By Marcus Hill, January 11, 2022

Editor’s note: Marcus Hill presents FELTG training on leadership, EEO, supervisory challenges,  and more. We’re excited to have Marcus contribute to the FELTG Newsletter. If you’re interested in having Marcus conduct training for your agency, contact [email protected].

January 2022 marks my one-year retirement anniversary. It inspired me to declutter the workplace belongings around the house I amassed over 37 years.  Yes … I know, who hoards that amount of stuff? Unfortunately, and fortunately, me. Unfortunately is obvious, but I say fortunately because sorting through the clutter presented an opportunity to reminisce and celebrate professional achievements one more time. I began my Federal career as, some would say, a disadvantaged South Georgian 17-year-old GS-2 cooperative education student but concluded it as a highly accomplished Senior Executive Service leader.

As I combed through the documents and memorabilia chronicling my career, one word continuously resonated with me — leadership. In fact, one of the first items I ran across during my organizing efforts was a May 1983 newspaper article that featured an interview I gave as the graduating high school senior class president. In that article, I acknowledged the leadership experience I gained serving in that role and commented it would come in handy in the future. Little did I know the future would be one month later when I started my Federal civil service career. In addition, I thanked my parents, teachers, coaches, and classmates for contributing to the leader that I had become. I was impressed reading such humility at a young age. Yes, what I now refer to as C8 Leadership Traits were infused in me early on and significantly contributed to achieving those many accomplishments visible throughout the clutter.  So what are these C8 Leadership Traits that I attributed to enabling so many successes? I am glad you asked:

C1–Character:  Leaders who demonstrate impeccable character attract like-valued followers. We know integrity, honest and ethical behavior are core qualities of reputable, trustworthy leaders. Leaders of great character also possess a mindset of serving those who follow or work for them. By shifting the traditional paradigm of subordinates working for their leaders, leaders forge bonds that result in subordinates giving their all to support them. A former colleague shared a quote that resonated with me at the time. He attributed it to a Civil War dictum for calvary commanders: “Feed your horses, feed your men (troops) and then feed yourself.” Character orders this sequencing.

C2–Capacity: Effective leaders must possess the capacity for continuous learning. Albert Einstein said: “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” Research has shown that developing a healthy reading habit strengthens your mental capacity. Leaders must have the capacity to absorb and apply relevant learnings for the betterment of their organizations, colleagues, and themselves.

C3–Competence: Competence establishes credibility. Therefore, leaders must invest time and energy into honing their craft, being very proficient in those competencies relevant to leading and managing.

C4–Confidence: Confidence results from preparation. Leaders who are prepared when opportunities present achieve success. In mathematical terms, “Preparation + Opportunity = Success.” Successful leaders exude confidence.

C5–Courage: “There is no right way to do the wrong thing.” On occasions, leaders may find themselves in situations in which they may have to remind superiors of this. I experienced such a time. Doing so can be emotional and career-impacting. However, leaders must have the courage to speak truth to power if warranted. Remember, leaders are constantly being watched and evaluated by their subordinates. According to my former deputy, a former United States Marine, I earned my blood stripes that day when I had to demonstrate such courage. Along with that badge of honor, I earned the ultimate respect of my colleagues. That was priceless.

C6 – Compassion: We are spiritual beings living a human existence. Each of us will experience days in the struggle, and a good dose of compassion may be our cure. Often, leaders can make/break, convict, or pardon. There is power in the pardon. It’s OK to be the Velvet Hammer on occasion.

C7 – Completion: Zig Ziglar stated, “It’s not where you start but where you finish that counts.” Be a leader that’s known for closing. Most are only openers. Results matter.

C8 – Commitment to excellence: Leaders should strive for excellence in every endeavor and inspire others to do the same. In the last organization I led, our mantra was “Excellence in All We Do, It’s Our Responsibility.”  The best strategy for a leader to gain that commitment to achieve organizational goals is by including their workforce in strategic planning initiatives, not just the senior leaders.

Creating an inclusive planning culture that values differing perspectives yields great opportunities to accomplish strategic priorities. Committing to this approach resulted in my former organization, during my tenure, achieving more than 40 governmental and industry awards, including many individual recognitions for excellence.

I have successfully organized the clutter and purged items I no longer need to retain from my former career.  By doing so, I believe I have only created additional space for more C8 Leadership Traits-based successes to come. [email protected]

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