Leadership Takeaways From the Guru

Recently, The Leader Campus released a video interview with Jim Kouzes of The Leadership Challenge. I encourage you to watch the whole thing.

But here are some of my main takeaways, in case you don’t want to make time to watch it now.

One big point from the latest research:

While the context for leadership keeps changing, the content doesn’t.

Research-based practices of Exemplary Leadership hold solid over time and in different cultural contexts. The Five Practices are summarized in the following Leadership Checklists:

The Kouzes and Posner checklist:

  1. Search out challenging opportunities to grow, innovate, and improve.
  2. Experiment, take risks, and learn from the accompanying mistakes.
  3. Envision an uplifting and ennobling future.
  4. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams.
  5. Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust.
  6. Strengthen people by sharing information and power, and by increasing their discretion and visibility.
  7. Set the example for others by behaving in ways that are consistent with your stated values.
  8. Plan small wins that promote consistent progress and build commitment.
  9. Recognize individual contributions to the success of every project.
  10. Celebrate team accomplishments regularly.

The Group Dynamic checklist:

  1. Instead of thinking “I’ve done my share,” I think, “What more can be done?”
  2. I can accurately describe both
    A) the ideal state of our group
    B) the exact current state of our group.
  3. I have high moral standards, and my actions are consistent with those values.
  4. I listen well, with total focus on the speaker.
  5. I speak well, clearly, specifically, in a way that leaves no question of what I meant and that shows total respect to the person listening.
  6. When helping or correcting someone, I address a person’s specific actions, not their attitude.
  7. I demonstrate/model everything I ask others to do.
  8. When I am corrected, or learn new ways of doing things, I adjust what I do accordingly.
  9. If you ask the people I interact with, they will tell you that I am caring.
  10. If you ask the people I interact with, they will all tell you that I am passionate about our work/cause/organization.

Two of the major context changes are not surprising: there’s more remote working than ever before, and more organizations now realize the value of collaboration in decision-making. When asked if this means that good leaders are able to share power more, Kouzes replied, “Exemplary leaders have always shared power,” pointing out that this concept isn’t at all new, but is simply spreading.

When pressed to give reasons that exemplary leaders still seem hard to find, Kouzes gives three reasons:

  1. Data show that leadership training begins before age 21, but the average age that leadership development begins is 34.
  2. While leadership development programs are offered, there is generally very little follow-through and reinforcement.
  3. When emerging leaders learn new ways of doing things, they don’t make a habit of deliberately practicing techniques and approaches on a daily basis.

He draws a comparison to athletes. Athletes don’t become great if they wait to start training. They start training early in life. They have coaches who constantly guide them. Even the tennis and golf greats who are on the playing field alone have a raft of coaches preparing and debriefing them. Finally, they practice every day. Nothing else makes sense. The same is true for leaders.

I took notes on two other concepts he shared: Credibility and Legacy.

I’ll share them, because Jim does a stellar job of boiling things down in a concise way.

On credibility: Credibility is gained or lost by how you match your stated values to your behavior. Leaders gain credibility with consistency and competency, and lose it when they are either incompetent, or lack consistency by breaking promises or being inconsistent. Both have to be present.

On legacy: Kouzes shared an acronym that works when working at the four things that lead to your legacy: LIFE

  1. Lessons: What do you want people to learn from you?
  2. Ideals: What do you stand for?
  3. Feelings: How do you want people to feel?
  4. Evidence: What tangible effects will those lessons, ideals, and feelings leave behind?

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

4 Responses

  1. Angie Chaplin
    | Reply

    You had me at Kouzes. =) Thanks for sharing the powerful messages of The Leadership Challenge and The Five Practices.

    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      You are always welcome, Angie! Thanks for reading/watching.

  2. Erin L.
    | Reply

    Love this one, and I enjoyed your interview, too. Will definitely be checking out Peter Senge and Robert Greenleaf since I feel like building relationships (or being comfortable with it) is an area I need to improve. I also plan to bookmark the leadership challenge website and start deliberately practices different activities. Thanks for doing what you do!

    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      Awesome plan, Erin – thanks for weighing in!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *