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The Best Leadership Links to Read Right Now

by | Feb 28, 2021

Today we dispatched the February 2021 edition of our Leadership That Works Newslettera curated digest of the best leadership links from around the web, sent at the end of each monthTopics covered in this month’s best leadership links to read right now: Forget perfection, rethink “imposter syndrome,” cultivate psychological safety, 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.

3 Commitments for Boards to Advance Racial Justice

As the urgent need to end systemic racism is coming more to the forefront of corporate agendas, “there is growing recognition of the need to transform this moment of racial reckoning into a broader racial justice movement that uproots and fundamentally alters the very systems and practices that have allowed racial inequity to persist in the workplace, the marketplace, and our communities,” write the authors of this smart and actionable piece in strategy+business. Organizations will not be able to live up to their bold promises around racial justice “without deep engagement from their board of directors,” but a gap persists between company leaders and their boards on this front. To close the gap, there are three explicit commitments “that can provide the basis for ongoing and deep investment from board directors,” and can create the necessary engagement to “resist the status quo.” Commitment #1? A racially inclusive board. Read all three commitments here.

Forget Perfection

“Perfectionism and the fear of failure go hand in hand,” writes the author of this wise piece in The Atlantic about honing the courage to make mistakes. It continues: “Surprisingly, people who fear failure do not need to extinguish the fear itself,” but rather they need to focus on developingand tapping intotheir reserves of courage so they are able to tame fear and take action. “Facing the fear of failure is more than just dealing with a problem; it is an opportunity to grow in virtue,” so you can release perfectionism’s stranglehold on your life (and leadership) and advance towards your goals. Read the author’s three practices for facing uncertainty, growing more courageous, and forgetting perfection here.

**For more on this topic, Doug Conant’s book, The Blueprint, features the axiom “Forget Perfection” as one of its central rallying cries and contains an entire chapter on developing the virtue of courage:

Confidence Doesn’t Mean Competence

“We often falsely equate confidence—most often, the type demonstrated by white male leaders—with competence and leadership,” but, “the same systems that reward confidence in male leaders, even if they’re incompetent, punish white women for lacking confidence, women of color for showing too much of it, and all women for demonstrating it in a way that’s deemed unacceptable,” write the authors of this powerful Harvard Business Review piece: “Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome.” The concept of “imposter syndrome,” takes somewhat universal feelings of “discomfort, second-guessing, and mild anxiety in the workplace,” and pathologizes it, “especially for women.” This creates the belief that it is women and their “syndrome” that need fixing, when it is really workplaces that need to be improved. “Leaders must create a culture for women and people of color that addresses systemic bias and racism,” in order to “reduce the experiences that culminate in so-called imposter syndrome,” or at least help employees “channel healthy self-doubt into positive motivation.” Read the full article here.

In a recent blog post, Salesforce announced that it is joining other tech companies in overhauling the ways it permits its employees to work. In this interesting coverage of Salesforce’s new policy in The Verge, leaders can find an adaptable blueprint for one potential way to structure a complete shift to more flexible work in the post-pandemic world and beyond. In their announcement, Salesforce proclaims “the 9-to-5 workday is dead; and the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks,” and goes on to define three different work categories that will now be permanently available to employees: “flex, fully remote, and office-based.” It’s hard to argue with their reasoning for the transformation: “It’s our responsibility as employers to empower our people to get the job done during the schedule that works best for them and their teams,” ultimately helping to make everyone, “more productive.” Read the full post here.
**For more on the world of flex work, explore our post, “3 Guiding Principles for Leading Remote Teams.


When COVID-19 upended our lives almost a year ago, video calling solutions emerged as a godsend for workers who still needed to collaborate even though interacting face-to-face had become hazardous. Zoom, and other similar applications, remain indispensable to modern teams in a time when in-person meetings continue to be fraught. That said, if you’re feeling particularly taxed and drained after a day of zooming with colleagues and clients, you’re not alone, reassures this fascinating National Geographic post on “zoom fatigue.” Part of the reason is that humans communicate non-verbally as well as verbally and our brains focus “partly on the words being spoken,” but also scan for “dozens of non-verbal cues,” and a typical video call impairs our natural inclination to seek clues for things that are subtextual and/or unspoken; this causes us to have to work harder to find meaning and reach understanding. Read the full article here.
A climate of psychological safety—where “employees feel comfortable asking for help, sharing suggestions informally, or challenging the status quo without fear of negative social consequences”—is present in organizations that are able to “innovate quickly, unlock the benefits of diversity, and adapt well to change,” according to this comprehensive McKinsey analysis. Recent research conducted during the pandemic confirms that “only a handful of business leaders” possess the competencies necessary to foster the psychologically safe environment that will allow their organizations to flourish. The same research shows that leadership is essential to employees’ sense of safety and found that “senior leaders can help create a culture of inclusiveness,” by “role-modeling these behaviors,” and that “investing in leadership development across an organization,” is the best way to effectively foster psychological safety. To get started, “invest in leadership-development experiences that are emotional, sensory, and create aha moments.” Read the full analysis and robust list of recommendations here.

**For an engaging and immersive leadership development experience that generates self-discovery and “aha moments,” join us at The BLUEPRINT Boot Camp by ConantLeadership,a 2-day leadership intensive which offers elite-level, highly interactive training with a community of your leadership peers:
As February draws to a close in a new year, “so much has changed—and yet so much hasn’t,” writes the author of this relatable Thrive Global post on staying focused in tough times.  Even as people get vaccinated and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s clearly “going to take time” before things resemble normalcy and the prolonged pandemic-induced lethargy persists for many, begging the question, “how do we stay motivated when we’re distracted and impatient?” While we can’t control the external forces that “have so completely disrupted our lives,” we can manage our response, taking steps to “maintain our mental resilience and help ourselves be productive.” The piece offers seven strategies to stay engaged even “when we’re just not feeling it,” including creating new rituals, maintaining boundaries, and allowing yourself the space to not be OK: “give yourself permission to do what you need to do.” Check out all seven tips here.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most employees despaired of the number of meetings they had,” and “the pandemic has amplified this suffering,” says this SmartBrief explainer on holding better meetings. A litany of meetings that feel unproductive and energy-zapping are “damaging to body, mind, and spirit,” but it doesn’t have to be this way—there are “better meeting methods” which can alleviate stress and despair. One fix is sharpening your “desired outcome statement” for any particular meeting. Research shows that meetings with a clear agenda “met their intended goals 93% of the time,” and a good agenda is “a roadmap,” which includes “the purpose, desired outcomes,” and clarity around time and resources. Focusing on desired outcomes reframes the meeting agenda from “what we aim to speak about” to “what we aim to achieve.” Try this and the other tips for fixing broken meetings outlined here.

**For more on this topic, check out our “CEO Manifesto for Better Meetings.

January’s Leadership That Works Newsletter

In last month’s newsletter: Beat WFH burnout, fix your focus,  learn to speak up, and more. Dig into the full link roundup here.

More from ConantLeadership:

Five Fundamentals of Effective Crisis Leadership
The Power of a Leadership Foundation
The Valuable Investment of Leadership Development

Enjoyed these links? Explore our suite of leadership resources here, sign up for one of our 2021 virtual BLUEPRINT Boot Camps here, or join our mailing list here

(Cover Photo by KS KYUNG on Unsplash) 


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