that arises not as a distraction from work, but as the work. Every single interaction is rife with the potential to become the high point or the low point in someone’s day. Each is a moment in which we can lead impactfully, set expectations, bring clarity to an issue, or infuse a problem with energy and insight. When we view the work of leadership in this empowering way, we can transform ordinary moments into extraordinary ones and move closer to greatness, one conversation at a time.