Five things every leader should do in a crisis: Advice from former Campbell CEO Doug Conant

May 11, 2020

Photo above: Doug Conant speaking at the virtual town hall.

At a virtual town hall April 21, Doug Conant—CEO of ConantLeadership and a Partnership board member—shared five concepts to help leaders carry out their responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Leadership is sacred ground because you impact the lives of others everyday with your leadership behaviors,” he said. “Therefore, you have to treat it as if it is sacred ground and work hard at it.”

The points Conant offered at the event, called “Leading Through Crisis,” apply to both the current crisis and other crises leaders may face.

  1. It’s not about you. “It’s all about the people who work with you,” he said. “Ensure you know where people are coming from and search for ways to meet their needs while you’re delivering the agenda of your enterprise.”
  2. “How” is more important than “what.” “What you can do is figure out how you manage the ‘what’ day-to-day by creating certainty for your team,” he said, suggesting large crises be broken into three pieces: the crisis, the transformation from the old way to the new way and the new normal.
  3. Clarity and connection are next to godliness. “If there is a clear agenda, people know what to do and people follow it,” he said, highlighting that it’s equally important to ask your colleagues if they understand the task and agenda, and for them to repeat it back.
  4. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. It’s vital to keep people as up to date as you can and create communications plans to help convey messages in systematic fashion.
  5. Heightened transparency and gratitude will serve you well in times like these. It’s important to “find a new gear and take your transparency and gratitude to a new place,” he said. In a crisis, be sure to “celebrate what works because it adds to the clarity of the message.”

This town hall was the first of what ConantLeadership plans to be a monthly series. You can find more information about the town halls on the company’s website at conantleadership.com. You can also learn more about Conant’s perspective on leadership in his book The Blueprint.

For more information about how the Partnership has incorporated Conant’s leadership theories into its programs, check out the Public Service Leadership Model and visit the Partnership’s programs page.

Doug Conant is an internationally renowned business leader, New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker and social media influencer, with more than 40 years of leadership experience at world-class global companies. For the past 20 years, he 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. In 2011, he founded ConantLeadership: a mission-driven community of leaders and learners who are championing leadership that works in the 21st century.