Five Essential Elements to Build the Capital You Need to Lead

To aspiring entrepreneurs and other business practitioners looking to advance their careers, the path to a leadership role may seem daunting.

Yet anyone with a dream to open a business, start a nonprofit, or simply move up the ranks at work can indeed get where they want to go, as long as they learn to recognize and build their leadership capital—the resources and influence needed to realize their goals, says Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer Archie L. Jones.

In his recently released book, The Treasure You Seek: A Guide to Developing and Leveraging Your Leadership Capital, Jones shares leadership lessons focused on what he calls “the five Cs”: capability, culture, communication, connection, and confidence. Each of these five Cs acts as a building block for developing and deploying leadership capital.

In the following excerpt from the book, Jones—who has more than three decades of global executive and coaching experience—explains how people can use these five Cs to find their own “treasure,” that personal or professional achievement that spells success in their own eyes and have greater impact in the world.

The core of the leadership capital framework is the 5 Cs: capability, culture, communication, connection, and confidence.

Each one of these is a tool or building block for developing and deploying leadership capital. In the chapters that follow, I walk you through these one by one. I tell my own story of locating and learning to implement each component, and I will share the stories of others doing the same thing so that you can see different ways to apply each C to your own situation. Each of the 5 Cs plays some role in every leadership journey—even in my season as QB of my peewee football team.


The first two Cs are all about self-knowledge and introspection, and the first one, capability, is about knowing your superpower. To discover your superpower, your unique capability, you need to dig deep into both the skills you’ve acquired over your lifetime and the unique talents that you were born with or that seem to come naturally to you. Whatever that superpower is, that is the cornerstone of how you contribute, whether that’s in your contribution to the larger goal of some organization or in what you bring to the accomplishment of your own goals. Your capability journey lies in the uncovering of your superpower combined with the continual building of your other knowledge and skill sets.

Like I said, I’m still not sure what capability my coach saw in eleven-year-old me, but he saw something that made him put me in the QB position. I had some know-how (experience capital) playing on both sides of the ball as a receiver and as a defensive back, and maybe he saw some innate coaching potential (my superpower) in the way I interacted with the other kids. Whatever the case may be, that capability, especially that coaching and encouraging potential, was the groundwork for the success I was able to help create that season.


Figuring out the culture component again requires some self-examination, to determine what specific values and what unique lens on the world you bring to situations in order to leverage your unique voice and perspective in the pursuit of your goals or your organization’s goals. Understanding your culture will allow you to bring your whole self and the value that you have to offer to your journey, whether that’s in work, with family, or in the community.

“Our being best friends was a cultural ingredient in how well we were able to work together that season.”

In peewee football, even eleven-year-olds come to the team with their own ingrained ideas about how the game should be played and what roles everyone ought to play. (With eleven-year-olds in particular, everyone thinks they should be the one to run the ball and score touchdowns!) Each one of those perspectives has to be understood to help them fuse together into a positive, team-wide approach. My best buddy, who I mentioned had a stronger arm than me, ended up playing center with me as QB. Our being best friends was a cultural ingredient in how well we were able to work together that season.


With communication, we move into the world of tools for leveraging your relationship capital in order to influence others to achieve goals. On your leadership capital journey, you want to communicate two primary things. First, you need to tell the world what your superpower is—be honest about the unique value you offer. Second, you need to tell the world where you want to go on your leadership journey—be up front about the treasure you seek. There is wisdom in the saying Ask, and you shall receive. Often, we aren’t able to get what we want simply because we’re afraid to communicate our desires to others. Effective communication positions you for opportunities to pursue your own treasure, to join other people’s journeys, and to bring others along on your journey with you as well.

One of the principles of communication, as I like to put it, is Ask for the order. This is what I did when I pulled a scared and frustrated team together in a huddle and said, “Look guys, I just need you to get me three seconds.” Asking for the order has enormous power.


With connection, we put our communication skills to work helping others on their journeys and getting help from them on our journey, in turn—investing in others and getting them to invest in us. If you’re seeking your treasure, you’re not going to be able to get to it alone, which brings us to another basic principle of the leadership capital framework: The answer is in your network. Reaching out and leveraging that network enables you to lighten your own load on your journey and cover more ground more quickly or with less effort.

I built connections with other kids on my football team based on what they needed in order to be on board—some of them I knew I had to be tough with, while others needed a softer approach. And I knew I needed them. The QB can’t do it alone; he needs every one of those ten other people to be in it with him. That’s part of the magic of team sports: it teaches kids from a very young age that it doesn’t matter how good you are (or how good you think you are). What matters is getting others to get on board with you and helping them realize that you’re all in the journey together.


Confidence is not about being unafraid. It’s about not letting fear, especially fear of failure, prevent your forward progress. This is the true definition of courage. The last principle of the leadership capital framework comes from the work of Joseph Campbell and is the source of this book’s title: The cave you are afraid to enter holds the treasure you seek. At some point on your quest for that treasure, you will have to enter that cave. This also involves some introspection, because figuring out what your cave is—what you fear the most in your journey—will also tell you where you need to go looking for your treasure. Confidence consists of tools and strategies for mustering the courage to enter these unknown and uncomfortable stages of your journey.

“I developed that season to handle myself when getting thrown into something new and unknown is what I carried with me into other spheres and to my future successes.”

I did not feel qualified or prepared to take on the position of QB at eleven years old, but I stepped into it, and I built the skills during the course of the season to bolster the confidence in myself and my teammates to forge ahead even when we faced challenges. This often meant starting with small wins—just this first down, which will lead us to this touchdown, and then the progress starts to build on itself. More than anything, the confidence I developed that season to handle myself when getting thrown into something new and unknown is what I carried with me into other spheres and to my future successes. I knew that, at least in some cases, I could deliver on something I had never done before if someone asked me to, and I had the confidence to dive in.

* * *

This book walks you through the 5 Cs in order to help you develop and deploy your leadership capital step-by-step. With each one, you can start from exactly where you are and focus on making progress in one area at a time, just a little bit at a time, in order to build yourself up toward attaining your treasure. If we just look straight at the goal, and at the distance between where we are now and where that treasure is, the gap can be overwhelming and paralyzing. It’s important to know and reflect on what treasure you’re seeking, but that doesn’t mean that’s where all of your focus should be. The work of leadership capital and the 5 Cs, which is designed to take you far along that quest, takes place here in the day-to-day of putting one building block on top of another. This investment in yourself will start to show some early returns as you go along, and your leadership capital will begin to grow as other people begin to see that you’re worth their investment. As you build leadership capital, the other forms of capital will also begin to come your way as others start to invest more and more in you. But you have to make that initial investment.

From The Treasure You Seek by Archie L. Jones, Jr. Copyright © 2024 by Archie L. Jones, Jr. Excerpted by permission of Forbes Books, an imprint of Advantage Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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