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  • Writer's pictureMark O'Neil

POWERING UP THE 10 "Cs" of Leadership...Mark O'Neil, ACC, CPCC, LFACHE

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

There are so many great books/readings on leadership. While many are useful, some I find redundant. They do help a person zero in on what leadership means to them and to call on these attributes as we encounter situations requiring great leadership. Since retiring from Healthcare and embarking on a career in executive coaching, I have immersed myself in the study of great leadership. The more I know, the better I can serve my clients as an executive coach.

Helping the growing leader assess and then focus on where they may want to grow is now a life's passion. One way to categorize the hundreds of ways to look at leadership is suggested below as my “10 C’s of leadership”:

1. Character. It all starts here. It is best described as how one behaves when no one is watching. Mark Miller compares leadership to an iceberg in his book, The Heart of Leadership. With 10% above water and containing the standard leadership skills. Most good leaders have these. The other 90% is below the surface and is where the great leaders' attributes lie.

2. Compassionate: Essential when considering the feelings of others and how they may be affecting their work. Kindness is sometimes overlooked. While a leader can detach from the problems of their colleagues, ignoring them is at the peril of the individual, the team, and the organization.

3. Connected: This is not in the networking sense. It has more to do with being genuinely interested in the current conversation. Being present and having people sense you are actively listening. Once this takes place, we can start growing our people and organization's lists of professional connections.

4. Confidence: A certain amount of this is vital in a good leader, balanced with humility. Beware of false confidence! People pick up on it very quickly. Better to admit you are stumped than to "fake it until you make it."

5. Competent: The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) defines the levels of competence well. It is usually found in four phases as follows: Unconscious incompetence, followed by conscious incompetence, followed by unconscious competence, and finally, conscious competence. It is important to know where we lie on this continuum and how to grow through the stages. A good leader can intuitively sense this with different team members in different situations.

6. Collaborative: Where is the "win-win" in every dialogue or decision? It is often elusive and sometimes nonexistent but worth striving for. When it is absent, the leader has their work cut out for them, being careful of the consequences (intended and unintended) of the decision. Oftentimes it is a question of which decision has the least negative impact on the least number of people and it needs to be balanced with the overall impact on the enterprise.

7. Collegial: It is broader than the traditional definition and builds on the idea that we are all in this together. Today, we work in teams more than vertical organizational structure. This is true in any line of work, particularly healthcare. It is increasingly important as complexity grows.

8. Curious: Once a child reaches the age of two or so, her favorite word is inevitably "WHY?" Why, why, why?! A great leader never stops asking this question. It is where things like mission, vision, values, purpose, innovation, and breakthrough often happen. It is also a great way to grow engagement, and besides… It is fun!

9. Cultivating: Few things (or persons) grow without careful cultivation. It is a constant pursuit from tilling the soil, to planting the seeds, to watering, fertilizing, pruning, and eventually harvesting. Of course, the same applies to every stage of leadership development.

10. Courageous: While the order of these ten items is largely unimportant, character and courage is essential in assessing and working with the blossoming leader. To lead, we must have Courage. It makes us take a certain amount of risk by overcoming fear of failure, of making mistakes, of people thinking we are less than we are, or of the boss not agreeing.

I will write more about my 10 C's in the coming months If you would like to subscribe to my newsletter, go to

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