One thing the very best CEOs have in common is their high degree of self-awareness. In other words they are very cognizant where both their strengths and even more importantly where their weaknesses lie. Like elite athletes who are always seeking to shore up a weaker attribute of their performance, great CEOs are always working on the developmental opportunities in their own personal leadership game. 

The 5Cs of Leadership: Clarity, Credibility, Congruence, Character and Challenge are five critical elements of leadership that are often missed in traditional leadership development programs. This is because these are the harder and very personal factors that take intense self-reflection and honesty to address, but make all the difference in effectively leading people. 

As a CEO or other key leader in your company or organization, let’s explore each of these important aspects of leadership and how you measure up: 

Clarity is about how clear your vision is. Is it crystal clear to everyone on the team? How well do they understand why the vision matters and how it positively and personally impacts them? How measureable are the goals? Will it be easy to prove success when you achieve them? How well is your team aligned and executing on the strategies to achieve the vision? Credibility is a leader’s know-how and track record of producing the results necessary to achieve the mission. Fundamentally, people only voluntarily follow credible people. Where can you improve your credibility as a leader? Have you produced the results yourself so others trust your ability to lead? What actions can you take, and experiences can you gain to improve your credibility? Congruence is about how well do you walk the talk? How well do you model and act on your own leadership advice? Others will not feel good about following you if you do not. (This happens more than we like to admit!) Where can you improve in this area? Also, how congruent is your company? How well is your company’s brand promise supported by what both your customers and employees really say? Character is the most sensitive of the five. Leaders with high character realize that all people can improve their moral and ethical character. People of lesser character rationalize away these shortcomings and claim to be essentially perfect. Here’s a key question: Is your character sufficiently strong enough that people would follow you even if you did not have formal authority? How strong is your integrity? How often do you do what you say you are going to do? How well do you maintain commitments? Where can you improve your ethics? What would embarrass you if other people knew about it? High character leaders understand and take actions to improve these opportunities. Challenge is about challenging the status quo to deliver a better future. What does this better future look like? How compelling have you made it? How well are you challenging yourself personally to produce better results? How effective are you at challenging your teammates to be accountable to produce the results necessary for a better future. 

People willingly follow honest, authentic people with vision. Combined, the 5Cs of Leadership summarize these attributes. Exploring these five critical and sometimes less studied areas of leadership with your team will yield a treasure trove of leadership gold for both you personally and your entire organization. Start by challenging your team by asking each other how all of you can improve in each of these vital areas.

Rick Crossland is author of the book The A Player. He is based in Dublin, Ohio, and works with organizations across the country to transform good companies into great companies. Additional resources are available at