The Cream Always Rises to the Top

| Opinion | March 26, 2020

by Paul Raggio

I’ve never worked in the dairy industry, but I’ve heard this axiom all my life; a metaphor for those leaders in critical periods of time who rise to the occasion. We have all seen this happen under many different circumstances: earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, landslides, natural and manmade disasters, and war. Often, to our surprise, those who we never thought could lead rose to the occasion, and those elected, appointed, installed leaders who we were counting on, failed. We’re living through one of those periods of time. COVID-19 can’t be seen, smelled, heard, nor touched but it sure has threatened our way of life, and were starting to see the cream in Santa Clarita Valley rise to the top in our community.

In times of crisis, we thirst for leaders who express a vision, exhibit conviction, get judgment right, and are clear, direct, purposeful, and inspirational communicators. We follow leaders who offer visions beyond today, tomorrow and next month. Visions rooted in hope, faith and charity. Hope, to those in fear, that there will be a better tomorrow after COVID-19. Faith, that together as a family, business, community, and nation we will overcome and be better for the journey we labored on. And charity, an empathetic and big-hearted response to our employees, co-workers, family, neighbors, and countrymen that we’ve got your back, we’re in this together, you won’t go without as long as I have something to give. This is the vision we thirst for!

Leaders exhibiting conviction are often described as having the requisite grit to get us through any level of hardship. Gritty leaders persevere through adversity; they’re in the game to the end; they just flat don’t give up. They commit to goals and inspire their followers to achieve them. They give confidence that no matter the hardship, we will successfully see it through to the end. Their conviction entails working strenuously through challenges, maintaining effort and interest despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. They approach achievement as a marathon and their advantage is stamina. Leaders of conviction stay the course and exhibit a will to succeed!

Standout leaders in crisis express sound and reasoned judgments. Judgments are woven with personal virtues and values. Leaders know their judgments will produce outcomes, both positive and negative, impacting the achievement of the mission, goals and subordinate objectives. In arriving at judgments, leaders understand the risk of failure. In so doing, they ruthlessly hunt for facts and sniff out opinions, temper, but not ignore their guts, and actively guard against their biases before coming to judgments. They use techniques when they can to assess risk and avoid at all costs on relying solely on their guts. But when the facts can’t be ferreted out, and opinions flourish, the leaders’ guts prevail in assessing risk and arriving at sound and reasoned judgments.


The most difficult aspect of leading is communication, all types of communication; written, spoken, nonverbal, compounded by emotion, gestures, expressions, and exacerbated by ill-chosen words and misguided behaviors. Clear, direct, purposeful, and inspirational communication is a skill few people possess, and fewer leaders practice. Good ideas are lost because they are poorly communicated. Misunderstandings occur because the communicator creates confusion resulting from their lack of directness or clarity in their message. There are lots of regrets expressed by leaders who wish they could retrieve poorly communicated messages because it caused unintended outcomes. There is no level of leadership immune to poor communication. Like any other critical skill, clear, direct, purposeful, and inspirational communication, whether written, spoken, and/or nonverbal, requires considerable effort on each of our parts to get it right.

During this extraordinary time, be the cream that rises and leads, thinks, plans, and acts by expressing a vision, exhibiting conviction, getting judgment right, and clearly, directly, purposefully, and inspirationally communicating with those thirsting for your leadership. Now, let’s get after it!

Paul Raggio is co-owner, with his sister Lisa, of One True North INC Leadership and Business Coaching Solutions, a service disabled, veteran owned, family operated firm based in Santa Clarita, California, and they are certified business coaches for ActionCOACH, the number one business coaching service in the world. Paul and Lisa mentor and coach business owners and their employees on leadership and management principles in achieving and sustaining their business growth and profitability goals. Email him at [email protected] or go to his website at www.paulraggio.actioncoach.com.

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One Response to “The Cream Always Rises to the Top”

  1. I am incredibly thankful to Paul and Lisa for taking the lead on helping our business community through these tough times. They are experienced, passionate and the most thoughtful people I know. I encourage business owners to talk with Paul or Lisa so they can guide you and your business to come out of this pandemic on top. Take action and you will thrive.

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