The Three C’s of Effective Leadership

I’ve been reading “Call Sign Chaos” by General James Mattis USMC (ret) which chronicles his efforts to learn and implement lessons in how to be an effective leader. Mattis started his Marine Corps career when offered a choice between enlistment and jail. He started as an infantry grunt, became a General officer, and was appointed Secretary of Defense.

General Mattis boils down leadership fundamentals to “Three C’s” They are competence, caring, and conviction. Let’s look at these elements and how they may be applied to our roles as leaders.

Competence: We must have a passion for our fields and an unrelenting desire to master them. Self-analysis is required at every level of our advancement. We must identify our strengths and capitalize on them. We must admit our weaknesses and strive to overcome them. We need to read widely and endeavor to learn from the mistakes of others so that we don’t repeat them in our roles. Very little is learned from success, but there is a great deal to be learned from our failures. The confidence which grows from competence is recognized by those we lead, and they will demonstrate their respect and commitment to our goals in return.

Caring: Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they see how much you care”. Think about that teacher, commanding officer, or boss who got you fired up to perform at the highest level. I suspect that you will find that you believed she cared about you personally, assisted in your growth, and helped you analyze your failures. I always tell bosses to manage down, not up. Show your people that you care. Protect them when under pressure and reward them for excellent performance. When we care deeply for those who work for us, we can be honest in criticism. We can honestly evaluate results and help the individual to improve.

Conviction: Those we lead size us up quickly. If our teams’ sense that we are 100% committed to attaining our goals, and we demonstrate dogged determination to succeed. they will respond in kind. We must communicate our rules of engagement and ensure that they are understood by all. We must be confident that they know what we will stand for and, more importantly what we will not tolerate. If we are clear, our peers will invest us with respect which in turn, our teams will recognize and respect as well.  By sticking to those rules; we may set expectations, avoid favoritism, and lead effectively.

Competence, caring, and conviction combine to form essentials of effective leadership. They shape the ethos of your team. We must all capture the hearts and souls of our employees. If we are successful at instilling a sense of commitment and purpose in the face of challenges, our teams will buy in to our goals and do their utmost to achieve success.