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The Best Leadership Links to Read Right Now

by | Aug 31, 2020

Today we dispatched the August 2020 edition of our Leadership That Works Newslettera curated digest of of the best leadership links to read right now from around the web, sent at the end of each monthIn this month’s best leadership links to read right now: Battling ‘ambiguous loss,’ learning from the world’s top CEOs, how to achieve racial equity, and more. As alwayswe’re sharing the articles from our newsletter here in case you’re not subscribed to our mailing list. If you find these links enriching, you can sign up to receive our newsletter here.

Cracking the Resilience Code

We’re all likely aware of how people—ourselves included—exist with varying degrees of resilience in the face of adversity. There’s a spectrum. Some adapt and bounce back seemingly unscathed, others emerge with useful scarring that helps them brace against the journey ahead, and others struggle to overcome. Without placing a value judgement on where you may fall on this sliding scale of resilience, it is helpful to explore what factors contribute to building resilience. This insightful New York Times post incorporates input and research from leading experts to explain what makes some people more resilient than others. The most “significant determinant” of resilience—perhaps not surprisingly—is the “quality of our close personal relationships,” revealing a human truth that has become crystallized in the COVID-19 age of forced isolation. But don’t be discouraged if you’re feeling less interpersonal closeness than usual. Relationships are not the only noteworthy factor in fomenting resilience; there are many more—some of them skills that can be actively practiced and pursued—which you can discover in the full post here.

**To explore a related concept, check out our post how to build leadership grit.

Forget Perfection

In this Authority Magazine interview with Cara Bradshaw, Chief Impact Officer at Family Promise (and a ConantLeadership BLUEPRINT Boot Camp alumni), she shares her top tips for women leaders and debunks some pervasive myths about what is the “correct” approach to leading people. Her top piece of advice? “You don’t have to project perfection.” Although many women leaders are held to a higher standard than their male counterparts, it’s OK to accept feedback, know that you won’t impress everyone, and do hard things even if you can’t do them “perfectly.” Read more of her advice here.

**For more on forgetting perfection, explore our incremental BLUEPRINT process, designed to help you lift your impact even in the midst of your busy schedule.

PRESS to Achieve Racial Equity

“Corporate leaders may not be able to change the world, but they can certainly change their world,” states author Robert Livingston in this comprehensive Harvard Business Review article on promoting racial equity in the workplace. Many organizations are “relatively small, autonomous entities that afford leaders a high level of control over cultural norms and procedural rules, making them ideal places to develop policies and practices that promote racial equity.” Livingston has devoted the bulk of his academic career to diversity, leadership, and social justice and has consulted with “scores of Fortune 500 companies, federal agencies, nonprofits,” and more. What he’s discovered in his years of experience working this territory is that effective interventions to remediate racial inequity involve five key phases—a model he calls “PRESS.”1. Problem Awareness; 2. Root-cause analysis; 3. Empathy; 4. Strategies for addressing the problem; and 5. Sacrifice. Progress is possible if organizations are committed to moving through these five steps sequentially. Ultimately, “the real challenge for organizations is not figuring out ‘What can we do?’ but rather ‘Are we willing to do it?'” Engage with his robust slate of recommendations in the full article here.

Battling ‘Ambiguous Loss’

By now, none of us are strangers to the lingering malaise caused by COVID-19 surging through our lives, upending our routines, and seeping its protracted uncertainty into every area of daily existence. Many high-functioning, high-performing people report that they were operating in a heightened, even hyper-productive state, in the beginning of the crisis, relying on what experts call “surge capacity,” a “collection of adaptive systems—mental and physical—that humans draw on for short-term survival” in stressful situations. But this “surge capacity” is only designed for brief stints and temporary disasters. The pandemic is dragging on indefinitely and many people and leaders have depleted the energy stores provided by this physiological energy surge. Now, many of us are left dealing with what psychologists in this fascinating Elemental post call “ambiguous loss,” which is “any loss that’s unclear and lacks a resolution.”  This murky type of loss, while harder to understand than the more tangible types of grief we’re used to, still elicits the same feelings of denial, anger, bargaining, and low motivation. But it can be managed with a little creativity. Here, the author shares seven concrete strategies for battling “ambiguous loss” including embracing “both-and” thinking, building your resilience “bank account,” and more.

Leading in the Pandemic: 7 Principles

There’s no shortage of leadership advice for stewarding people through turbulent times but this practical Stanford Business post inspired by the advice of two Stanford professors really cuts to the quick on what’s needed right now in the unique circumstances we face as a global community. The first of their seven tips for being an exemplary leader during a crisis? “Don’t pass the buck.” This is particularly important in the current environment where job loss and furloughs are a ubiquitous and grim reality. It’s neatly summarized this way: “Being a good boss in a crisis means not only making hard decisions—often quickly and with limited information—but also taking responsibility for them.” Explore all seven of their leadership fundamentals here.

