The Four Cs of Leadership

We have enough recipes for leadership to fill a cookbook.

These are normally written as a concise list of qualities that you throw into your pedagogical pot, mix together and gently heat. Some even contain magic ingredients, a plus one.

The leadership recipes come from all over the world and not just within education.

So what can we learn from this diversity?

We can learn plenty but it is how we use them that matters.

We can try a few of the recipes out for ourselves and see what works. We can tweak and edit recipes and even combine them.

Some recipes rely on just a few ingredients and conveniently some of these all share the same initial letter to make our lives easier.

According to some leadership chefs, the four Cs of leadership make a good recipe. But there are variations and many people have different interpretations of what the four C’s actually are.

As we look at a few examples, some ingredients keep popping up and appear to be non-negotiable staples and then there are recipes with a few added twists.

Let’s take a look at a few:

General David McKiernan argues that “the right basic leader values from initial leadership roles to senior positions of authority” are:

1. Competency: being operationally and technically skilled at what the organisation does.

2. Commitment: placing heart and soul into the enterprise, and most importantly, its people but keeping wellbeing and life in balance.

3. Courage: the intellectual and moral courage, to simply take the “hard right over the easy wrong.” It’s about knowing what the right thing to do is and be brave enough to do it.

4. Candour: always articulating what you, the leader, believe to be truthful.

Sterling (2019) talks about courage, commitment, consistency and compassion.

1. Courage: Aristotle referred to courage as the first virtue of leadership. It is courage that makes all the other virtues of leadership possible. As a leader, you have to be willing to do the hard things, even when not popular.

2. Commitment: leaders must be committed to the mission of the organisation and be committed to the teams of individuals who work for them.

3. Consistency: staff don’t want to be surprised, they want predictable results and outcomes. Leaders need to be clear in their intent and to stick to what they say.

4. Compassion:  this is one of the basic ingredients for forming a healthy work environment because it provides stability and psychological safety. When staff feel they are in a safe environment, they are more willing to take risks which can result in more innovation in the workplace.

Pais says that the 4 Cs of leadership are competence, candour, connect and character.

1. Competence: this is walking the walk and talking the talk. It’s about going the extra mile, turning up no matter what the challenge and demonstrating personal growth.  Competence is having high intention, intense effort, a definite direction and skilful execution.

2. Candour: leaders have to be candid and by being honest they can establish, build and nurture trust and grow influence with others.

3. Connection: leaders have to know their staff and build relationships. This involves understanding and openly connecting with team members.

4. Character: this personifies who you really are and shows what you’re truly made of. Character sustains meaningful relationships and relationships enhance your ability to lead and influence others. Our character defines who we are by how we respond to the situations and circumstances of life.

Adopting a Four Cs Leadership recipe can acts as a framework to assess, evaluate and develop ourselves as leaders and provide effective leadership. Having a clear model of leadership improves organisational performance on a sustainable basis.

There is an underlying similarity between ideas about what the four Cs of leadership stand for but there are other Cs that we can add into our cooking pots.

Along with consistency, Burningham (2019) suggests clarity, celebration and charity.

But there are plenty more that others consider important including: conversation, conviction, charisma, confidence, collaboration, compass, calmness, communication, critical thinking, creativity, cooperation, champion, common sense, coaching, camaraderie, capacity, care, confidence, credibility, congruence, civility, cognition, and curiosity.

What Cs do you consider important in your definition of leadership and which ingredients would you not put in?

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