Thursday, April 27, 2006

The 6 C’s of Leadership

I just came back from Mike Milken’s Global Conference in Los Angeles, where I participated in a panel discussion of how small to medium sized businesses can capitalize on the opportunities of globalization. Great conference, though I confess it’s daunting to be in a hotel surrounded by Nobel laureates.

But I digress. No matter what subject was discussed during the three days—national security, global warming, health care, corporate competitive advantage, etc.—the subject of leadership was never far behind. Unsurprisingly, the need for leadership today is more important than ever before. Rafael Pastor, the ex-President of USA Networks and current CEO of Vistage International, and Barry Sternlicht, the ex-CEO of Starwood Hotels and current head of Starwood Capital Group, both had some astute comments on the subject. Coincidentally, and surprisingly, both of them summarized their perspectives with concepts beginning with a “C”, so it’s really easy to combine their viewpoints and come up with a "C" list of leadership attributes necessary for success in the 21st century. I wish I had enough poetry to come up with this list, but at least I can use my own words in describing the six elements:

1. Courage: Great leaders take risks. They are willing, even excited, about entering unchartered waters. They face their own fears, their own demons, the doubts of naysayers around them, the very real structural and financial hurdles before them—and they go forth anyway. That takes planning and discipline, to be sure, but most of all it takes courage.

2. Creativity: Great leaders embrace imagination. They foster innovation. If they themselves don’t possess those attributes, they surround themselves with people who do. They exude impatient with the status quo. They understand that doing the same-old, same-old is a recipe for decline. Their message to the troops is-- challenge conventional wisdom and break new ground. Do it with economic logic and operational discipline, yes, but do it with creativity.

3 and 4. Compassion and Caring. Sternlicht used these words in one phrase. For great leadership, he emphasized the importance of caring deeply about what you’re doing, about the welfare of your people and customers, and about doing things with a strong moral fiber. What that tells me is that analytically detached, amoral executives need not apply. Great leaders have emotional and ethical as well as intellectual integrity. They love, and they love ethically.

5. Curiosity: Great leaders come to the party with a sense of wonder and awe. They restlessly and repeatedly ask questions like-- What’s out there? (let's check it out!) What’s behind there? What’s underneath there? What if? Why not? When can we try it? What will happen? What did happen? What did we learn? What’s our next step?

6. Consistency. Sternlicht noted that great companies “consistently surprise customers.” I believe the issue of consistency is essential for effective branding and sustained competitive success. Great leaders create an environment where C’s #1-5 aren’t a one-shot flash-in-the-pan deal, but so steady and ingrained that people inside and outside the organization can count on them. They can count on the leader, and the organization manifesting traits like courage, creativity, compassion, caring, and curiosity.

Six C’s. Easy to remember. Do you have the conviction and commitment (two more C’s?) to carry (sorry, I couldn’t resist) them out?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say briefly: Best! Useful information. Good job guys.

5:33 AM  

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