**For more on how to lead through crisis, explore ConantLeadership’s recent resources on the topic.

Building Better Employee Resource Groups

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be helpful in working towards building an anti-racist workplace explains this smart Forbes post by Frank Starling, a specialist in Diversity & Inclusion. Starling provides three expert tips for building better ERGs, the first of which is, “Keep it inclusive.” He explains, “talking about race in the workplace doesn’t have to feel punitive or retributive. Instead, it can be an enlightening and inclusive experience for everyone.” Allowing some non-Black employees to attend meetings or gatherings can help engage even more people, and colleagues from other marginalized groups, in discussions of race. Not for every meeting; Starling writes that while it’s important to preserve ERGs as “safe spaces for employees to be candid about their experiences, ERG leadership should consider allocating monthly or quarterly meetings to include allies.” Read all three of Starlings recommendations here.

Top CEOs Share What They’re Learning

What are CEOs of today’s high performing companies thinking and doing right now? How have they adapted to perilous times and what have they learned? That’s what BCG set out to discover in this illuminating piece that summarizes their conversations with over 100 CEOs about what they are doing to lead through crisis. Recent research shows that “strong” CEOs overperform compared to their competition by “leading differently along many dimensions.” Now, “the coronavirus has stretched and put those dimensions to the test.” The predominant insight revealed in these CEO conversations is that “purpose guides action,” and the power of purpose is more potent and front-and-center than ever before. One CEO explains that purpose helped her “move beyond grief to action” while another uses purpose to remind people “why we are working hard.” Transcending even these practical reasons for highlighting your company purpose is the human instinct for altruism; one CEO shares, “My people are asking how we are going to help, both in communities and globally.” Explore the full tapestry of insights and leadership competencies emphasized by these enlightening CEO conversations here.

Looking for more on purpose? Learn why it’s one of the key practice areas in our high-impact leadership model.

Recent Posts & Insights from ConantLeadership

Honor People in Uncertain Times

In this recent interview in LEADERS Magazine, ConantLeadership Founder, Doug Conant, shares the key to leading in times of uncertainty. Doug writes, “The changes that have been swiftly implemented in response to the pandemic are going to enable workers to live more well-rounded lives,” adding that, “this is an exciting opportunity to reimagine what the workweek can and should look like to best meet the needs of the people we are leading.” Ultimately, “the companies of the 21st century must be more vigilant in paying attention to all their stakeholders, not just their shareholders.” Read Doug’s full advice for honoring people here.

How to Lead Change No Matter Your Job Title

In times of chaos and complexity, people naturally look to leaders to inspire action and chart the course forward. What if that leader—the person making a difference—could be you? It can (and should) be.  You don’t need an official “leadership title” to lead change. And you don’t have to wait for someone else to point you in the right direction. You are empowered with the tools to make an impact right now—whoever you are, with whatever you have, wherever you are in life, in this exact moment. So—how to lead change no matter your job title? We have three guiding thoughts and a simple framework that will help you roll up your sleeves and get started here.

Leadership That Works for Who?

At ConantLeadership our mission is “championing leadership that works in the 21st century.” The recent killing of George Floyd, the outcry of pain and mourning in response to this senseless racism—and the countless similar injustices in Kentucky, Georgia, and across the country—call us to reflect on the question, “leadership that works for who?” It’s clear that for too long, leaders and the systems they represent have worked disproportionately for some people at the expense of others, in this and many other cases at the deadly expense of the Black community and, more broadly, communities of color. That must change. Truly effective leadership must work for everybody. Read ConantLeadership’s full statement here.

Showing Up with Greater Authenticity

“Your life story is your leadership story,” says Doug in this interview in Insigniam Quarterly.  “Everything that you’ve experienced in your life is showing you how to be the leader you’re meant to be,” and the six-step process he shares in his bestselling book, The Blueprint, is built around ” a continuous improvement process,” that helps you influence the world around you while being true to yourself. Doug sums it up succinctly: “The people who are thriving are well-anchored in who they are as leaders. They show up with three things: greater authenticity, greater effectiveness, and also greater impact in terms of performance.” Read the full interview here.

Enjoyed these links? Explore our suite of leadership resources here, register for our limited-run BLUEPRINT summer coaching series here, engage with posts about leading through crisis here, or join our mailing list here.


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Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School 

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