The Leadership Challenge is Everyone’s Business

The Leadership ChallengeI recently had the opportunity to read The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. Today there are many books on leadership out there. Many of them have good lessons, but sometimes those lessons come from just one or two individuals’ opinions, based on situations that don’t necessarily apply to everyone. What struck me about this book, in addition to the fact that it flows easily from start to end, is the extensive research conducted as a foundation for the five practices presented in it. According to Kouzes’ and Posner’s analysis of personal-best cases, these five practices are what all successful leaders have in common. More importantly, they are five practices that can be learned by anyone, allowing all of us to become potential leaders if we practice the following skills and commit to them:

  1. Model the Way. Determine and communicate what values are important to you. Align those values to those of your employees and your organization by setting the example and being the first to take action.
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision. Look beyond today to see future possibilities – to establish a vision. Then, communicate and explain that vision to others in order to inspire a movement concurrent with that vision.
  3. Challenge the Process. Continuously look for ways to innovate, grow, and improve. Leaders learn from their mistakes and encourage others to do the same.
  4. Enable Others to Act. Foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships with peers, direct reports, customers, suppliers – anyone who has a stake in the organization. Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence. A leader who builds confidence in others generates achievement beyond what others believe is possible.
  5. Encourage the Heart. Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence. Celebrate values and victories of others and the organization by linking rewards with performance. Celebrations should showcase those whose efforts reflect the company’s values and core principles.

Whether or not you completely agree with the authors’ five practices, one thing is for sure: leadership can be found in any one person. It is not a magical gift. It can be learned. And, as Kouzes and Posner would say, that makes leadership everyone’s business.

Click here to learn more about Kouzes and Posner and The Leadership Challenge.