The 4 C’s of Leadership

9 12 2013

By  Bradley Harper MD FCAP, COL (Retired) US Army

Thank you for asking me for my Commander’s Philosophy.  When I was in Command and General Staff College we were required to create one, and this product served me well through four commands.

My Philosophy is simple, for I believe that important things are.  We spend a huge portion of our waking hours engaged in our workplace.  If that experience is unfulfilling, it is difficult to have an overall good quality of life.  As a Commander it was my job to impart to my staff what “Right” looked like.  I had subordinate leaders and very competent staff whom I desired to impart my vision so that when confronted with a challenge, they knew instinctively what action I would want them to take.  I knew many commanders who were afraid to take leave.  They were afraid that the organization would collapse without their constant guidance.  I had much the opposite philosophy.  I felt that my confidence in my guidance to my staff coupled with their competence and decency allowed me to be absent both to allow me some respite and to allow them to grow.  One does not learn how to ride a bike if the parent never lets go.  I would allow various of my deputies the chance to be acting commander for I recalled how much I had learned when I had been entrusted by my previous commanders with that responsibility. Part of my job was to grow those whom I was responsible for.

So. My Philosophy boils down to what I call the 4 C’s.  They stand for the following 4 words, and the precedence of the words is deliberate.

Compassion. I commanded health care organizations, so you would think that this would be unnecessary to articulate, but I had too often seen people in pain or fear treated as a “Case”, or a “Customer”.  A bad experience I had with an Army Doctor led me to go to Medical School.  Before we could initiate a therapeutic relationship with someone we had to establish trust.  You do that by showing that the patient is important to you.  That you sincerely want to do them good. I liked to quote Dr Larre, surgeon to Napolean’s Grand Armee` who wrote in his memoirs, “I cured a few. I helped many. I cared for them all.” I challenged my staff to be able to say the same at the end of every day.

Competence. I commanded small organizations. We were not Walter Reed.  We should look at what we treated, and get as good as possible at managing it.  Establish protocols and SOP’s. That which we can do well, do as best as we possibly could.  I said that you do not want to fly with a pilot who flies 3 times a year. You do not want to have your coronaries operated on by a surgeon who does one case a month to “keep his hand in”. If it is not something we do on a regular basis, refer to those who do. Also Competence requires that after you learn your job as well as you possibly can, you teach your subordinates your job, and learn your supervisor’s.  We were in an organization that was constantly evolving.  Every year 1/3rd of our military left for new assignments, and often I would have to send soldiers off to augment a unit in combat on short notice.  We could not afford to allow anyone to become indispensable. It limited our ability as an organization to grow, and stifled the education of our staff to be able to progress in their careers.

Conscientious. Our customers had to know what they could reliably expect from us.  We had to be humble.  Our organization existed so that soldiers could go to war, and recover from that.  If they doubted our Compassion or Competence, our ability to serve them would be impaired. If they doubted our promises, it would become impossible. If we could not deliver, tell them so, then seek means to serve their needs via other organizations, or see how we might be able to accomplish the mission in innovative ways. If we failed to meet their expectations, acknowledge that, and make it right.

Cost Effective.  I am not saying Cheap.  Quality is cost effective.  Getting something right the first time is extremely cost effective.  We will never have all the resources we would like in staff, facilities, or supplies.  Get over it. The more we do with what we have, the more we do.  Among the resources we have to manage is time, both ours and our patients’. Do not waste either. Think about how you spend your day, and realizing that you cannot do it all, prioritize.  At the end of the day I am asking that you provide good value, both to the patient and to the taxpayer.

I told my staff that when they had a new proposal for me, to show me how their idea supported one or more of my four principles.  The more principles that it fell under, the more likely I was to support it.  It freed my people to take ownership of their job.  Many have told me years later how much fun they had working there while I was in command.  If you have a bad commander, people say he was bad.  If you have a good commander, people say he was good.  When you have an excellent commander, people say they did it all themselves.

I likened my role to that of stage manager for a play.  My staff were the stars.  I was there to make sure they had the resources and proper environment to excel.  Then stand back and applaud.


