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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

The A, B, C's of Modern Leadership

The A² + B² + C² Leadership Formula


The A² + B² + C² Leadership Formula
The A² + B² + C² Leadership Formula (photo created using AI)

I am often asked by those at the start of their careers what I believe the "formula" is for successful leadership. Depending on when I am asked, I have an answer that it typically based on the challenge(s) of the moment. Understandable, but not really a complete answer (not that there is one single right answer). Over time, I have given this question more thought and had several conversations with others from various perspectives. Inspired by a recent message from a marketing instructor, I dusted off my notes and put together this draft for your consideration.


What I've crafted is a concept that I believe encapsulates the essence of effective leadership in today's world: what I call the "A,B,C's of Modern Leadership", or more accurately, the A² + B² + C² Formula. This formula is a synergy of six pivotal qualities: Attitude, Agility, Boldness, Benevolence, Curiosity, and Collaboration. Attitude and Agility (A²): A positive attitude is not just about having a sunny disposition; it’s about fostering a culture of positive influence. This is a must for me, as the right or wrong person can tip the scales on a team. As Winston Churchill aptly stated, "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." In leadership, this means building teams that not only exhibit positivity but also encourage and uplift each other. It’s about creating an environment where positive attitudes are contagious, driving motivation and resilience even in challenging times.

Agility in leadership is becoming increasingly vital as change occurs at an unprecedented rate. Candidly, not just in leadership, but in life. The ability to evolve, adapt, and willingly step outside one's comfort zone is key to thriving in today's fast-paced world. Aesop’s words resonate deeply here: "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Agile leaders are those who can navigate the complexities of rapid change, guiding their teams through uncharted territories with adaptability and foresight.

Boldness and Benevolence (B²): Boldness in leadership is about embracing risk-taking with a calculated and thoughtful approach. Anais Nin’s observation, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage," perfectly encapsulates this. Bold leaders are those who take calculated risks, dare to fail, learn from their mistakes, and use these experiences as stepping stones to success. They understand that true growth often requires stepping into the unknown and making tough decisions.

Benevolence in leadership adds a layer of empathy and kindness to the mix. I will admit, it was empathy that I was after, but benevolence elevates the expectation. It's about leading with heart and understanding. Leo Buscaglia, one of my mother's favorite speakers, reminds us of the power of empathy: "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring." Benevolent leaders recognize the importance of respect, diversity, and inclusivity. They know that addressing challenges doesn’t mean forgoing compassion; it’s about combining strength with empathy to create a supportive and empowering environment.

Curiosity and Collaboration (C²): Curiosity is the lifeblood of innovation and continuous learning. It has become one of the primary characteristics that I search for when pulling a team together. Albert Einstein’s statement, "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious," speaks volumes and highlights the importance of an inquisitive mind in leadership. Leaders who are constantly seeking knowledge, asking questions, and exploring new ideas are the ones who drive progress and innovation. They understand that experience coupled with curiosity can lead to groundbreaking discoveries and solutions. (A great book to read that shows how curiosity can be a critical leadership trait, "Turn the Ship Around" by L. David Marquet)

Collaboration is about harnessing the power of collective effort and diverse perspectives. Helen Keller’s words, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much," emphasize the importance of teamwork. In the context of modern leadership, collaboration extends to embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion. This will become a future post - but even if you dismiss DEI as a moral imperative or a social platform, it is just good business sense. It is about valuing different backgrounds, experiences, and opinions, and understanding that inclusive teamwork leads to more comprehensive and innovative outcomes. Leaders who excel in collaboration create environments where every voice is heard and every team member feels valued.

My hope is that the A² + B² + C² formula is more than just a set of traits; it's a balanced approach to leadership that fosters growth, innovation, and empathy. I have found that leaders that I look up to, and learn from, are those who embody these qualities. They are not just effective in their roles; they become catalysts for positive change, inspiring others to reach their full potential in an environment that values courage, compassion, curiosity, and collaboration.


Attitude + Agility + Boldness + Benevolence + Curiosity + Collaboration


Your thoughts? I would greatly appreciate the feedback!

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