The 4Cs of Leadership Development

The 4Cs of leadership development at Columbia College—Courage, Commitment, Confidence, and Competence—are an expression of our mission emphases on Leadership and Engaged Learning.  We define leadership as the choice to exercise the power of education in a way that fulfills social responsibilities and embraces opportunities to create positive change in ourselves and in the world around us.  The 4Cs are characteristics that we hope to promote among our graduates; they are also a series of phases in a process of leadership development.  Our aim in showcasing these four elements is to consistently communicate what we do (what we have been doing for some time) and to give it a cadence, an identifiable and memorable pattern, a comfortable groove.  Consider how the following definitions fit favorably with many of the initiatives that we have already built into our four-year structure for student development and how they lend themselves to future programmatic structure and assessment.

Courage ("Stepping Up"):  Accepting Risk

Like leadership, courage is a widely valued characteristic, but it remains difficult to define.  Though often associated with fearlessness, courage is more of a willingness to take action despite fear.  It is the recognition and acceptance of personal risk in pursuit of a goal, particularly a goal reflecting moral or ethical character.  Courage is not only an important component of leadership but also a natural "first step" in leadership development, especially for newly enrolled college students, who are accepting risks and struggling with very real transitional fears.  Our orientation programs, early general education requirements, and first-year student success initiatives are natural opportunities for emphases on courage.  Other possible venues include introductory courses, departmental seminars, and peer mentoring initiatives.    

Commitment ("Stepping In"):  Embracing Values

Although courage is a foundational component of leadership, in isolation, it has limited potential for effecting change.  If courage is a tool, then its utility depends on how it is used and in what capacity.  To move courage into the realm of leadership, it must be applied in the context of values and goals, which are embraced by a community.  We use the word commitment to describe the process of exploring communities, examining their values and goals, and choosing from among them.  Commitment is the development of a focus, of a personal theme that will define the direction of future motivation.  Our position as a Methodist-affiliated school has always brought this type of exploration to the forefront of our mission.  Through LA 101 and 102, our students are challenged to consider diverse intellectual and cultural world views.  Through chapel events and service and social justice programs, we provide a wealth of opportunity for ethical and moral development.

Confidence ("Stepping Out"):  Seizing Opportunities

With courage and commitment in place, the next step in leadership development is to identify and pursue specific opportunities for change, to plan and implement specific actions.  When this step takes place within an area of expertise, such as an academic major, it brings to bear the knowledge and skills that have been previously acquired.  At this point, such a step is a form of motivation that goes beyond courage.  It is both a reflection of experience and a test of commitment, especially because it will likely expose new challenges and unforeseen frustrations.  This phase of leadership development is best addressed from within an academic discipline, and we have diligently fostered such growth through internships, semesters abroad, and independent research projects.  However, when such opportunities are not available or possible, we should commit ourselves to identifying other kinds of applied learning experiences that will serve to increase awareness and build confidence for the inevitable transition from the academic to the professional sphere.

Competence ("Stepping Back"):  Developing Insight

Committed leaders who have completed internships and projects have demonstrated not only courage and confidence but also competence or effectiveness in their academic disciplines.  Competence involves more than just the completion of goals, however.  For example, many leaders point out that they have learned about leadership by thoughtfully examining their failures as well as their successes.  We use the word competence to describe effectiveness enhanced by reflection and synthesis; in other words, we believe that such contemplation is the primary pathway by which leaders improve their effectiveness.  To address competence, we need to consider the benefits of capstone programming that encourages reflective synthesis, particularly following applied learning experiences.