The Core and the Crust of Leadership

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“The core of leadership is character. It represents the essence of who you are and what you stand for. It has nothing to do with Churchillian eloquence, a puckish sense of humor or grasp of strategy. The crust of leadership is all of that — all of your knowledge, experience and skills. Both parts are important, but not equally important,” wrote Timothy R. Clark, author of “The Leadership Test” and “Epic Change” in a recent article in the Salt Lake City Deseret News.core ingredients of leadership

Clark gives a great, clear explanation of various leadership styles:

“Viewed through the core/crust lens, leaders congregate around three main types:

1. Strong core + strong crust = great leader. If you are strong in both areas, you have the powerful combination of character and competence. This is where greatness lies, because you have the capacity and the intent to help others and accomplish meaningful goals.

2. Strong core + weak crust = nice leader. A nice leader is a person of character who lacks competence. Leaders in this category work hard, care and have integrity, but their lack of competence holds them back from making a fuller contribution. We trust them personally, but not professionally.

3. Weak core + strong crust = dangerous leader. A dangerous leader is a person who combines great intelligence and skill with flawed character. When a leader has significant capacity and directs that capacity toward destructive goals, people suffer.

In the annals of history, great leaders become famous, dangerous leaders become infamous and nice leaders become invisible. Thus, we remember the Lincolns and the Stalins. Everyone else is lost in obscurity.”

Clark asks two key questions you might want to answer:

  • “First, where do we spend most of our time — on the core or the crust? Need I even ask? Most individuals and organizations spend no less than 95 percent of their development efforts and resources on the crust. We obsess on growing and deepening the crust. We want our leaders to be clever.
  • Now the second question: Where do the biggest leadership failures come from? The core, of course. It’s always a collapse of the core.” 

At our core is what we value and believe. Without self-assessment and making smart choices to support and build our character, we can wind up drifting untethered from what really matters. Our employees will know it and our organizations will suffer. Just pick up a newspaper or go online to read the latest management debacle or resignation. It is all around us.

Support your managers and leaders with corporate training videos that show what good leadership is and also help teach the self awareness many leaders need. Stephen Covey is probably one of the foremost thinkers on the subject of character and he offers some key learning concepts in Success Television’s Wisdom of Caring Leaders and Key Leadership Skills video training.

Another leader, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton is an example of a #1 leader who led 28 men to survival after their ship wrecked on ice in near the South Pole. He had the core character and wisdom to decide the goal of being the first to reach the South Pole was not worth losing lives even though that was expected.  Shackleton used humor, communication and routine to keep his team focused on survival and staying positive. A video of him is also included in Success Television’s Key Leadership Skills video training.  

As Clark writes, “There are no shortcuts to becoming a great leader. It takes hard work, humility and self-discipline. Meanwhile, our society is in desperate need of people with that all-too-rare combination — strong core and strong crust. Both will be tested, but the toughest tests will be tests of the core. And they certainly will come!” Be ready.

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