Be the Leader

Based on Paul Thornton’s Three C Leadership Model: Challenge, Confidence, and Coaching, this book guides potential business leaders on how to tap into their leadership roles and realize their visions. Challenge the status quo. Build confidence in others. Coach people on what to do and how to do it.

1.     3-C Leadership Model: Challenge. Confidence. Coaching.

  • Leaders are essential for setting the company vision, assessing where the company stands and making difficult choices. Leaders must be able to pull a team together, solve problems and develop
    • Leaders Challenge
    • Leaders build their people’s
    • Leaders Coach the people they lead.
  • Leaders challenge people by bringing them out of their “comfort zones”, enabling people to reach successes that they never thought they could
    • Leaders boost confidence and put their faith in their people to deliver the
  • Leaders reward intelligent failures, or the sincere effort to achieve, even if the effort may
    • Leaders communicate a clear and compelling vision to challenge people to think and act differently as they pursue a new
    • Leaders challenge by creating tighter timetables and stretching goals
    • Leaders ask provocative questions, they often ask “Why?” and “What if”
    • Benchmarking challenges people to find and learn from best
  • Challenges also come in the form of new assignments, new positions, and new projects.
    • Continuous challenge produces continuous
    • Leaders set an example and leave their own comfort
    • Leaders are demanding and maintain high
    • Leaders continue to challenge people even after they achieve success. Complacency and mediocrity are not allowed.
    • Leaders tend to see something positive where others see only the
  • Leaders build confidence by affirming people’s talents, rewarding accomplishments, training people continuously, and transferring responsibility. Leaders must remind people of their previous successes when challenges become
    • Coaching opportunities are when leaders use “teachable moments”. It is at these times people are most open to
      • Leaders show people what great performance looks
    • Leaders coach by asking the right questions so people can focus on their areas of improvement.
      • Leaders give frequent, candid feedback and learn by


Approaches leaders can use to challenge followers:

  • State a challenging vision
  • Demand the impossible
  • Ask challenging questions
  • Create a culture of continuous improvement
  • Benchmark the best
  • Argue with Success

2.     State a challenging vision

A vision expresses a desired future state that is better in some important way than what currently exists. It can be quantitative, (achieve 20% average annual return on stockholders’ equity) or qualitative (help consumers have a better quality of life guaranteed in the American dream).

When creating a vision, these steps help create a clearer picture of the future:

  • Visit top companies
  • Talk to key customers and suppliers
  • Identify technology trends
  • Analyze trends in other industries
  • Identify current and future business challenges

Leaders and Vision

  • Leaders must also look within themselves to see what they value, and what they are willing to
  • Effective vision fires people up with passion and
  • Effective vision inspires, motivates, and reminds people why they must not
  • Organize your vision into a summary, a picture, a slogan, a metaphor, and a television commercial.
    • Leaders focus on what will be gained, while others around are focusing on what they have to give
  • Selling the vision involves overcoming objections from people who fear
    • Communicate your vision through large and small group meetings, videos, memos, letters, articles in the company paper, and guest
    • Communicate your vision by providing compelling stories. Leaders’ stories usually have these elements: (A challenge) a case for change, obstacles to confront, an expressed belief in people, (confidence building) and lessons or morals (coaching).
  • Winning leaders are never satisfied with the status

3.     Demand the impossible

  • Leaders must worry less about people liking them and focus more on creating a challenge. People may resent a tough leader who asks for the impossible, but if the leader establishes specific, time-bound, measurable stretch goals, makes it clear he has confidence in his people, and empowers them by assigning authority, and celebrates every little triumph along the way, the people will rally around the

4.     Ask challenging questions

  • What question will help people face reality?
  • What question will energize people?
  • What new question needs to be asked?
  • Leaders often ask why?
  • Leaders ask questions to get to the root of a
  • What is our mission/purpose?
  • What is our vision?
  • What are our key values?
  • Is this the best we can do?