Simon Sinek: How Extraordinary Leaders Evolve

4 08 2013

Leadership writer and top TED speaker Simon Sinek explains how great leaders create a “circle of safety” for their teams.

Simon Sinek doesn’t have the second-most-watched TED talk for nothing. His speech on “How great leaders inspire action,” based on his signature concept of starting with “why,” is currently at more than 11.5 million views. (Sinek later distilled his TED talk into this briefer video for Inc.) But the author and speaker is now investigating something new: what he calls the “circle of safety.”

In this exclusive Inc. interview, Sinek explains how he arrived at his new thinking and how it applies to leaders today. But his real goal? He hopes to inspire everyone who reads it to immediately take action toward feeling more fulfilled.

Your new book deals in part with the evolutionary roots of leadership. What lessons can modern-day leaders take from their ancestors?

I looked at the Paleolithic era, when homo sapiens first started walking. We lived in relatively small populations, and the only way that we could survive the dangers was if we worked together; everything about the human animal is designed to work together. That’s what human beings do. We’re really good at looking after each other when the conditions are right.

Leaders are the ones who control the environment. It’s not about hiring great people. All of this top-grading and promoting the top ten percent and getting rid of the bottom 25 percent … it’s bullshit. All it does is destroy the organization, because it means that nobody feels safe. It’s terrible, absolutely terrible, based on biology.

The leaders control the circle of safety. To be the leader, you have to belong to our tribe. We have to feel like you serve us, and we would happily serve you.

A “circle of safety” makes sense in a literal way for our ancestors, but how does that apply in a business?

I’ve been visiting some amazing organizations that seemed to defy all logic, that didn’t have layoffs in the bad economy–a tech company in NYC, a manufacturing company in the Midwest, the Marine Corp. boot camp.

I noticed a pattern: Inside all these organizations, the people who work there feel safe. They feel that the person to the left of them and the person to the right would protect them if something happened. We always confront danger every day, in life and in business. When we feel safe, remarkable things start to happen.

How can a leader use this idea of safety to improve his or her businesses?

Actions speak louder than words. All companies say they care, right? But few actually exercise that care. The cost of leadership is self-interest. It might actually mean you have slower growth over the short term. It might mean you have to take less money in a bad economy.

So what about when the circle of safety fails? What can a leader do if there’s the modern-day business equivalent of a saber-tooth tiger attack?

The leader controls the perimeter. In a poorly-run organization, the CEO usually puts the circle of safety only around the senior executives. If you’re in the senior level, you’re fine. The board gives the CEO a raise while at the same time, thousands of people get laid off. A good leader will send that circle right to the very edges of the company. And it will extend out to loyal customers.

What can someone do to be a better leader? What if they’re a manager rather than a CEO?

Leadership has one definition: leaders are willing to sacrifice themselves for their people. As a senior leader you have to extend the circle wider, and if you have 3 people that work for you, your job is to work for them.

Real leaders are the very few willing to sacrifice themselves for their people. When they do, we will do anything to see that our leader’s visions are advanced.

That’s why we call them leaders:  they go first.


Business Compassion Reader

3 08 2013

Amazing resources for compassion in business:

7 Traits of Truly Inspiring Leaders

1 08 2013

The managers who inspire employees and colleagues to achieve greatness tend to have these characteristics. Do you?

After conducting interviews with thousands of executives, I’ve noticed there’s a subset of bosses who inspire their employees and colleagues to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

These individuals tend to share the following traits:

1. Purpose

Inspiring leaders believe that success serves a higher purpose. When you ask what motivates them, they talk about making other people successful.

Uninspiring leaders believe that success is their higher purpose. When you ask what motivates them, they talk about what makes them personally satisfied.

2. Giving Back

Inspiring leaders feel an obligation to “give back.” Their long-term plans usually include pro bono work or even endowing a charity.

Uninspiring leaders feel no such obligation. Their long-term plans are limited to cashing in and/or buying physical objects.

3. Gratitude

Inspiring leaders are deeply grateful. They know that their success is hugely dependent upon accidents of birth and circumstance.

Uninspiring leaders are self-satisfied. They secretly believe their success is a natural result of being smarter and better than everyone else.

