Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

It occurs to me that we've lost our way in the world, and we have fewer leaders than we used to have. On the local level, we are blessed with many fine leaders, but are we growing future leaders? Do we have role models for leaders to emulate? What can we do to continue a legacy of quality leadership in our communities, businesses and in life?

We grew up with many great leaders, but as we witness our national leadership, we see a few of the qualities that our historical leaders demonstrated. Our current leaders on Wall Street and in Washington demonstrate numerous leadership failures. As our moral compasses and values take backseats to political correctness, we keep silent so we will not hurt any feelings making sure that everyone wins a trophy. God forbid that we have folks that actually compete on life's stage in a society that will measure our results and judge our contributions to bettering the world. Instead, we force mediocrity on all by asking everyone to meet only the standards of the lowest common denominator.

The Nine Cs of Leadership

Several years ago Lee Iacocca penned a book titled Where Have All The Leaders Gone? In it he outlined the Nine Cs of Leadership:

  • Curiosity
  • Creative
  • Communicate
  • Character
  • Courage
  • Conviction
  • Charisma
  • Competent
  • Common Sense
Too often in our lives of instant information - with many folk's thought processes formed by sound bytes — we overlook Iacocca's nine Cs when we select and train leaders. Let's examine the principles in greater detail:
  • Curiosity is the ability to ask tough questions, as well as listen to and encourage information from outside our circles of yes-people.
  • Being creative is trying new and different things, taking risks, and going out on a limb. It is "thinking differently" as Steve Jobs did.
  • As communicators, leaders should not chatter ceaselessly but genuinely listen. They need to seek quality input, think for themselves, and always face reality and tell the truth — not just follow teleprompters.
  • Character is knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Character is what you do when no one is looking. Too many in leadership roles have flunked this test by doing what's expedient rather than what's proper.
  • Moral courage is the ability to admit mistakes and make tough choices in the face of criticism. Great leaders always found their courage on the conviction of their values. Moral courage is not about getting the most votes or winning a popularity contest; it's about doing what's right and best in the circumstances.
  • All great leaders have conviction — a fire in the belly and a passion for getting things done.
  • Outstanding leaders inspire others to follow. Charisma is built on trust, not flashiness eloquence, or attractiveness. Charisma requires walking the walk - not merely talking the talk.
  • Competence is found in deeds, not words. Sadly some folks are put into leadership roles without competence. We have many incompetent folks in major leadership positions today and the worst part is that they don't realize their incompetence.
  • I refer to common sense as "walking around sense" while others sometimes call it street smarts. Simply put, common sense means having a core understanding of human nature and how the world works. All the book smarts in the world mean nothing without common sense to apply it.

The Tenth C

In his book, Iacocca added the tenth C: Crisis. He called this the biggest C. Leadership is tried, tested, and forged in times of crisis — not in comfortable, armchair times. If we examine our great leaders throughout history we find they were battle-tested through tough times and they showed all Nine of the Cs in their decisions, courage, and leadership. They didn't play golf in times of national crisis. Leaders don't point fingers, whine or make excuses. They take swift and positive action.

All of us are leaders. Some have big roles and affect many people; some are parents who lead their children. Everyone regardless of whom they lead is a role model. Examine yourself according to Iaccoca's Nine Cs and ask how you've done in crises. As we select political leaders we should view them through the same lenses. We can all be better by living the Nine Cs - in times of peace and times of crisis.