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The Power of a Leadership Foundation—in the Best of Times & Worst of Times

When difficult questions arise like the ones leaders have today in the face of a global pandemic—How will you protect your employees? How will you meet the needs of all your stakeholders in a rapidly changing world? How will you take swift action when necessary for the greater good? How can you adapt to crises that critically threaten small and large businesses across the globe?—they clearly need a strong leadership Foundation to guide their response.

Let me explain.

Earlier this month, we published our new book, The Blueprint: 6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership To New Heights, into the teeth of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Its publication date of March 4th already seems like a lifetime ago with all that has transpired since. We have had to re-imagine and revisit our launch plans on-demand.  Events cancelled. Talks postponed. Schedules shifted. (And that pales to the more difficult adjustments many other business have had to make.) But throughout it all, I feel grateful.

I am grateful to be buoyed by a strong leadership Foundation which always speaks to me. I know I can rely on it. My Foundation gives me strength and clarity in the best of times and the worst of times. It’s helped me to reflect on the right path forward and has empowered me to take decisive leadership actions in a timely way.

And any leader worth their salt can and must do the same. People need adept leaders now more than ever.

In fact, this is what The Blueprint is really all about.  We wrote it out of a sincere desire to empower all leaders throughout the world to build a reservoir of strength and clarity to draw upon—not just in easy times but in times of strife, uncertainty, and even chaos. The power of a Foundation has never been more evident, necessary, or important.

In the best of times

The Blueprint was written during the “best of times” (relatively speaking) but was built around the inevitability of disruption and catastrophe. The concept of a Foundation — and the central metaphor of the book — is anchored in intention and preparation for exactly the type of situation we are facing today.

Ask any good structural engineer and they’ll tell you that the trick to building a soaring skyscraper is laying a deep foundation. Without a sturdy foundation, a tall building is susceptible to all kinds of calamities. It can topple under its own weight and it may not be able to withstand natural disasters like high winds or earthquakes. If the foundation is not deep and strong, the building will not be able to weather the storms to come.

The same thing is true in leadership.

Leaders who succeed in the face of adversity have a sturdy and secure Foundation.

From our perspective, that Foundation comprises:

  • A strong leadership purpose
  • A set of leadership beliefs (derived from thoughtful personal reflection and study)
  • Is codified in a personal leadership model that guides one’s leadership behavior
  • Is brought to life by each leader with a set of easy-to-implement leadership practices that naturally fit in their busy lives (a practice treasury)
  • An improvement plan for continuous growth and betterment

Leaders who operate from this strong Foundation are less likely to be phased or waylaid by adversity and crises. They are able to stand firm and tall, secure in who they are and confident in how they can adapt to any situation.

The Foundation is what you create. The 6-step Blueprint process is how you create it.

This process seeks to help every leader find their unique leadership voice so they can deal with the challenges of the day. And there will always be challenges.

But perhaps it is not immediately clear how a Foundation can help.

Allow me to share how I have personally relied on it in recent weeks.

Our purpose at ConantLeadership is championing leadership that works in the 21st century. It’s operating philosophy, and one of our core beliefs, is bringing a “How Can Help?” mentality to all our endeavors. These elements are further codified by my leadership model, The ConantLeadership Flywheel, which is designed to guide our behavior and decision making.

The ConantLeadership Flywheel

The ConantLeadership Flywheel has 8 interconnected tenets of leadership that speak to my personal approach to leading people through change. I arrived at them by going through the Blueprint process of reflection and study.

The first three tenets are at the heart of the model:  honoring people, inspiring trust, and clarifying higher purpose.  The final five tenets continuously revolve around those three tenets creating a flywheel effect: create direction, drive alignment, build vitality, execute with excellence, and produce extraordinary results.  

This model informs how we operate in both good times and bad. It informs not only how we plan and how we look ahead, but also how we respond to stimulus in the moment—whether that stimulus is a new client opportunity or a public health crisis. No matter what, we always put people at the heart of our behaviors, ask ourselves, “how can I help?,” and go from there.

In the Worst of Times

This is where you can see the power of codifying your leadership approach.

The ConantLeadership Flywheel, as part of my Foundation, has helped us to react quickly to this crisis — and it will continue to do so. Because we placed honor people at the heart of our model, we did not have to hesitate to close our offices and allow the ConantLeadership team to work from home for their safety and for the safety of others. Even now, some companies are dragging their feet on this, but it is easy to make tough decisions when you have codified what matters most. Swift action in service to the greater good helps to continue to inspire trust and is aligned with our higher purpose.

But it’s not all about warm fuzzies and doing what’s right (although that part is very important). The model helps us to remain effective and to continue to deliver results no matter what.

Because we have already created a content platform that is credibly dedicated to honoring people, inspiring trust, and being purpose-driven, we can modify our book launch—and all our other endeavors—more seamlessly.

To create direction in these stressful times, we have shifted our launch efforts from an in-person approach to a purely “virtual” approach that drives alignment with all of our stakeholder groups across the leadership community and fully leverages our social media platform.  

We are quickly implementing work-from-home practices that allow us all to stay connected, actively working to support and maintain the vitality of our “small but hearty” team at ConantLeadership through this rapid change process so that we can continue to execute with excellence and produce extraordinary results. Throughout it all, we’re asking each other, “how can I help?” so we have a stable support system in a difficult time of social distancing.

It’s not a struggle or a slog to arrive at these solutions because we already know what matters most, what our beliefs are, and how we intend to behave, because we have already done the work to get there. It’s all been laid down like concrete in our Foundation and everything we do arises from there. We have a sturdy approach—so we can remain solid even as the tumultuous winds of change and uncertainty swirl around us.

Your Foundation

Circumstances like the one we face today, while they are very urgent and alarming, are not unique to the moment. They will arise again when this passes. A different set of challenges is always just around the corner.

That’s why the best time to build your Foundation is before you need it.  When the “worst of times” sweep across your leadership life—which they will—it’s a relief to have your Foundation already in place so that you can be in the best position possible to make the most of your leadership abilities—to help lead others through whatever comes your way.

But that does not mean you cannot start today. Even taking the first step can help you respond more nimbly in the days and weeks to come. And it sets you up for success when the next crisis creates upheaval.

With a Foundation in place, you can lead people through change when they need leadership desperately. Without a Foundation in place, many leaders are likely to crumble under the pressure, letting down the people who are relying on them.

With this in mind, I encourage all leaders to create their own Foundation for success. I urge you to choose the proactive path.  You can do it and The Blueprint can help.  Give it a try. And let me know how it goes. Reach out to me on social media (links below) and keep in touch with the Conant team on email. We may be physically apart but we’re all in this together. Let’s stay connected and help pull each other through.

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Just want to dip your toe into the Blueprint process? Read the first chapter for free: https://start.conantleadership.com/the-blueprint/

Doug Conant is remarkable—and so is this work.
– Stephen M. R. Covey
Author of The Speed of Trust

The Blueprint

The Blueprint

6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights

By Douglas Conant with Amy Federman

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