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Three C's Every Servant Leader Needs

There are three C’s every leader needs to succeed. But before we jump into those, let’s talk about the inspiration for this article. I’m Elise, President of Woodworth Enterprises. On December 8th, I had the pleasure of attending a dinner put on by the George C. Marshall Foundation to present the Andrew J. Goodpaster Award to General David L. Goldfein, the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force. While the history of these 3 men is not my particular expertise, the evening was very inspiring. In his remarks, General Goldfein focused on the first two C’s and their impact on servant leadership. It is his comments that have inspired me to reflect on this topic and add to it.


The first C every leader needs is character. Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all you do. My fellow Airmen may recognize these statements as the Air Force’s Core Values. When you apply these values to leadership, you find what I believe to be the core of servant leadership. If you have integrity, others will be willing to follow. If you put the service of others and the mission ahead of yourself, those you meet with feel valued. If you strive for excellence in everything you do, people will naturally want to be a part of what you are doing.


The second C is Competence. Do you have to know everything? No! Competence could mean that you know the right questions to ask and the right people to ask those questions too. It could mean that you have an adaptable nature, gathering experience as you go and learning from everyone. As a Logistics Officer in the Air Force, we referred to ourselves as the Jack-of-All-Trades. It meant we very seldom mastered any of them. But our competence came from the diversity of understanding we had. Competence might be something you have to prove, but when coupled with character, awareness and exercise, of your particular strengths may be all you need to succeed.


Now without character or competence, I would hesitate to even describe a leader. Some might say it is enough. But there is a third C, that adds an irresistible quality to a servant leader. Some people have it, others don’t. Thankfully, it is a characteristic that can be learned. It’s charisma. The quality of attractiveness to others. When combined with the other two C’s, you have the recipe for a dynamic successful servant leader. I think you can learn to be charismatic. By working to establish report and relationship with the individuals in the group, and the group as a whole, you are building charisma with them. You can display your character and demonstrate your competence. By learning to focus your attention on others, you’ll be developing charisma, and people will want to focus their attention on you. This is not easy for everyone, but it can be done.

Reflect to Learn

The three C’s you need to be a successful servant leader: character, competence, and charisma These are all learnable, trainable, adaptable qualities. What do you think? What are the top qualities of a successful servant leader? Can they be learned? Or, is it something you need to be born with? I welcome your comments and discussion!

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