Douglas R. Conant is an internationally renowned business leader, New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and social media influencer with over 40 years of leadership experience at world-class global companies. For the past 20 years of his leadership journey, he has honed his leadership craft at the most senior levels – first as President of the Nabisco Foods Company, then as CEO of Campbell Soup Company, and finally as Chairman of Avon Products. In 2011, he founded ConantLeadership: a mission-driven community of leaders and learners who are championing leadership that works in the 21st century.
In the late 1990’s Campbell Soup Company was struggling to meet stakeholder expectations. Assuming leadership in January, 2001 Doug Conant led the company to deliver superior financial performance, world-class employee engagement, and became a recognized leader in corporate social responsibility.
Doug is a devoted leadership practitioner whose 40-year career has been defined by a commitment to studying, practicing, improving, and teaching the tenets of leadership that works. Before ascending to c-suite executive positions at the Nabisco Foods Company, Campbell Soup Company, and Avon Products, he began his career in marketing at General Mills and held leadership positions in marketing and strategy at Kraft.
Doug’s first big organizational challenge came at Nabisco Foods Company (then under private equity ownership) where, in his last five years as President, he assembled a top-notch leadership team and, while navigating a period of great turmoil, he led that team to five consecutive years of sales, market share, and double-digit earnings growth. It was there — in the exhilaration of delivering high-performance across the board — that he first connected with his purpose: to help build world-class organizations that defy the critics and thrive in the face of adversity. It was also at Nabisco Foods Company where he would crystallize the building blocks of the personal leadership model that would carry him to great success as his leadership journey progressed into the CEO office and beyond.
As President and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company (2001-2011), Doug again faced significant challenges in a beleaguered company with declining sales. Leveraging his many years of leadership practice and study, he made dramatic and effective changes throughout the organization. He transformed the global leadership team, reconfigured the portfolio, cut costs, revolutionized the culture, and made integral strategic investments. These efforts resulted in cumulative shareholder returns in the top tier of the global food industry.
When Doug retired as CEO of Campbell Soup Company in 2011 and founded ConantLeadership – he still felt anchored to his purpose and was called to contribute his leadership expertise to another iconic organization that was in the midst of a period of unrest. Serving as Chairman of Avon Products from 2013 to 2016, he helped steer the company through the most challenging time in its history, ultimately overseeing the sale of its North American business to private equity, and the establishment of a new Avon Headquarters in London responsible for managing the business in the rest of the world.
Throughout his leadership career, Doug has chiefly fulfilled his purpose through his mission to achieve superior employee engagement; this focus on people has been a crucial contributor to the exemplary performance of the companies he has led. His motto has faithfully been, “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” This people-first approach also informed the development of his uniquely effective leadership model that champions workplace trust and clarity of purpose among the key factors to delivering extraordinary results (this model has evolved to become the ConantLeadership Flywheel). Leveraging this model, he famously transformed employee engagement in the Nabisco Biscuit Company, as one employee engagement expert said, from “swamp water” to “Perrier” to “champagne” over a period of three years. Similarly, using this model, he led initiatives that improved employee engagement at Campbell Soup Company — from being among the worst in the Fortune 500 to being consistently among the best. At all the companies he has served, he has found that employee engagement proved to be the secret to advancing stakeholder value.
Doug has also made enlightened leadership practices a priority throughout his lifetime and is visibly committed to, “doing well by doing good.” Fittingly, the companies he has had the privilege to lead were widely celebrated as leaders in diversity, social responsibility and ethical leadership during his tenure. Because of his lifelong advocacy for principled practices and corporate responsibility, he remains actively involved with many non-profit organizations. Learn more about his and ConantLeadership’s dedication to non-profit service and public advocacy here.
Today, continuing his legacy as a champion of leadership that works, Doug, among his other commitments, also serves as Chairman of the Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute (KELI) at Northwestern University, Chairman of CECP (The CEO Force for Good), a Member of the Board of Directors at AmerisourceBergen, and Chairman of the Higher Ambition Leadership Institute (HALI) in Boston.
Doug is the co-author with Mette Norgaard of the New York Times bestseller Touchpoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments and is in the early stages of writing a second book, intended to be the definitive resource for engaging employees in the 21st century. He is a featured leadership blogger at Harvard Business Review online and also writes extensively about leadership that works on ConantLeadership and LinkedIn.
Doug is passionate about helping leaders of all walks deliver superior performance with high-impact leadership practices. To this end, he brings his unique expertise and deep perspective to his public speaking, delivering wide-ranging keynotes on effective leadership practices for the new millennium. Learn more here.
Doug was named a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust for 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017; a Top 100 Leadership Speaker by Inc. Magazine; a Top 100 Most Influential Author in the World; a Top 30 Leadership Professional for 2015, 2016, and 2017 by Global Gurus; a Leader to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association (AMA); a Top 50 Leadership Innovator Changing How We Lead in 2015 by Inc.com; and a Top 75 Human Business Champion by Switch & Shift.
His written leadership resources have been recognized as a Top 100 Socially Shared Leadership Blog in 2014, and 2015 by CMOE, a Top 20 Blog on the Future of Work by SAP, a Top 20 Employee Engagement Blog by gThankYou, and a Top Leadership Blog in 2015 by Skip Prichard Leadership Insights. He has also been recognized for his contribution to the leadership conversation on social media — Doug was named a Global Top 35 CEO on Social Media in 2016, a Top 3 CEO Killing it on Social Media by SocialSensr, a Top 5 Non-Tech CEO Using Social Media to Drive Business Results by Hootsuite, and was celebrated as one of 8 People You Should Be Following on Twitter by Gary Vaynerchuck.
Doug earned his BA from Northwestern University and his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.