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  • Writer's pictureDr. Patrick E. Crawford

A "C" Can be a Good Thing!

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

Leadership Thoughts | Issue #80

I read an article this week about the three “Cs” of leadership, connection, communication, and collaboration. I thought I saved the article for future reference, but now I can’t find it. So, I googled the keywords using quotation marks and found the piece I was searching for is probably within the 5,020 that Google found. The good news is that Alain Hunkins has a book titled, Cracking the Leadership Code: Connection, Communication, Collaboration that stood out as a possible read from the search.

It sounds pretty simple; all you have to do to be a successful leader is connect, communicate, and collaborate with people. Let’s dig deeper into the concept and examine why the three “Cs” are a popular way to identify skills needed for successful leadership.


Simon Sinek says the one thing that is necessary to be a leader is followers. He explains that followers are willing to follow someone because of feeling connected to the leader. In one of his recent videos, he discusses how connections are developed. His premise is that people connect based on something they have in common. Whether it is as simple as work, political views, or a mutual friend, there is always something in common. The relationship between the leader and the follower is at the very core of leadership.

Followers are willing to follow someone because of feeling connected to the leader.

Here are three more sub-C words, commitment, credibility, and compliance. People follow a leader because they are committed to the leader’s vision (the why), and the leader has credibility. Compliance is another way to get people to follow the leader’s direction; although generally effective and efficient in the short term, the results are best suited for processes, not transformations.

According to Hunkins, “Empathy is the gateway to connection because we’re all human.” A leader must demonstrate empathy to create trust and make people feel safe to be themselves at work. Hunkins recommends that leaders first think about themselves, identify their character’s strengths and weaknesses, and then use empathy to overcome obstacles. He also suggests that leaders commit to their values and bring out the best in others. A leader who cares for others will be trustworthy and inspiring.


Communication is the lynchpin of leadership and the key to successful organizations. When employees feel connected to their leaders, they can be themselves and trust that they will be treated fairly. Communication is also the leader’s way of influencing, inspiring, and uplifting employees and leading them towards the organization’s mission. Influential leaders do not only talk with employees; they listen while also speaking their minds. Employees cannot trust a leader until they have bonded with them in multiple ways. Then, they will open up to those leaders. Another sub-C is commonality. When influential leaders communicate and build relations with others, they share their beliefs, goals, and thoughts. William Ury says that finding areas of agreement is the key to building trust and opening communication channels.

As Chris Argyris wrote, there are two types of learning: single-loop learning, which focuses on improving individual skills and actions to improve performance, and double-loop learning, which focuses on changing how individuals perceive an organization’s goals. They interact with others to reassess their culture. Communication is the leader’s key to both types of learning.

Effective communication occurs when it is built on a common foundation of goals and values.

When fundamental interactions between people take shape, communications generate into platforms. A communications platform is a venue for a small group of people to come together and share information. What started as an association with others becomes an opportunity to communicate for a specific purpose.


A new term floating around is “quietly quitting.” I surmised that the term refers to individuals still drawing a paycheck but doing as little as possible at work. Although quietly quitting may be more prevalent today, it is not a new practice. I refer to these misguided individuals as dropouts; although they may be present in the body, they are not in spirit. I have personally attempted to lead and supervise some of these quiet quitters and found it best to help them find a better fit for their talents.

People must be heard, respected, and members of a group at work where connection and communication are welcomed. Employees will either drop out of active participation or leave the organization when those needs are not satisfied. The prevalent command and control model during the industrial revolution will not lead to success in today’s organizations. Collaboration activities are essential to establishing autonomy and ownership.

When influential leaders communicate and build relations with others, they share their beliefs, goals, and thoughts.

Collaboration is spawned from the platforms developed by connecting and communicating with others. According to a recent US study, 84% of employees say they are “matrixed” to some extent and are encouraged to collaborate in the workplace. Matrixed is defined as an organizational structure in which two or more lines of command, responsibility, or communication may run through the same individuals.

We started this blog with three guiding principles of leadership. Connection, communication, and collaboration are at the core of organizational health and success. It takes people dedicated to serving others for the three principles to flourish.


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