4. Beliefs & Values

Inspiring leaders treasure their beliefs. They don’t wear their values on their sleeves, but their deeply held convictions pervade everything they say and do.

Uninspiring leaders foist their opinions. They demand converts to whatever religious sect or management fad currently captures their fancy.

5. Empathy

Inspiring leaders care about people. They agree with Bill Gates that the fortunate few have an obligation to help those who are less fortunate.

Uninspiring leaders couldn’t care less. They agree with Ayn Rand that the poor are merely “moochers” begging for a handout.

6. Team Focus

Inspiring leaders spread the credit. They never brag about themselves. Instead they redirect praise toward everyone else on the team.

Uninspiring leaders spread the blame. They are as quick to mention the mistakes of underlings as they are to toot their own horns.

7. Energy

Inspiring leaders are uplifting. You come away from meetings with them thinking, Gee, I’d really like to work here.

Uninspiring leaders are depressing. You come away from meetings with them thinking, Gee, I’m glad I don’t work for that jerk.

Every truly inspiring executive, manager, or entrepreneur I’ve ever met has shared most or all of the traits described above.

Are there uninspiring leaders? Absolutely. And they’re often quite good at motivating people. They just use different tools: primarily fear and greed.

Full credit to:

7 Leadership Lessons by Nelson Mandela

18 07 2013

by  | on July 17, 2013

We’re all aware that Nelson Mandela is critically ill in hospital and close to his passing. It seems a shame we always wait until the inspirational icons are no longer with us, before we start to contemplate and celebrate their legend. In a world where people frequently express their disillusionment with politicians and their inability to make a difference, he’s a shining star. For me, there are seven profound lessons that CEOs and leaders can learn from the great Nelson “Madiba” Mandela:

(1) Master your meaning and your emotions

“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul,” Mandela still likes to quote from W. E. Henley’s Victorian poem ‘Invictus’. Prepared to go to prison for his political beliefs, Mandela stood tall. When his African National Congress (ANC) had been banned by the apartheid South African government in 1960, Mandela had advocated that the party abandon its policy of non-violence, leading to a sentence of life imprisonment. He said, “I was made, by the law, a criminal, not because of what I had done, but because of what I stood for.”

Reflecting on the moment when he entered Robben Island prison, off the coast of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela said, “how you’re treated in prison depends on your demeanor.” Threatened with violence by an Afrikaans prison guard, he told him, “You dare touch me, I will take you to the highest court in the land. And by the time I finish with you, you will be as poor as a church mouse.”

Keeping his emotions in check, relations with his captors improved as he sought to “communicate with them in a message that says I recognize your humanity”. His official biographer Anthony Sampson argues that, during his 27 years in jail, Nelson Mandela was able to develop “a philosopher’s detachment,” as well as, “the subtler art of politics: how to relate to all kinds of people, how to persuade and cajole, how to turn his warders into his dependents, and how eventually to become master in his own prison.”

CEOs operate in a much more time-compressed environment, yet should work towards attaining a similar state of Zen-like calm and detachment. In this place, they will not only benefit from better health and wellbeing, but keep sight of the bigger picture and avoid getting buffeted by day-to-day issues.

(2) Treat the losers with dignity and turn them into partners

In 1989, apartheid South Africa suffered from racial violence and a faltering economy at home, while it was shunned abroad. The continuing struggle between the black and white populations seemed like a recipe for mutual destruction, like Israel and Palestine. However, the arrival of new president F.W. de Klerk finally presentedNelson Mandela with a more pragmatic political opponent, who was minded to free him from prison. For years, Nelson Mandela had stood for freedom from oppression. How to approach his captor and would-be liberator? Mandela’s lawyer George Bizos explained the thinking: “Let’s help him. Let’s not keep him in his corner by calling him an oppressor. Even the term can become such a stigma.” Mandela helped de Klerk to, “move from that concept called oppressor to that of a partner”.

Nelson Mandela understood that in a negotiation, both sides have to gain. There must be no winners and no losers: the South African people as a whole must win. Learning the lessons from Germany at end of the First World War, he believed, “You mustn’t compromise your principles, but you mustn’t humiliate the opposition. No one is more dangerous than one who is humiliated.”