5.     Create a culture of continuous improvement

Leaders with a continuous-improvement mindset have:

  • A strong desire to be
  • Commitment to self-assessment.
  • A strong curiosity.
  • The ability to learn from both success and
  • A non-defensive response to negative
  • Willingness to experiment and try new
  • High expectations of themselves and their
  • A constant benchmarking approach
  • The desire to learn from best practices
  • Measurement tools to mark progress
  • The ability to teach lessons learned from
  • The ability to lead by

6.     Benchmark the best

  • Understand the way you do business. Study your own company to be able to find what you are looking for when you study other
  • Determine which organizations excel at the target process. Research. Ask suppliers and customers for their opinions. Industry associations also provide good
  • Develop good questions, they must be specific, relevant, have follow-up questions as necessary, and you must be able to determine your own
  • Contact the human resources or public relations department of the organization you wish to benchmark, explain your purpose, ask for a referral.
  • Make the most of the site visit. Adhere to your agenda and make sure everyone who participates understands why you are there, to study best
  • Basically benchmarking means find the best, and then improve on it.
  • Be open to change or undo what you previously

7.     Argue with success

  • Successful companies tend to get complacent. They don’t realize until it’s too late that the marketplace has
  • Success is seductive. It creates the illusion that if you keep doing the same thing, you’ll keep on being successful.
  • Success can make an organization more bureaucratic and less entrepreneurial. The organization becomes more difficult to
  • Successful leaders keep updating their ideas and business strategies to keep up with an ever-changing
  • Companies must “reinvent” themselves
  • Not all customers are happy. Talk to the unhappy customers and see what improvements need to be
  • Point out other companies (benchmarking) that are making significant improvements in their
  • Demand higher performance to fight the tendency to become
  • Avoid happy talk and generalizations such as “We had a great year”. Past success will not guarantee future
  • Focus on change happening all around you. The marketplace is changing. Study your competition. What is the new technology available and what is to come? What changes do you need to make to keep up?
  • Hold morning meetings dedicated to teaching, training and providing new information. Use this time to review successes and failures from the previous
  • Use metrics. Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly scoreboards of your company
  • Set challenging objectives every quarter. Each one must be bigger than the
  • Even when things are going great, challenge people to think of new approaches.

Challenging the status quo

Below is a list of leaders who challenged and made people think and act differently:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. –Equality, justice, freedom, opportunity for all.
  • Bill Gates – A computer on every desk and in every
  • President John F Kennedy – “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Challenged a nation to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the
  • Thomas Edison –Prolific inventor who was always looking for a better way to do


How leaders build confidence:

  • Expand people’s self-image
  • Keep ownership where it belongs
  • Empower your people
  • Recognize good or improved performance
  • Drive out fear

8.     Expand people’s self-image

  • Leaders can build self-esteem in their people by allowing them to succeed. Leaders give people the opportunities to be successful, provide challenges, and the required support for them to be able to
  • Make positive statements. Be sincere in showing you have confidence in your
  • Motivate people by telling them how you can picture them performing in a bigger
  • Ask employees for ideas and
  • Ask subordinates to represent the group at an important
  • Remind people of their previous successes when they need a jolt of confidence.
  • Provide encouragement on a regular
  • Leaders help others discover their own inner

9.     Keep ownership where it belongs

  • Effective leaders hold people accountable for results. This affirms a leader’s belief in employees.
  • Leaders may fall into the temptation to do the actual job, blame another person or group, and takes on the work the employee was supposed to
  • Holding people accountable to make their own decisions says you have a lot of faith in their

10.     Empower your people

  • Empowerment is about helping people gain knowledge, skills, and authority to act like business
  • Have people meet with customers on a regular
  • Let people see the financials. If people understand the sales and costs of a business, then they can see how their work affects the bottom-line.
  • Give people the quality and operational data they
  • Don’t interfere. Let people who are assigned to their roles run the business and make the decisions on their end.

