Name: LouAnn Conner
Job / Title: Founder CEO
Company: SagaciousThink, LLC
Industry: Management Consulting
Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.
LouAnn: I am an adjunct teacher for a variety of classes from international business and strategy to context of business and entrepreneurship. I was recently asked to lead a program on Leadership and Innovation at the Asian Institute of Management in Manila. Since my brother lives in Manila, I think I found a great way to get some visits in.
Q: Leadership - an outsider’s perspective.
LouAnn: I provide consultant expertise and interim operations leadership, helping companies at inflection points make the right choices, and then execute on them. Because of this work I get to observe how leaders work, what they think is important, and where they can stumble.
Q: What is leadership?
LouAnn: Leadership is the ability to bring people along on a journey. The strong leaders make the journey personal and realize that what is good for their people is good for the organization. The best leaders are ethical, they are learners, they nurture growth, and they fuel connection and belonging.
Q: What leadership challenges have you seen?
LouAnn: Every leader I’ve worked with wants to do what’s right, but many have encountered challenges to being the best that they can be, whether it is either self-imposed or otherwise. Some examples include:
When I think of the best leaders I’ve seen and who I aspire to emulate, they have these qualities:
- They have limited leader role models, perhaps having grown an organization themselves and are subsequently stymied because their knowledge of available tools is limited.
- They’re afraid to ask for help or see lack of knowledge as a sign of weakness. Conversely, they are not self-aware enough to recognize their weaknesses.
- Their entrepreneurial drive leads them to think they are they are the only one who knows what’s best for the organization, so they do not listen to their people.
- They give their people opportunities to stretch themselves and accept that failure may come with that, but it’s the empowerment and learning that are important.
- They help others become leaders in their own right – they recognize success and while they acknowledge it, they do not focus on failure.
- They know that the journey they are on requires them to learn and knowledge is not static. They are transparent about what is happening and why, and do not shy from acknowledging the challenges.
- They bring people together, maybe it’s a degree of being charismatic, but it’s mostly because of what they do. They follow up on what they say, they inspire trust – by treating everyone, not the same, but fairly, recognizing that each person has different needs and motivations.
Q: Does technology play a role in being a leader?
LouAnn: Technology makes leadership both easier and more challenging – easier in that it provides greater access to information and engagement than ever before so that leaders can make better choices, respond more rapidly to issues that impact their teams, and drive needed change in their organizations. One positive example is the ability of leaders to provide more rapid performance feedback – in real time allowing employees to learn what they are doing well and should focus on, thereby empowering and educating their people.
Technology can make leading tough as leaders can become enamored with the tools forgetting that engagement is the goal, and engagement is about people, and not everyone takes in information or learns the same way. A negative example I encountered was a company that sought to provide those performance reviews had marginal leaders believing the tool could be a proxy for tough conversations. They felt they could “check the box” with feedback because they submitted something on line. The result was that their team was disengaged and lacked motivation.