The 3 C’s of Leadership from Top Executive Coaches

September 23, 2014

What can you do to rise through the levels of your organization and develop the collaboration, creativity, and credibility necessary for long-term success in an executive role? Top 1:1 Executive Coaches discuss the mindset, relationships, resilience, and learning agility necessary to get to the top and stay there.


Success is a “collaborative affair”—nothing worth doing can be done entirely alone, everyone has a set of “MVPs” who contribute to their successes. The greatest entrepreneurs and CEOs of global companies know this well and focus on developing others. In my own research for the book ADMIRED, we found that great leaders in any field who have achieved long-term success find out what their own “MVPs” value and admire, and what their goals are. Then they focus on helping them to achieve their goals—not only on achieving their own.

According to Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Great by Choice, Level 5 leaders have a brilliant combination of humility and hubris—the humility to know that everything worthwhile is accomplished only when you recruit other people to the cause or to your team. And nothing gets done unless you have the humility to learn from others.


Sir Richard Branson advises leaders to encourage innovation by “getting out of their own way” and trusting the team around them to make decisions (and not fear making mistakes). He stresses the importance of taking creative ideas and input from all levels within an organization, and from trusted outside advisors as well.

Executive Coach Marshall Goldsmith says that it’s just as important to understand what NOT to do as an executive—to avoid things that can derail you in a leadership role. “The number one problem that many successful people have is winning too much,” Marshall explains. You can’t always be right, and if you want solve a problem, create something new or come to the greatest intersection of mutual benefit in a relationship with a customer. There will be times when you need to know how to “lose” in order to elicit great ideas from others around you.

Executive coach Howard Morgan reiterates this point and explains how important it is as a leader to have a point of view—but to be open to being wrong in order to encourage innovation and creativity from your team. Quality expert Subir Chowdhury says that it is critical that leaders trust people throughout a company to find “bad processes” and be empowered to be creative and make process improvements at every level. Carol Kauffman of the Coaching Institute at Harvard University tells leaders to consistently focus on what’s being done “right” when managing a team in order to keep people engaged and creative. People won’t devote their creative energies to your cause if they are only told what they’re doing wrong—they need to feel rewarded for bringing forth creative ideas even when some of the ideas don’t pan out.


Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, has a counterintuitive piece of advice for executives on the way up—“Never think about your next job!” He says that this is the biggest mistake that you can make as you seek your next promotion. Instead, he advises that you focus on credibility in your current role—delivering consistent performance, making a strong contribution and measurable improvements where you are right now is the most important key to opening up new opportunities. “Do every job like you are going to do it forever.” People see and will remember how you handle the job that you are doing now, so even if you are eyeing the corner office—focus on consistently delivering value in your current role.

“Leadership is not really about the leader,” says Jim Kouzes, author of The Leadership Challenge. He explains that personal credibility is of critical importance for leaders because success is about all of the people who have joined your cause—and you won’t be able to gain support from others without personal credibility.

Whether you are an entrepreneur starting your own venture or rising through the ranks of an established company, committing to these three C’s: Collaboration, Creativity, and Credibility, will help you become more effective in any leadership role.


These Top 1:1 Executive Coaches have come together in one AMA Webcast, 10 Secrets from the World’s Top Executive Coaches That Can Make or Break Your Career, that will air at 12pm EDT on October 15, 2014.

Three world-class CEOs: Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, and former Charles Schwab CEO David Pottruck, will join this esteemed group of coaches—including Marshall Goldsmith, Mark Thompson, Jim Collins, Jim Kouzes, Maya Hu Chan, Carol Kauffman, Lynda Gratton, Gary Ranker, Marilyn McLeod, Dave Ulrich, Howard Morgan, Rita McGrath, and Subir Chowdhury—to share key insights that they’ve gained through working with executives in Fortune 500, Global 500, and high growth startup companies worldwide.

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About The Author

Based in Silicon Valley, Mark is a senior executive leadership coach, a successful business leader, New York Times bestselling author, venture capitalist and Tony-nominated Broadway producer. Mark is the CEO and cofounder of Virgin Unite Mentors, Charles Schwab’s former Chief of Staff, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Chief Communications Officer and cofounder of the Schwab Foundation. He is a founding advisor of the Stanford Realtime Venture Design Lab, and a SupporTED coach - an executive coach for TED Fellows. Forbes Magazine called Mark one of “America’s top investors with the ‘Midas’ touch.”


  1. avatar

    Short and to the point – I like the 3 C’s Mark especially as I personally can suffer from over articulation at times. 🙂 This is refreshingly succinct. Also fully support highlighting ‘what not to do’ as much as ‘what to do.’ For me clarifying boundaries are also a big part of how I use emotional intelligence coaching – carefully balancing valuing self with others. Philip Gimmack, EQworks

  2. avatar

    […] The world's top executive coaches give their tips on how to develop your leadership through collaboration, creativity and credibility.  […]

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