11.     Recognize good or improved performance

  • Words of praise have a lasting impact on a person’s self-esteem, more than a cash reward or bonus.
  • Focus on results and skills that made the person successful.
  • How you deliver the message of recognition or praise is important. Eye contact, a firm handshake, a sincere smile, and enthusiasm show how much you value a
  • Don’t overlook people who quietly and effectively do their
  • Your praise vocabulary should not be general words like “Good”. Use “Creative, Innovative, Breakthrough thinking!” and more meaningful
  • Praise yourself. If you can’t praise your own work, how can you appreciate others?
  • Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless. –Mother Teresa

12.     Drive out fear

  • When people are fearful of the leader, they cover up mistakes instead of learning from them.
  • Leaders must be open about their own mistakes to foster an environment where people are not afraid to come out and say they made a
  • Be open and candid at all
  • Acknowledge fear and insecurity during times of crisis (mergers, layoffs, etc) Allow people to express their negative feelings and
  • Upgrade skills and knowledge. Provide ongoing education and training
  • Encourage preparation. When you’ve done your homework, you are less
  • Focus on the positive of every risk. People should work with desire to pursue a goal, not be inhibited by
  • Don’t punish risk-takers! Create an atmosphere where it’s safe to
  • There should be no fear of criticism for submitting a crazy or outrageous
  • Don’t shoot the messenger! The bearer of bad news is normally the one the boss pounces on. Appreciate employees who report problems, complaints and
  • Fear of the competition maintains a healthy passion.


How leaders coach people to achieve top performance:

  • Find the right balance
  • Make people think for themselves
  • Show people what good performance looks like
  • Be a facilitator
  • Give feedback

13.     Find the right balance

  • Too much coaching or help destroys initiative. Too little coaching can be disastrous, like the loss of a major
  • Effective coaches realize that every person is different and unique, and what is appropriate for one person is overkill for the other. Each person needs a different level of guidance.
  • Coaching means listening first before
  • Leaders/coaches need to be more
  • Stop people during critical points and ask them why they are doing
  • Balance learning with unlearning. Help someone discover what he needs to
  • Teach people to examine their behavior on a regular
  • Require periods of reflection and
  • Require people to make connections between what they learn and how it relates to their work.
  • Help people understand who they are and what they believe
  • Intelligent conversations should be focused on character
  • A leader’s job is to help people along, not to judge

14.     Make people think for themselves

  • Ask questions that challenge people to think, analyze, make connections, probe for meaning, and
  • Assign people to new jobs, rotate them around departments or
  • Brainstorm to find several different ways to solve a
  • Allow the mind to wander. It can produce some really creative
  • Record all ideas on a flipchart or
  • Hold meetings to discuss lessons learned from the recent
  • Encourage debate
  • Sign people up for weekend programs for team-building

15.     Show people what good performance looks like

  • Offer specific examples like “Bob runs a great meeting. Observe how he gets people to stick to the agenda.”
  • Encourage practice along with
  • Break down complex tasks into pieces to be tackled one by
  • Challenge people to continuously improve on their last
  • Show lots of confidence in your words and
  • Provide candid and useful feedback and pinpoint where performance can be

16.     Be a facilitator

  • Coach the group through a process or systematic method
  • Challenge the group to set higher standards and goals
  • Show faith and confidence in the group’s ability to succeed
  • Help define the problem, analyze data (how coaches playback videotapes to their athletes to analyze performance, for instance) generate alternatives, evaluate and select an alternative, and then implement the chosen
  • Effective facilitators bring a group together and keep track so everyone goes through the process at the same pace.
  • Ask questions to draw people into discussion.
  • Probe for feelings behind the facts. Ask them how they feel about
  • Build on comments by asking others in the group what they think of each other’s
  • Keep the group focused on the task at hand by framing questions or putting parameters on the topic being discussed.
  • Clarify comments to make sure you all understand the ideas and their
  • Solicit feedback from the group on what it is accomplishing and how it is working together as a
  • Take a consensus to determine the degree of general agreement among the
  • Write down key words and comments on a flipchart or
  • Leaders/coaches facilitate so the group stays focused, follows a systematic process, and taps into everyone’s

