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  • Writer's pictureRichard "Pete" Hill, CDE

The Four C's of Effective Leadership

An Introduction

Every organization must have a set of values it holds sacred. These values are what effective organizations lean on when the world around them is chaotic and their competition appears to have the upperhand. During my twenty plus years of regular Army service I had four values drilled into me. The four values the Army adheres to are Courage, Candor, Competence and Commitment.

For a soldier on the battlefield, courage means charging a machine gun nest or throwing your body on a hand grenade to save your battle buddy. This is what the Army called physical courage. Another type of courage the Army values is moral courage. This is the type of courage a Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) exercises when confronting an incompetent commanding officer for the purpose of protecting soldiers or preventing destruction of military equipment.


Courage in the business world is no different. There will inevitably come a time when you will confront the CEO or other members of the C-Suite to prevent loss of profits or valuable human capital. Mid-level managers will inevitably find themselves confronting a bully who is friends with the CEO, or maybe the supervisor has to defend a minority employee from a racist coworker. When leaders value moral courage by extension they value people too. Moral courage is vital to aspiring leaders and it is indispensable when the situation requires a ethical response.


Candor in the military meant being honest even if it meant you may upset the First Sergeant or bare the brunt of a Battalion Commanders anger. I served as a radio operator for Brigade and Division Commanders. As the radio operator I was considered the technical expert, yet I had no positional authority. My job was to ensure the commander had effective two-way communications between her and the maneuver troops.

As a Private First Class, I had to be honest with leadership at all times, failure to be honest resulted in missed movement orders, or miscommunications, both of which had the potential to disrupt the commander's intent. If a commander failed to follow safety precautions or was not using proper code words, I was required to speak-up. The Army's motto is "We train as we fight." If I allowed leaders to skirt safety precautions and proper radio procedures during training, they would instinctively do the same during combat, and the consequences would be devastating.

The Army requires all members, regardless or rank to speak truth to power. As a young private I reminded senior leaders to follow safety precautions and radio procedures. I exercised candor in a professional and respectful manner and although I had no positional authority the commanders listen to me because they respected my technical knowledge.

Candor in a corporate setting is equally important. I cannot count the number of mid-level managers and supervisors who are afraid to be candid with the CEO because they fear the boss may get upset. In my experience, leaders appreciate candid employees and often seek their opinions. Effective leaders identify candid employees and often consult them before making crucial or critical decisions. Candor is not an invitation to disrespect a leader or embarrass her. Candor is a reflection of mutual respect between the leader and the led.


Competence in the Army implied technical and tactical proficiency. The Army places great emphasis on sustainment training. Leaders and foot soldiers alike are expected to know their job, their role, and limitations. Repetition training ensures every soldier is not only self confident, but are also equally confident in the competence of their leaders, peers, and subordinates alike.

In the business arena competence is also valued. Competent business leaders value diversity of ideas, cultures and supplier diversity. Competent leaders are aware of the link between productivity and inclusive corporate culture. Competent leaders refrain from creating in and out groups opting instead to intentionally create a culture of belonging. Competent leaders believe in and practice emotional intelligence. Competent leaders are consciously aware of being on display 24/7 and they conduct themselves professionally even when no one is watching. Above all else competence is being decisive and exercising judgement.


And finally there is commitment. For me commitment meant serving nine consecutive years in an Armor Division based in Germany. Commitment also meant fourteen hour days training recruits as a Basic Training Drill Sergeant and last but not least for me commitment meant having the honor of serving my country during Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.

Commitment as a business leader or first line supervisor is just as important. A good leader works eight hours a day and leaves with her staff when the clock strikes 5pm. A great leader arrives an hour early and leaves an hour after the last team member clocks out. A committed leader takes the time to learn the habits of each team member and then leads them accordingly. Commitment means you do whatever it takes for however long it takes. The business world is no different than the Army, both entities value and expect commitment. Committed leaders understand commitment is nothing more and nothing less than leading by example. The Army taught me to value courage, candor, competence and commitment-----what are you teaching your team to value?

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