The process through which Mandela managed to free himself, end apartheid and create a new South African constitution was testament to his tremendous generosity of spirit. George Bizos added that Mandela believed that, “we don’t have to be victims of our past, that we can let go of our bitterness, and that all of us can achieve greatness… he did it not through beating anybody down; most people wouldn’t have the forgiveness to do that sort of thing.”

(3) Shift perspectives through symbolism and shared experiences

Through his example and presence, Mandela has always led from the front. Like Gandhi or Churchill, he learned early how to build up and understand his own image. His trademark colorful shirts mirror his exuberance and optimism while reflecting his tribal roots. The 1995 Rugby World Cup provided an even bigger stage for Mandela to fuse his own image with that of the new nation that he was trying to build.

How do you get 42 million people to tolerate one another? Rugby was traditionally a white man’s game in South Africa, and the black majority population would routinely support the teams of opposing nations. However, Mandela seized upon the PR opportunity of South Africa hosting the 1995 tournament to rebrand the Springbok team, whose kit took on the colors of the new national flag. One team, one country, all would walk tall under the new flag. Mandela even demanded that the team learn the words of the new national anthem, ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’, asking God to bless Africa for all of us. Although the firm underdogs, the national team was able to beat the New Zealand All Blacks in the final – Mandela’s single act of wearing the Springbok jersey was said to bring on side 99% of the white and 99% of the black South African audience, in a single stroke.

Team captain François Pienaar helpfully argued that this campaign was “respecting the people that we represented and what we could give back.” After the game, the team took a boat trip to the Robben Island prison, further adding to the national symbolism. “The world needs moments of great joy… the world needs to see that there are moments that we can live together,” de Plessis said, adding: “Sport is the great leveler. [Our victory was inspired by] the father of this nation, the one who inspired to come together when we never ever believed that we could do it. That’s called leadership.”

The other big shared experience designed to bring together opposing factions was the creation of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. This was about creating a public forum where people could air confront their former aggressors, make their voice heard and get to the truth. Mandela wanted to avoid the acrimony of the Nuremburg trials, which he felt had turned into a vengeful witch-hunt. Instead, this was “soft vengeance… the triumph of a moral vision of the moral world.”

CEOs too can learn to acknowledge the past and draw a line under it. Then, through shared experiences, they must forge a powerful new purpose that people can connect to and believe in.

(4) Embody the spirit of Ubuntu

In 2007, in partnership with entrepreneur Richard Branson and singer Peter Gabriel, Mandela founded ‘The Elders’. Composed of former heads of state, revolutionaries, peacemakers and chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Elders work as a small, dedicated group of individuals, using their collective experience and influence to help tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the world today.

In the launch address, Nelson Mandela talked about bringing “the spirit of Ubuntu: that profound African sense that we are human only through the humanity of other human beings.” In a thread that defines his whole life, he said, “I believe that in the end that it is kindness and accommodation that are the catalysts for real change.”

With such high ideals, Nelson Mandela was alert to the potential dangers of his own personality cult. He learned to talk less about “I” and more about “we,” and was determined “to be looked at as an ordinary human being”. Mandela himself has repeatedly said that “I’m no angel,” and his presidential predecessor F.W. de Klerk concurs: “He was by no means the avuncular, saint-like figure depicted today. As an opponent he could be brutal and quite unfair.” However, while people may have disagreed with the policies Mandela pursued, they don’t question his integrity. His biographer believes that “it was his essential integrity more than his superhuman myth which gave his story its appeal across the world.”

CEOs are rarely, if ever, depicted as angels, but people have to trust them. Even if they’re not liked, people will rally behind them if they know what they stand for and what they believe in.

(5) Everybody feels bigger in your presence

Time and again people comment on Mandela’s strong personality, saying that he has a aura about him. Fêted by crowds around the world, Nelson Mandela mixed politics and showbiz; criticized for prioritizing social engagements with the Spice Girls or Michael Jackson over a visiting head of state.

