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Fascinating Leadership Links to Read Right Now

by | Mar 31, 2021

Today we dispatched the March 2021 edition of our Leadership That Works Newslettera curated digest of the most fascinating leadership links from around the web, sent at the end of each monthTopics covered in this month’s fascinating leadership links to read right now: beat burnout, make better decisions, solidarity and solutions from AAPI leaders, 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.

Fulfill Your Promise to Make Your Board More Diverse

“Despite reports that U.S. board directors are increasingly interested in diversity, PwC’s latest Annual Corporate Directors Survey found that diversity among board members remains abysmally low,” says this Harvard Business Review piece that urges leaders and directors to follow through on their verbal promises to make their boards more diverse. While most public company directors say they recognize the value of including more women and people of color in the boardroom, a fall 2020 analysis found “that just 12.5% of board directors were from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups,” and only “4% of directors were Black,” while female directors held only “21% of board seats”—a marked improvement from the 13% women held in 2015, but still a stark minority. Based on their research, PwC has compiled “four of the most commonly cited reasons for why boards lack diversity—and what directors can do to overcome these real and imagined obstacles” in the full article here.


Hybrid Work Is Here to Disrupt. Are You Ready?

“We’re on the brink of a disruption as great as last year’s sudden shift to remote work: the move to hybrid work—a blended model where some employees return to the workplace and others continue to work from home,” explains this comprehensive report and guide from Microsoft. Employers need to adapt quickly, because as the world shifts drastically, “over 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year,” now that workers’ sphere of opportunity has expanded with remote opportunities. This means that “a thoughtful approach to hybrid work will be critical for attracting and retaining diverse talent.” To successfully meet this moment of disruption, organizations need to be aware of emerging trends such as leaders being increasingly out of touch with employees, high productivity masking rampant burnout, the fact that authenticity can transform work culture, and more. The good news is: now that “we are no longer bound to traditional notions of space and time to work together,” we can “set aside our long-held assumptions and shift our mental model to embrace extreme flexibility,” and the full report provides five strategies for rewiring your operating mode here.

**For more on this, check out our 3 guiding principles for leading remote teams

Solidarity & Solutions from AAPI Leaders

“The shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 16, which resulted in the deaths of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, was a horrific culmination of the injustice the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” write the authors of this thoughtful Marie Claire piece which amplifies the voices of six prominent AAPI leaders who offer solidarity and solutions for “the future they envision for Asians in America and the change they’d like to see.” While there is no “quick fix for racism,” these leaders offer concrete steps “we can take as a society to protect, empower, and uplift” the AAPI community—including building better workplaces with “truly equitable representation,” that eliminates “barriers that are keeping Asian women, other women of color, and LGBTQ+ workers from succeeding” at work. Read the full slate of insights and recommendations here.


Rethinking Mentorship

The advice to “find a mentor” is ubiquitous, almost universally issued to young people as they pursue their chosen career. On its face, it’s an innocuous piece of advice, a no-brainer. But a new study covered in this interesting KelloggInsight piece pokes at the conventional wisdom around mentorship and offers fresh insights about what makes it successful and worthwhile to both parties—mentor and mentee. Traditionally, the assumption has been that a mentor’s value and primary role is to impart subject matter expertise. However, this study reveals that what really constitutes a “special sauce” for mentoring success is something that transcends mere expertise—”tacit knowledge” is the key, which is knowledge that goes beyond what the necessary skills are and enters the realm of how knowledge is applied: “how they brainstorm, how they interact with collaborators, and so on—knowledge that is difficult to codify and often learned by doing.” For better mentor relationships and outcomes, explore the full analysis here.

**For an exercise that might improve how you show up in a mentorship role, explore our post on how to be a leadership hero.

