How I ‘C’ real leaders: Nine qualities that make it happen

I think it’s remarkable that Fortune recently ranked Pope Francis No. 1 in an article titled “Fortune Ranks the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.” Pope Francis sets the example by how he lives and how he treats people with kindness and compassion. Through his actions, he illustrates humility, simplicity and how to be nonjudgmental. He is a true “servant leader.” Thanks to my dear friend, Lorraine Dodero, I had the tremendous opportunity to meet him in Rome last fall with my wife, my oldest son Nick and a number of friends.

Pope Francis exemplifies real leadership. There are millions of articles written by people from all different walks of life regarding real leadership. There’s no shortage of thoughts and ideas. To me, real leadership is having the following “C’s”:


Real leaders demonstrate tremendous integrity and are consistent and truthful. They are intellectually honest and see things the way they really are, not the way they may like to see them. They do the right thing, and they do things right.

Trust is also important. There cannot be good leadership without trust. People will look at leaders’ actions more than their words. People don’t like to be lectured to, so they will look at the examples leaders set. Leaders start with themselves. They never ask someone to do something they wouldn’t do personally, and they keep themselves and others accountable. Leaders are introspective and are able to criticize themselves and others. When they criticize, they do so with the intent to improve because they care. They do not criticize in a demeaning or arrogant way.

In a leadership role, before you figure out what you need to do, you need to figure out who you want to be. And you need to become the best version of you. 


Real leaders have a sense of urgency to get things done. They tend to be assertive and take charge in a collaborative manner. They tend to be tenacious and competitive in many aspects of their lives. Leaders succeed and accomplish. They try to avoid procrastinating because they ultimately know they will be judged by their results. Like the great management guru Peter Drucker says, “Show me a great organization, and I’ll show you a monomaniac on a mission.”

Leaders also have to be passionate and have an ultimate vision of what needs to be done, including goals, steps and action plans. They are willing to accept that there may be consequences to their decisions. Leadership is doing the right things for the right reasons, and many decisions leaders make may not be popular at the time. But the antithesis of successful leadership is trying to make everyone happy. It doesn’t work. Throughout history many great leaders were not popular at the times they were leading. Ultimately, leaders keep their commitments and show respect and loyalty to people.


Real leaders have a tremendous sense of concern and a genuine compassion for those with whom they are working. People have a difficult time following a leader if they do not feel that the leader has a genuine interest and concern for them and their well-being. Leaders tend to be naturally altruistic and empathetic. They must be able to put themselves in other people’s shoes. A great man once said, “No one really cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Leaders also tend to have a sense of appreciation. People who are appreciative or have an attitude of gratitude tend to be more humble. There is a direct correlation between appreciation and humility. You have to have some sense of humility in order to be able to thank someone. Leaders need to know three important words: please, thank you and sorry. 


Real leaders have to put people first or who they are serving above being served. It’s about servant leadership. Leaders act and make a difference, understanding it’s about making a contribution, not a comparison. They tend to be more concerned about the greater good than self-interest.

Leaders also understand the transfer of emotions. They understand that you cannot force someone to trust you. Leaders have the ability to inspire, which is a part of the transfer of emotions. People want to follow them.

Real leaders also have wisdom, and they make good choices. It’s not that they don’t make mistakes, but they make more good choices than bad choices. When they do make bad choices, they are willing to admit it, adapt and change direction to make things right in order to move forward. 


Real leaders communicate messages, clarify and over communicate. They really take the time to explain what they are doing so people can understand and become a part of the process. Leaders know how to make people a part of the process, so people aren’t just being told but are having their input and ideas acknowledged.


Real leaders have to be courageous but also willing to show their vulnerability and therefore be authentic. They are very comfortable with who they are. They understand they have strengths and weaknesses, but they play to their strengths. Leaders don’t have to play a role. They are the role models.

Leaders tend to be confident, almost fearless. It’s often about doing ordinary things extraordinarily. But they have to balance confidence with some sense of humility. If they do not balance confidence with humility, they will come across as arrogant and insensitive.

Real leaders also have to balance confidence with not being fearful, such as making decisions that may not be popular at the time. They have to be able to make difficult decisions without showing fear. 


Though having relationships with various constituencies is important, leadership is about the relationships between the leader and the team. Real leaders know how to engage and encourage people. They understand that people need to be motivated. People need to understand why and what is the purpose.

Leaders are able to create an environment where people are willing to work together and pull their strengths together. They create an environment where individuals will apply their abilities. Then, knowing how to use people’s strengths and abilities, leaders will connect skills and strengths.

Furthermore, real leaders know how to collaborate and how to get people to come together for the greater good. They know how to bring people together to pursue a common cause, aligning people together, aligning their missions together, and identifying the common goals and the common good. Leaders also have the ability to persuade and gain confidence in a collaborative environment. They can get people to buy in. But leaders know if they don’t communicate, and if they don’t build relationships, then they ultimately cannot collaborate.

I “C” several important attributes in a real leader.Real leaders have good character, honor commitments, show compassion, make contributions, effectively communicate, demonstrate courage and confidence, and successfully collaborate and connect. Being a real leader is not easy and requires a constant commitment to personal development. By studying the actions of great leaders such as Pope Francis, all of us, in our own way, can make an impactful and lasting contribution.