17.     Give feedback

  • Successful leaders are candid and
  • They do not criticize behind people’s backs, and do not wait for “the right time” to talk to someone.
  • Ask people if they are open to receiving feedback.
  • The sooner you discuss the problem, the better.
  • Focus on observations and not inferences. Cite
  • Keep your emotions in check!
  • Be
  • Be
  • Offer suggestions for
  • Be prepared to change.
  • End with an affirming
  • Follow up! What’s the action plan? When is the next meeting to check on progress?

Below is a list of leaders who coached people how to be more effective and successful:

  • Jesus – He taught his followers through stories and parables. He “walked the talk”.
  • Socrates – His basic method of teaching was asking questions.
  • Mahatma Gandhi – He taught through
  • Don Shula –former NFL coach of the Miami Dolphins said he made sure his players came out of every meeting a little more intelligent, prepared and Setting the example:
  • Before I can challenge other people, I must challenge
  • Before I can build someone else’s confidence, I must build my
  • Before I can teach others, I must first learn new skills and

18.     Lead yourself and others

  • Challenge yourself by trying new approaches at meetings, making presentations, or in giving
  • Visit other companies and identify one new approach you will try back on your
  • Take a course and learn a new skill outside your area of
  • Volunteer to be part of a community
  • Confident leaders are willing to ask others for guidance.
  • Be a good student by developing organizational skills, listening skills, acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses, understanding how to use performance feedback, learning to be an effective team
  • Have the desire to lead, the diagnostic skills to listen, observe, and discern where people need help. Influence people in a way that they become more receptive to new ideas and options. Communicate clearly, concisely, and completely. Listen and learn to evaluate body language and read between the lines.

19.     Applying the 3 C Leadership Model


  • Tough challenges often affect people’s
  • When people are trained and coached in how to apply new skills, they become more confident and feel more
  • As confidence increases, people are willing to take on bigger and bigger
    • Confident people clearly see the challenges ahead of them. They are not afraid to ask for help and guidance.
    • Effective leaders appreciate people’s talents and skills.
    • Effective leaders ask the right questions.
    • Effective leaders communicate clearly and know how to get people fired up about a vision.
    • Effective leaders have the intelligence to connect the dots and see patterns in a rapidly changing business world.
    • Effective leaders are committed to their vision.
    • Effective leaders set the example for everyone in the organization.
    • Effective leaders motivate people so they become excited and challenged.
    • Effective leaders are decisive and confident in taking risks for the sake of the vision.
    • Effective leaders trust people enough to empower them.
    • Effective leaders are deeply involved in all aspects of the business.
    • Effective leaders are stable emotionally and serve as role models for grace under pressure.
    • Effective leaders communicate honest, factual, and frequent information in a way that motivates people.
    • Effective leaders know how to develop people to unlock their hidden potential.
    • Effective leaders have a clearly defined set of goals and do not change their vision constantly. People know where their leaders are going and their strategy for getting there.

Your leadership development program:

    • Reflect on your core values and beliefs.
    • Be proactive and try to predict future trends.
    • Tell stories to explain your vision.
    • Self-evaluate regularly.
    • Set a standard of excellence.
    • Receive regular feedback from bosses, customers, peers, team members, and direct reports.
    • Find and utilize mentors.
    • Interview leaders you admire.
    • Write down 5 accomplishments you are most proud of at least once a month.
    • Educate yourself. Look at the following websites:,,,,,,,,,,,, and
    • Take seminars from the American Management Association, Center for Creative Leadership, SkillPath, and Be The Leader Associates.
    • Read books/magazines/journals like Fast Company, Across the Board, Harvard Business Review, Leader to Leader, Leadership Journal, Harvard Management Communication Update, and Industry Week
    • Volunteer to coach an athletic team!

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