The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

Leadership Theory and the 5 C’s of Survival

The literature on leadership theory seems never ending.

Are leaders made or born? Maybe a bit of each. We have heard a great deal in past years about leadership theory, and it all makes sense! A factor that we now know must be considered is the specific situation, what makes a great leader in one instance may not make great leaders in another. Research by Kirkpatrick and Locke in the 90’s all but put an end to the once believed trait theory on leaders. They take a closer look at the person and the situation to determine if leadership is effective in a particular situation.

A recent article in Inc. Magazine looks at the Five C’s of Survival that leaders need: Charisma, Capable, Creative, Credible, Convincing. In thinking about leaders we have all enjoyed working with and following into the battle cry of business, these resonate. While not ever leader is strong in each of the traits, you can see where they need to be present at some level. At the same time, it’s easy to see how characteristics such as “Convincing” and “Capable” may change with the situation.

Reviewing the literature, there are steps we can take to be sure we embrace these characteristics and are doing what we can to be great leaders. Consider where you are at this point and which of these steps you might be able to take to enhance your leadership image.

  • Interact: Get out of your office and see what is going on around you. Ask your employees what is going on with them personally. Approach your hourly workers for casual conversation to make the connection, ensuring your vision is carried out.
  • Be positive and engaging: Make sure the organization knows that you are excited about the mission. There may be struggles of the day, but show your confidence that the team will get it done.
  • Trust others and respect their position publicly: Empower employees to make the right decision for the organization. Give public praise, and when asked to solve a problem that falls into another leader’s area of expertise, defer to them!
  • Use the respect you have earned: Once you have earned the respect of your team, be sure that you are given the same public attention. When you are running a meeting, insist that phones are off – and if people come late let them know that is unacceptable.

While the literature on leadership seems never ending, there are always nuggets we can take away from it. A great leader is always learning and trying to improve and new insights help up drive our careers and organizations to new levels of expertise.

Lori Kleiman is an HR expert who presents to business people and groups. Click here to see a video of Lori in action. If you’d like to have Lori keynote one of her HR presentations at your upcoming event, click here, or email Lori directly at!

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