Leadership Essence: The 4Cs

Posted on April 5, 2013 by


Leadership essence reflects the principles and values of the leader as well as the respect for the individual and the group. It also influences leadership style, or how one leads. While most leaders employ more than one style of leadership based on the situation, the essence of their leadership seldom changes. Leadership essence can be conceptualized by the 4Cs – charisma, character, conviction and competency.  Understanding leadership essences will help current and future leaders refine their skill and their style.


Charisma can yield great power and influence.  Those individuals that are charismatic seem to be born with a natural gift to inspire and motivate others.  These individuals can appear to be “larger than life” and have an ability to communicate with others in a manner that engages their emotions.  Weber (1968) noted that charismatic leaders are set apart from others in their ability to exercise influence through personality.  In essence, charisma is useful in motivating and influencing other’s behavior.


Character reflects citizenship or ethical behaviors that demonstrate integrity and build trust.  It is something that is developed over time, and shaped by religious beliefs, values and life experiences.  Individuals with strong character tend to exhibit traits such as drive, determination, self-discipline, will power and integrity.  Followers look for leadership that demonstrate character as it creates trust in both the leader and the vision of the leader (Bass, 1990; Weber, 1968).


Conviction reflects the leader’s commitment to the vision and purpose.  It drives and determines the leader’s beliefs and strategy.  Conviction prevents the leader from shifting course in the midst of adversity.  Because of the leader’s belief in the vision, that it is the “right course”, he or she will stay the course, regardless of adversity and adjust as necessary to achieve the end result.


The specific skills demonstrated by a leader that prove his or her ability are competencies. Studies have shown that key competencies include but are not limited to being a visionary, inspirational, strategic, tactical, decisive, and ethical (Bass, 1990).  Effective leaders recognize the competencies required to be successful in their role and practice those competencies as a form of self-development to improve their leadership skills.

The 4Cs offer an aspiring or active leader a baseline for self-development.  They also offer a means to conceptualize the enigma of leadership into something more actionable. While not inclusive of leadership essence, they provide a starting point for further refining one’s leadership style.

Bass, B. M. (1990).  Handbook of Leadership: A survey of theory and research.  New York, New York: Free Press.

Weber, M. (1968).  On charisma and institution building.  Chicago, Il: University of Chicago Press.