The C-Level Practices of True Leaders
Our nation is in the midst of a severe leadership crisis. At a time when leadership is needed the most, our society’s ability to produce or follow sound leadership is waning. Maybe it is the information overload with which we are besieged. Hopefully this will eventually create a level of knowledge that will bring people to a better understanding of leadership, but as we move through this crisis it is evident that we are missing the true ingredients of a leader.
In business, we often refer to the management skills of C-level executives but I would like to take this opportunity to share the C-level practices of true leaders.
Cooperation: It is never about who is right; rather, true leaders only seek what is right. They do not allow their ego to get too close to their position, because they realize their own limitations. A real leader is driving and motivating people to discover what is right and then he or she rallies the troops around that target, goal or process. This is why leaders possess the interesting trait of rarely taking the credit. People who are put in leadership roles could learn a valuable lesson from the coaching profession – when the team wins it was because of the players and when the team loses it is always the fault of the coach. A real leader/coach knows that it is always up to him or her, but it is never about him or her. Leave your ego at the door, please!
Collaboration: The spirit of collaboration requires maturity of the soul. The immature cannot bring themselves to share with others, even competitors, who have the same goals. However, when you realize that together you can make the tide rise faster and serve the betterment of all, your ship will rise too. If it doesn’t rise, it is probably because there are holes in the hull; it is not the competition beating you; you have defeated yourself. Very rarely do we lose to the competition; in most cases we do not perform to our best capabilities.
Communication: True leaders communicate in the language that the audience wants to hear and can understand. Leadership is optimistic and driven by positive results, rather than blaming or being accusatory.
Competence: A real leader understands that wisdom is everything you learn after you know it all. The path of understanding and wisdom never stops, so leaders always seek wisdom in everything they do.
Competitive: Today, every child receives a trophy for playing on a sports team. Why? To appease the parents, not to motivate the child. This practice started nobly – to build positive self-esteem and to balance coaches who were ego driven and managed the students negatively. However, the long-term effects of equalization and rewarding participation at the same level as actual achievement is now seen in our youth as they grow into adulthood. There has never been anything wrong with winning. Where winning goes wrong is when it is the only measure of success and winning is at someone else’s expense. Winning and money possess the same allure, but should never be the measuring tool or the objective. They are the result of doing right things over and over again.
Coach John Wooden, after winning 10 national championships, never used the word “win” in speaking with his teams – it was always about achieving your absolute best. Competitive greatness is being your best, when your best is needed. A competitive spirit would rather fight it out and lose than win in a pushover. That is healthy competition and it should be encouraged and inspired.
Coach: A real leader is a coach. A coach must have the courage to act or nothing ever gets done. The coach/leader knows how to encourage others and the root word of encourage is “courage.” It takes courage to act and offer encouragement to others. It is much easier to find what is wrong and be critical of others – anyone can do that, it takes no special talent. And today, many of those in leadership roles are more critical of each other and setting the worst example possible.
Courage: And the sum total of all of this is courage. Warren Bennis said it best when he commented, “Leadership is turning vision into reality.” It takes courage to cast a vision because you are discussing things unseen in people’s future. It takes courage to act in spite of the opposition telling you that vision is not possible. It takes courage to admit your mistakes along the way but still stay the course. Simply put, leadership takes courage.
But most importantly we need proper vision. The greatest definition on leadership I have ever read is: “to courageously pursue a vision in such a way that it resonates with the souls of people.”
Jeff Piersall is the co-founder and CEO of SCB Marketing. Contact him at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (321) 537-4941.