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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay

Leadership qualities that lead to Success with the Three "Cs"

Over the past forty-two (42) years, I’ve worked in and with many different types of teams, from my military past to my own companies, from hundreds of customers and leaders from around the world as well. I’ve invested in several different industries, oil and gas, media, risk and security, and technology as well as working in them and, some industries you probably don’t know exist. On the surface, each team and company’s situation and issues are unique. However, over time, I started to see patterns emerge- patterns of behavior. It’s been said that success leaves clues, and it’s true. Great leaders operate using similar principles to guide their actions. What’s less well known, as equally as true, is that mistakes leave clues, too. Poor leaders rely on a set of shadow principles that keep them mired in mediocrity.

Leaders today are faced with a business environment that is complex, dynamic, and fast-changing. To keep their organizations on an even keel, every manager has two key roles to fulfill, no matter what kind of business it is, or in what industry, or how large or how small.

So what separates great leaders from the rest, what I have seen and what I have I witness? For me, it comes down to the Art of leadership, mastering three fundamentals: connection, communication, and collaboration.


At its core, leadership isn’t about control, power, or a job title. Leadership is a relationship between two people. The quality of their relationship is built on the quality of their connection. The connection provides the spark that gets others to willingly follow your lead. It’s the main ingredient in trust. There’s a reason we say, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”: it’s the root of humanity.

The connection comes with a price—the investment of your time and attention. It also takes a willingness to put your ego aside. Demonstrating empathy towards others means being courageous enough to be vulnerable from time to time. However, these upfront costs pay dividends on the back end that of engagement and commitment.


In my current role in working with our customer's board rooms or leadership, or even when I work with my leaders of our companies I ask What is your biggest challenge at work?. They all state communication is usually at the top of the list. This makes sense: leaders spend 70-90% of their time in a group or team interaction every day. Communication and leadership are joined at the hip.

Effective communication is harder than it looks. For the most part, it’s taken for granted. We treat communication like a basic utility. Just like the electricity in your home, it’s expected that it’ll always be there for you. Not until the blackout do you notice you have a real problem.

The challenge with communication isn’t one of quantity it’s a quality issue. I have learned over the decades the goal of the act of communication isn’t communicating, it’s to create shared understanding. And I don’t assume that getting to understanding just happens. I know and encourage that the nature of transferring meaning from one person to another is rife with challenges. We as leaders must accept obstacles as part and parcel of the process. But also we have the foresight and empathy to know what those obstacles will be in advance, so we can proactively deal with them.


If there’s one constant in 2020, it’s changing in a way we never imagined and has not stopped yet. This year we’ve taken VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) to a whole new level. People, companies, and entire industries have had to pivot and reinvent themselves even my companies have had to pivot. Technology has connected more people in more places at more times than ever before. Leaders need to harness the power of these connections.

Today’s leaders can’t stay stuck in a silo, relying on the antiquated model of top-down command and control. Instead of commanding, they need to become skilled facilitators, very similar to what I learn from my time in the military. Instead of being in charge, they need to focus on helping the people in their charge.

Collaborative leaders call on a variety of skills. They need to know how to build a common vision and unifying purpose. They need to inspire others to bring their whole selves to work. They need to create a climate that draws out the best ideas. They need to know how to flex their decision-making style for each situation. If that wasn’t enough, they do all these things while making it easier for their people to do their best work.

These efforts bring rich rewards. Leading effective collaboration is a win/win. Not only are employees happier, creative, and energized, but companies that promote collaboration are five times as likely to be high performing.

Connection, communication, and collaboration. These fundamentals are the foundation for leadership success. They’re not complicated to understand, and they don’t require a great deal of sophistication. However, there’s a big gap between knowing and doing. Practicing these principles consistently is what separates the great leaders from the rest. If you call yourself a leader, then the true challenge is making a connection, communication, and collaboration an everyday habit.

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