What Are the Three Things That Leaders Do?

No matter what the situation, setting, or method of communication, leaders frequently and consistently do these things.      

1. Leaders challenge us.

They believe every person has hidden potential and is capable of growing and achieving more.

They challenge us by:

  • Expanding our vision
  • Challenging our assumptions
  • Establishing stretch goals
  • Delegating important projects
  • Asking provocative questions
  • Pointing out top performance

Challenges make you stretch and consider new ways of working. A significant challenge forces you to rethink your assumptions and redesign your current process, or create a new process.

Think about the leaders (family members, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors, and bosses) who challenged you.

  • My favorite teacher pushed me to develop my gifts.”
  • “Early in my career, my boss challenged me to speak up and be more of a leader in staff meetings.

Who have you challenged in the last three days?

2. Leaders build our confidence.

You can do it!

When you face a tough challenge, what happens to your confidence? It may drop. Some people get anxious and nervous. That influences their ability to think clearly and learn new skills.

You need a healthy dose of self-confidence to move out of your comfort zone and tackle a bold challenge.

Leaders build our confidence by:

  • Affirming our abilities
  • Highlighting our current accomplishments
  • Reminding us of our previous successes
  • Helping us eliminate negative self-talk
  • Saying things like: “I know you can do it.” “I know you are going to hit a home run.”

When leaders increase your responsibilities, they are silently saying, “I believe in you!”

As you learn more and accomplish more, your self-confidence increases.

Think about the leaders who built your confidence.

  • My mother believed in me. She affirmed me all the time.”
  • “My mentor saw strengths in me that I didn’t know I had.”

What actions are you taking to build people’s confidence?

3. Leaders Coach Us.

They are always looking for “teachable moments.” They share their insights and ideas to help us grow and develop.

They coach us by:

  • Breaking down complex behaviors into bite-size pieces
  • Providing feedback
  • Asking questions to help us discover our own strengths and solutions
  • Suggesting and demonstrating more effective approaches
  • Helping us work through our emotions

Think about the leaders who impacted your career by coaching you.

  • My mentor asked provocative questions and provided great insights, guidance, and suggestions.”
  • “My boss gave me candid feedback when I needed it most.”

How much time do you spend coaching your people?

The Three Cs are Interrelated

When you receive effective coaching, you feel more prepared and confident. As your confidence increases, you are willing to take on bigger and bigger challenges. A spiraling up effect occurs.

“My boss assigned me special projects to expand my skills; he stayed involved to coach me and remove obstacles.  When I succeeded, he publicized my accomplishments. This built my confidence and led to bigger opportunities.”

I described this as the “3C Leadership Model” in my book, Be the Leader, Make a Difference.

Effective leaders start by determining which C (Challenge, Confidence, or Coaching) will be most helpful to the person. What is the person’s biggest need at the current moment?

When situations change, effective leaders adjust and modify their approach.

The best leaders also provide the right amount of each C. Providing too much or too little of what’s needed will reduce the overall impact. For example, providing too much coaching can be as bad as providing too little or no coaching.


Think about your interactions with your staff, colleagues, and family members.

  • Do you overemphasize one of the Cs? All he does is challenge us!
  • Do you effectively diagnose which C is most needed?
  • Are you proficient at determining how much of each C to provide?

Bottom line—are you providing the right C in the right amount?

Are the people in your network becoming more productive, confident, and capable as a result of the interactions they have with you?

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