The COVID-19 pandemic—with its new and unique stressors—has exacerbated employee burnout, but the issue already existed prior to the pandemic and it won’t quickly recede once life returns to something that resembles normal. This SmartBrief post covering the insights contained in the book “Beating Burnout at Work,” provides actionable steps for understanding and helping to ameliorate burnout. The most important takeaway? Shifting our framing of burnout as an individual’s problem to a “systems-based” problem is key. Because “teams are little systems,” that are “more malleable and faster to change,” they are a great place to look for the antidote to employees’ feelings of depletion and mental exhaustion. Luckily, there a six crucial “pathways” through which teams can fend off burnout and cultivate resilience and you can explore all six in the full post here.


Make Better Decisions

“Sometimes success is just about avoiding failure,” advises this smart Farnam Street post on avoiding bad decisions. A powerful strategy for making better decisions is by simply avoiding ill-advised missteps. There are five big reasons people make bad decisions covered in the full post here—and one we found particularly resonant is the common mistake of failing to learn because “if you can’t learn, you can’t get better.” To truly learn from our experiences, “we must reflect” on how we react to our environment; no matter how busy we get, reflection must be part of the process because “only reflection allows us to distill experience into something we can learn from to make better decisions in the future.”

**For an engaging and immersive leadership development experience centered around a structured 6-step process for reflection and learning, 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: conantleadership.com/bootcamp

In Crisis, Leaders Must Connect

“Every day, as individuals and leaders, we’re experiencing and enduring the impact of multiple crises that will have lasting mental health effects,” explains this ATD article on how leaders can best show up for their teams. Now more than ever, leaders can’t brush past or circumvent the issues: “For too long, we have treated difficult conversations—conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion, or mental health—as separate from the ‘real work’ we are doing,” but increasingly these types of dialogues are part of the “real work.” To foster deeper connections, leaders must create “psychological safety,” a term coined by Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson which refers to people’s ability to speak up, make mistakes, voice ideas, and offer suggestions without fear of retribution or ostracization.  “As we start to think through what the next normal and future of work will demand from leaders, the focus will be around the most ‘human skills’,” and leaders can develop these skills and create psychologically safe cultures by being more curious, leaning into tough conversations, connecting more authentically, and more. Read the full article here.

**For more on this, read our five fundamentals of Effective Crisis Leadership

The Workplace of the Future

As hybrid work looms on the horizon and organizations are planning for their employees to return to work—at least part of the time—how are offices adapting their workplaces to accommodate the new world wherein many associates will only be coming into the office 1-3 days per week? According to this piece in The New York Times, we can expect “expanded gathering spaces and fewer personal workstations,” as “workplaces are being reimagined for activities benefiting from face-to-face interaction, including collaboration on projects and employee training.” Another thing that will be common is personal desks “being replaced with ‘hoteling’ workstations, also called hot desks, which can be used by whoever needs a place to touch down for the day.” Offices are also getting major technological upgrades to prepare for a largely remote workforce that will need to interface with in-office personnel—with many companies building conference rooms into “zoom rooms” with multiple screens, microphones, and cameras. Read all about what’s coming to the workplace in the full piece here.

Posts & Insights from ConantLeadership

How to Build Trust Post-Pandemic

This new ConantLeadership post compiles advice from three top leadership experts for building and strengthening trust with your stakeholders in a post-pandemic world—including telling your people how much you care, and then showing it tangibly and repeatedly.


3 Ways to Improve Your Cultural Fluency

“Cultural fluency in leadership is critical for building trust, and is a competency that has been linked to financial performance, out-of-the box thinking, and increased productivity. So why don’t more corporate leaders possess this skill?” ask authors Jane Hyun and Doug Conant in this timely 2019 Harvard Business Review piece. They continue: “For leaders to engage their workforce to deliver maximum value, they must learn how to fully utilize the talent of all employees, not just those who are similar to themselves.” Learn how to improve your cultural fluency in the full piece here.

CEOs Must Find Their Courage

“True leadership competence is contingent upon your ability to develop courage,” writes Doug Conant in this Chief Executive excerpt from The Blueprint that challenges leaders to find their strength and bravely answer the unique call of leadership in 2021 and beyond.


February’s Leadership That Works Newsletter

In last month’s newsletter: Forget perfection, rethink ‘imposter syndrome,’ understanding ‘zoom fatigue,’ and more.

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. 

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