9 C’s of Leadership from the Legend Lee Iaccoca

Shyam Ramanathan
4 min readJul 6, 2019

Lee Iacocca passed away earlier this week at the age of 94. He is a leadership icon and one of the leaders I admire greatly. He was an icon who will remembered for generations. I liked reading his autobiography and also the other book of his “Where have all the Leaders gone.”

In the book he has talks about his 9 C’s of Leadership. Here they are with my take on each

Curiosity — Curiosity is the hallmark of a creative leader. A leader can be curious by understanding what his team wants and also communicating the vision with crystal clear clarity. A curious leader asks a lot of questions of the team. They constantly learn and show interest in others ideas. This also means having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.

Creativity — Creativity is the not the sole domain of artists. All of us are creative. To be more creative a leader should engage the right brain more. They should have an open mind and be flexible in changing decisions. They should engage in brainstorming sessions with the team to elicit great ideas. Check out my article on this. 8 Ways to Become a Deliberate Thinker

Communication — Of course communication is the number one skill of a leader. A leader with a vision but who can’t communicate will not go far. The ability to make the communication simple is the key to effective leadership. Leaders are experts in all forms of communication.

Character — Character is what is left after charisma is gone. Charisma can be short lived but character is forever. The simplest way for a leader to display character is to tell the truth, take tough decisions and try not to be popular. Defining the values you want to stand by is a good starting point to develop character. Of course none of us are perfect but we can always aim high and try to be as aligned as possible with our highest ideals.

Courage — Courage is rightly considered the foremost of virtues for upon it all others depend. This is what Winston Churchill said. Everyone has fears but the courageous leader acts in spite of the fear. It is making the tough decisions and being open to the team on things that are not going well. Courage truly enables the leader to take calculated risks. Protect the downside and take risks. It is the ability to act in the face of uncertainty.

Conviction — This is the absolute requirement to stay true to your vision and mission. Always keep the end in mind and plan accordingly. Be strong in your moments of decision. Your key decisions of your life will determine where you end up in life.

Charisma — Some of the ways to develop charisma is by being empathetic, being an excellent listener, maintaining eye contact, showcasing enthusiasm for the vision and ability to inspire through your words. 6 Ways to Become a Charismatic Person

Competence — People will follow a leader only if they are competent. To be competent keep abreast of the trends, read daily on leadership, share your learning with everyone and stay relevant with technology.

Common Sense — As someone said common sense is not common. This is a very important trait for all top leaders to possess. Once you move up in your career you are going to face one problem after another and it is important to use your common sense and ingenuity to solve day to day problems. If you don’t have common sense you lose your touch with reality and also your people don’t have the confidence that you can solve the problems at their level. Having common sense enables you to see the big picture and the immediate picture as well. According to Merriam Webster, common sense is about exercising “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” The whole point of developing common sense is to ensure you simplify situations and eliminate barriers in communication. As Scott Fitzgerald said “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

There you have it the 9 C’s of leadership. If we develop these traits we will become excellent leaders. Lee Iaccoca is no longer with us but through his words we can find inspiration to be the best leader we can become.

The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.



Shyam Ramanathan

I am Head of Quality Assurance with expertise in leadership and delivery management. I like reading business books and try to share my learning with everyone.