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The 4 C’s of being a successful leader.

Almost all are familiar with the 4 C’s that we want our students to graduate with. They would be creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. While there are other attributes that we as educators try to instill in our students, such as organization, emotional intelligence, growth mindset, etc. if our graduates only possess these 4 C’s, they will have a very good chance at succeeding in life. So, that got me thinking about important attributes that successful leaders share. However, if I asked 100 leaders what they felt were the top attributes for success, I would get undoubtedly get a very long and varied list. With that in mind, my attempt at identifying 4C’s of leadership is not meant to be an inclusive list. In a previous blog, I identified 6 characteristics I felt were necessary for leaders to be successful. With that in mind, my attempt at finding the 4 C’s of successful leadership is to align with the 4C’s of successful graduates. Here they are in no particular order.

Caring: Successful leaders build strong relationships. A core tenet of a healthy relationship is caring. As the leader, caring shows that you are invested in the health and welfare of those under your direction. Caring is also a two-way street. As the leader demonstrates caring to their subordinates, they will in turn start to care about the leader. When you have a team that cares about one another, up and down the chain of command, you have the foundation for great success. As John Maxwell said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

Challenging: The leader can never be satisfied. That is, a successful leader needs to challenge everyone within their organization to consistently improve. That includes themselves. This can be a delicate tactic to successfully utilize as most get defensive when their work product is questioned. However, the leader needs to lead by example by demonstrating what this looks like. The leader needs to openly share their performance and how they will improve upon it. This needs to be done consistently by the leader so that their staff members understand that they are expected to do the same. Every team member needs to consistently evaluate their performance and look for ways to improve. As my friend and colleague, Dr. Michael Snell would remind me, “Never arrive”.

Compassion: A compassionate leader take the time to get to know their staff members on a deep level. Whether that be knowing their family members, recognizing their personal/professional struggles, or understanding their ethnic makeup. Compassion allows the successful leader to look past the what so that can understand the why behind their staff member's words and actions. When the leader truly understands why things are occurring, they can then properly plan for the future. As Rudy Giuliani said, “Compassion doesn’t weaken leadership, it makes it stronger”.

Confidence: The leader sets the tone for the organization. Staff members will look toward the leader to gauge their actions. That is why the successful leader is the fist to work and the last to leave. They speak and dress professionally. They are caring, challenging, and compassionate. Additionally, they need to be confident in their decisions and actions. This can be especially difficult for new leaders because they lack experiences to draw on. That being said, new leaders, once they gather other's input, need to be decisive in their actions and take ownership of the outcomes. Regardless if they are successful. Think of extreme ownership. Staff members don’t expect new leaders to be perfect, however, they need to be able to rely upon and trust the leader's decisions. They need to feel confident. Quoting Peter McIntyre, “Confidence comes from not always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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