Secret Sauce Sundays are my opportunity to invite leaders who I respect to share ideas that have changed their leadership. Today, Doug Conant shares 5 secrets to leadership success.

For the past 20 years of his leadership journey, Doug has honed his craft at the most senior levels – first as President of the Nabisco Foods Company, then as CEO of Campbell Soup Company, and finally as Chairman of Avon Products.

#1. Give thanks earnestly and often. (See full post on Secret #1.)

#2. Be tough-minded on standards AND tender-hearted with people.

One thing that helped me enormously on my leadership journey was making a simple but powerful mindset switch — from “or” to “and.”  Many leaders think in terms of “either”, “or.” They think you have to be either tough or tender.

Why not commit yourself to doing both? Hold people to a high standard while simultaneously honoring them with your behavior and caring about them as people. In fact, I’ve found that doing so is the best way to get things done. And, it’s a highly effective way to engage employees and create an organization that delivers for all your stakeholders.

Next time a thought creeps into your head with the word “or”, try replacing it with “and”, and see how that alters your path forward in a productive or surprising way.

#3. Leadership is more than just a job.

If you treat leadership as a regular job, you are likely to get regular results.

To inspire, influence, and motivate people – and to advance the agenda of your organization – approach leadership as a craft to be mastered.

Leaders of high-performing companies don’t steer their organization towards greatness by the seat of their pants. They master their craft through:

  1. Deliberate practice.
  2. Continuous learning.
  3. Careful planning.  

To produce extraordinary results, you must put extraordinary effort into your leadership. So, I always try to remember that leadership is a craft: honed with intention, practiced mindfully, and improved constantly.

#4. To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.

A winning workplace puts people at the forefront.

Leadership is all about the people.

A belief that guides me is: you must create an environment where people thrive.

You might be able to achieve satisfactory results with low-engagement in the short-term. But there is no proven way to build enduring success in the marketplace without finding a way to succeed in the workplace.

One issue I’ve seen time and again is that many leaders consider a focus on “employee engagement” as a mere tactic or an afterthought. They know it’s worthy of some attention, but they don’t realize how essential it is to creating a high-performance organization.

You can’t do it without building trust. Which is why Inspiring Trust is at the center of my leadership model: The ConantLeadership Flywheel.

#5. We always have a choice.

No matter the complexity of our circumstances or the adversity we face, I believe we always have a choice in how we respond. No, we can’t always control what other people say or do to us. But we always have an opportunity to choose our response.

It’s a powerful thing to remember. Especially when things are hard or unfair. It can be tempting sometimes to feel victimized or to make excuses. But I’ve learned that we can always choose to stretch ourselves and embrace our full capability. We can often rise to the challenge, whatever it is. We can stand tall and lean in to our work with greater intensity.

Most importantly, we can always do a little better than we did the last time – we can respond more calmly, engage more productively, elevate the interaction more deftly; we can always make the choice to go one step beyond what is expected and rise above the status quo.

This belief has served me very well on my journey. And I’ve seen it help many others, too. Hopefully, it is helpful to you.

Which secret is most important from you point of view?

To learn more about the leadership beliefs that guide Doug, explore ConantLeadership’s  suite of leadership resources, learn more about his high-impact leadership model, The ConantLeadership Flywheel, or apply to attend one of his upcoming leadership boot camps. You can also always tweet Doug questions or comments @DougConant or drop him a line on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Douglas R. Conant is an internationally renowned C-suite business leader, New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and leadership coach with over 45 years of experience at world-class global companies. In 2011, he founded ConantLeadership: a mission-driven community of leaders and learners who are championing leadership that works in the 21st century.

*I suspend my 300 word limit on Secret Sauce Sundays.