Today’s “7 Question – 7 Sentence Interview.” is with Douglas R. Conant is Chairman of Avon Products; Founder & CEO, ConantLeadership; Chairman, Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute; Chairman, CECP; Board of Directors, AmerisourceBergen; Former President, CEO & Director, Campbell Soup Company; and NYT Bestselling Author of Touchpoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments. Connect with him on Twitter @DougConant, as well as on LinkedIn and Facebook.
1. If you had to choose one personality quality as being more essential than any other in regards to leadership what would it be and why?
The most essential quality in leadership is more of a notion than a characteristic – it’s the idea of being both tough-minded on standards and tender-hearted with people.
2. What is the most common mistake that leaders make when it comes to managing people?
A common mistake is aiming for mere compliance over quality commitment – when you “order” people to do something without valuing their opinion or getting their buy-in, they might do what you say, but you risk leaving a reservoir of ill-will in your wake — whereas if you get people committed to the task at hand and the larger mission, they will do their best in a meaningful way.
3. In your opinion is technology posing any new challenges for today’s leaders?
Absolutely – It is not necessarily the technology itself that poses the biggest challenge so much as the breakneck pace at which we work in the modern age and the overwhelming amount of information, requests, and demands that bombard us constantly as a result of the technology; as leaders we need to learn that these endless interruptions aren’t keeping us from the work, they are the work, and act accordingly to transform each “interruption” into a meaningful interaction that advances our work and the work of the people we seek to lead.
4. Who are the 3 leaders throughout history that you admire more than any other?
There are countless great leaders and leadership thinkers who inspire me, and whose work inspires me, but three who standout from years past are Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Mother Teresa – 3 of the many whose work inspires me in current day are Angela Merkel, Indra Nooyi, and Ellen Kullman.
5. Do you see any common threads in the backgrounds/upbringings of our most effective leaders?
I’m not sure there’s a common thread in the backgrounds – I think the uniting thread is that the most effective leaders are driven by a strong commitment to mastery of their leadership craft – they are tenacious about getting better every day and learning from the people around them, and they are hyper-aware that in a competitive, Darwinian business world one must keep growing continually or perish.
6. If you, Doug, could be endowed with one supernatural power what would it be?
To be able to see beyond what is being said – I find if I really understand a situation I can be helpful (and most people can be helpful when they really understand) but often there are factors inhibiting a full understanding – if I could see beyond what is being said in each situation I could be my most helpful self.
7. When you take that final look through the rearview mirror, if there was one thing that you wanted to be known for in your work with leaders what would it be?
In a sentence, my purpose, and what I would hope to be known for, has been: to help build world-class organizations that defy the critics and thrive in the face of adversity.