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Updated Jun 06, 2023

Does Character Matter? The 3 C’s of Leadership

Great leaders possess these characteristics and require them in the employees they promote.

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Written By: Jennifer DublinoSenior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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Which characteristics do you seek when considering employees for promotions or recruiting for a management position? Specific personality traits are necessary to handle leadership responsibilities, navigate the company’s mission and vision, and merit the organization’s trust. Promoting or hiring the wrong leaders can expose your company to risk and create a toxic work environment, leading to lost productivity, low morale and high turnover. 

We’ll examine three crucial leadership characteristics to pinpoint when you’re recruiting or promoting leaders, as well as touch on additional leadership traits that can bring out the best in teams and help steer your organization toward success. 

TipBottom line
When you're promoting an employee, document the job change in a promotion letter that details the new role's responsibilities and expresses how grateful you are for their hard work.

3 C’s of leadership

During the recruitment process — whether you’re recruiting internally or hiring from the outside — choosing candidates for leadership positions requires great care. Focus on the following characteristics to ensure you award power to the right people, and check that you also possess these traits. 

1. Character

While leadership styles may differ, all leaders must command respect. Respect is based on what you say and who you are. Employees in smaller businesses witness their leaders’ actions and words up close and evaluate their character based on personal interactions.  

Ask yourself the following questions about potential leadership hires. (You can also use these questions to evaluate yourself as a leader.) 

  • Is the potential leader trustworthy? 
  • Are they honest?
  • Do they possess integrity?
  • Do they keep their word? 
  • Do they practice what they preach? 

Employees evaluate these elements to determine a leader’s trust levels. If someone demonstrates integrity as a leader, their employees will model this behavior, and the same is true if a team witnesses a lack of integrity. 

For example, leaders don’t want employees to steal from the company. Therefore, the leader must demonstrate that honesty is part of the company’s code of ethics and conduct by not stealing from the government, customers or suppliers. If a leader is unethical, their employees will notice and act accordingly.

Asking this important interview question can help reveal a potential leader’s character: What are the top three characteristics that define you? Give examples from your life.

You can also glean valuable character insights by contacting job references and checking for resume fraud

FYIDid you know
Ensure you hire for a cultural fit by including interview questions centered around the company's values. Create an internal response rubric to compare job candidates.

2. Competence

Leaders must understand the correct job procedures and be able to train new employees. Anyone you recruit or promote into a leadership position must demonstrate excellent knowledge of their proposed new management area.

Job and procedure knowledge helps earn employees’ respect toward their leaders. Employees appreciate and respect leaders who understand the nuances of their job functions. While the leader won’t perform these duties daily, their understanding of their employees’ job roles builds mutual trust, respect and credibility. 

Many companies promote internally when management positions arise because these leadership candidates have proved their competence and will command immediate respect in their new role.

Did You Know?Did you know
Internal promotions also help improve employee engagement because team members see that professional growth opportunities are possible.

3. Communication

Every organization member must know and understand what’s happening on a micro and macro level. If an employee performs a task without knowing its ramifications, they can end up disengaged. Therefore, leaders must communicate not just what employees must do but also why they are doing it. Quality organizations don’t adopt a “because I said so” mindset when employees ask why something is happening. Articulating the “why” gets everyone on board with the company’s plans and direction. 

Additionally, leaders don’t use information (or the lack of it) as a weapon. Instead, they’re transparent about what’s happening in the organization, helping everyone get on the same page. Transparency in business communication and actions creates increased motivation, morale and engagement. 

Look for “information generosity” in those you seek to promote. If leadership candidates unnecessarily keep work-related information away from co-workers now, they’ll likely maintain this approach when placed in a higher management role.  

Small business owners can’t afford to have supervisors who are “information hoarders” and leave frontline workers in the dark. All of your employees should feel like they’re part of a team, and true teams have all the information they need to understand the business’s big picture and why they’re performing specific functions.

TipBottom line
You can identify leadership skills by providing workplace opportunities for leadership characteristics to emerge and by searching for emotional intelligence skills.

More leadership characteristics that matter

In addition to the three C’s outlined above, other characteristics are essential in potential managers and executives. Here are a few traits to look for when you’re promoting or hiring leaders: 

  • Commitment: Managers and executives have enormous responsibilities. They manage teams and job functions while ensuring tasks are completed satisfactorily. If a team member is out sick or someone has made an error, the manager must fill in the gaps and fix the problems, even if it means working late or over the weekend.
  • Collaboration: Management is not a one-person show. In addition to encouraging workplace collaboration, leaders must work well with their direct reports and other department or location managers. Collaboration requires excellent, ongoing communication as well as appropriate delegation and follow-up.
  • Connection: Ideally, managers should get along well with others. Managers with excellent people management skills will get more out of their teams and will collaborate more effectively with executives and other departments. In some areas, including sales and purchasing, it can be helpful for managers to have a strong network of outside connections that can benefit the company.
  • Credibility: Fostering trust within your company is essential, and credible leaders engender trust. Try not to hire people who come off as blowhards; they’ll be disliked and distrusted by their employees and colleagues. Instead, look for job candidates who follow up their intentions with actions and have a proven track record.
  • Confidence: A manager can possess many essential leadership characteristics and still end up being ineffective if they lack confidence. Employee directives given without confidence will cause uncertainty and weak follow-through. Moreover, manager reports and recommendations given to the executive team without confidence can cause second-guessing and chaos. Be careful, though: Confidence can easily bleed over into bluster.
  • Critical thinking: Solving business problems requires analyzing data, identifying possible solutions and choosing the solution that has the best possible outcome given the data at hand. That is why business leaders need critical thinking skills. They must be able to think critically about the reliability and breadth of the data they gather and mentally project proposed solutions into the future with minimal bias.

Paul Comfort contributed to this article. 

author image
Written By: Jennifer DublinoSenior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
Jennifer Dublino is an experienced entrepreneur and astute marketing strategist. With over three decades of industry experience, she has been a guiding force for many businesses, offering invaluable expertise in market research, strategic planning, budget allocation, lead generation and beyond. Earlier in her career, Dublino established, nurtured and successfully sold her own marketing firm. Dublino, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration and an MBA in marketing and finance, also served as the chief operating officer of the Scent Marketing Institute, showcasing her ability to navigate diverse sectors within the marketing landscape. Over the years, Dublino has amassed a comprehensive understanding of business operations across a wide array of areas, ranging from credit card processing to compensation management. Her insights and expertise have earned her recognition, with her contributions quoted in reputable publications such as Reuters, Adweek, AdAge and others.
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