The adoration of crowds did not faze him: “I am not very nervous of love, for love is very inspiring.” However, Nelson Mandela is also a man of intrinsic humility, with the ability to laugh at himself. “I’m only here to shine her shoes,” he said when meeting Whitney Houston. At a White House reception for religious leaders, Bill Clinton paid an emotional tribute to his guest: “Every time Nelson Mandela walks into a room we all feel a little bigger, we all want to stand up, we all want to cheer, because we’d like to be him on our best day.”

Leaders and CEOs who have this x-factor succeed. Our gut feels their absence when they are replaced by a less charismatic successor, even if we delude ourselves that the new guy is a welcome sobering contrast. British prime minister Gordon Brown was no match for the towering presence of Tony Blair; and even if seen to be doing many of the right things at Apple, Tim Cook lacks the swagger of innovator-supreme Steve Jobs.

(6) Build a sustainable fellowship around your cause

It is interesting to speculate how Nelson Mandela would have fared in the age of social media. Confined to his prison cell, much of the technological era passed him by. However, he was never short of followers, and he understood that mass engagement began with a solid core base. Permitted to converse with other prisoners at Robben Island only when laboring at its mine, his inner core was variously termed the ‘brotherhood’, ‘kitchen cabinet’ and ‘university’. The bedrock of his trusted inner sanctum provided him with the foundation from which to keep on being inspiring. Those who were admitted to Mandela’s close fellowship during those years also flourished: close friend Ahmed Kathrada went on to hold senior government positions, while Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma graduated to lead the party. Political prisoners admitted that they actually looked forward in a sense to going to prison, as they would get to meet the true leaders of the country.

Often seeming to be above race, once in power Mandela broadened his fellowship to include white and Indian colleagues, whom he trusted them completely. He made former president F.W. de Klerk his deputy, and his “rainbow cabinet” was one of the few genuinely multiracial governments in the world. Looking to the corporate world, Jack Ma of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba has also been effective at drawing to his cause a group of highly loyal co-founders. CEOs should develop a true fellowship structure that devolves responsibility and brings on promising talent.

7) Bottle the dream for future generations

After 27 years in captivity, it is easy to overlook the fact that Nelson Mandela was only actually president of South Africa for five years. He said that he was one of the generation “for whom the achievement of democracy was the defining challenge”. Aged 80 by the time he stepped down in 1999, Mandela argued that, “when a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace… We take leave so that the competent generation of lawyers, computer experts, economists, financiers, doctors, industrialists, engineers and above all ordinary workers and peasants can take the ANC into the new millennium.”

Many great leaders are true ‘one-offs’ and it is too simplistic to suggest that they should seek to bottle their essence to be preserved in aspic. Rather, the big challenge for them is to groom the next generation and ‘blend the essence’ so that it’s fit for their current and future organization. His chosen successor and fellowship member, Thabo Mbeki, was effectively running the country for some of the years while Mandela was still president, with Mandela taking on an increasingly ceremonial role.

The verdict so far on his successors? The next generation of ANC leaders has not been seen to deliver universally good governance: the country continues to be blighted by crime, and the OECD reports that more than 50% of the population is living in poverty. However, South Africa is still is a young country, one that Mandela stamped with the concept of racial tolerance and cooperation as firmly as his predecessors had stamped it with intolerance and segregation.

What we’ve experienced from Mandela’s life is potentially just the start, and his legend is going to be bigger still. In the corporate world that’s my life’s work, we desperately need a new generation of companies that are truly global, courageous and entrepreneurial, and institutions that people care for. Their future leaders would do well to adopt the Mandela mindset and his seven profound lessons.

Having discharged his duty to his people and his country, Mandela can truly rest in peace. He showed us how one person with humility, a dream and a connecting cause could magnify himself and inspire us all. He should take great pride in the legacy that he leaves behind, as it continues to ripple across the world and through future generations.

Nelson Mandela: a true legend.

Full Credit to:

Inspirational Leadership Coaching/Mentoring

10 06 2013

If you would be interested in attending  or receiving inspirational leadership coaching or mentoring please let me know.  I am more than happy to offer confidential advice to help you in your business, career or even in your personal life.