published on Monday, August 27, 2007 in The Miami Herald
Leadership is far more than just telling people what to do.
Now more than ever, motivating and inspiring people to do what needs to be done requires a specific set of skills and practices.
BY RICHARD PACHTER
The Leadership Challenge. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. John Wiley. 416 pages.
It's become painfully obvious over the last several years that leadership is a rare commodity. Nearly any idiot can become a boss and bullies are quite common, but in many fields, the practice of true leadership is nearly extinct.
One can take polls, poke a damp thumb into the air to see which way the wind is blowing or wait until the results are in from the outer precincts before making a move. That's not difficult. But having the vision and wisdom to decide where your group needs to go or do and the courage to inspire and push them in that direction requires qualities absent in many, if not most, managers.
It is not simply a matter of charisma or political skill; we have seen the misuse of both of those in recent years. Capitalizing on unrelated circumstances might be helpful in the short term but the truth eventually comes out, and unless the endeavor was successful it is usually seen as the ruse that it was.
But leadership is a tricky thing and difficult to define. This newly revised edition of a business classic, however, provides a solid set of empirical standards based on the observation and analysis of the key behaviors demonstrated by genuine leaders.
"Through our studies of personal-best leadership experiences, we've discovered that ordinary people who guide others along pioneering journeys follow rather similar paths. Though each case we looked at was unique in expression, each path was also marked by some common patterns of action. Leadership is not at all about personality; it's about practice. We've forged these common practices into a model of leadership, and we offer it here as guidance for leaders to follow as they attempt to keep their own bearings and guide others toward peak achievements.
As we looked deeper into the dynamic process of leadership, through case analyses and survey questionnaires, we uncovered five practices common to personal-best leadership experiences. When getting extraordinary things done in organizations, leaders engage in these Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership:
- Model the way
- Inspire a shared vision
- Challenge the process
- Enable others to act
- Encourage the heart"
Authors Kouzes and Posner write crisply in this entertaining and quietly inspiring book as they survey various aspects and manifestations of leadership. Along the way, they plainly demonstrate that it is not the sole province of senior managers. The ripple effect, in fact, achieved by its inspiration, creates an energy loop of sorts that is self-perpetuating.
Using examples from history, industry, sports and government, including many little-known leaders like Brian Coughlin of Brown Brothers, Alan Keith of Turner Broadcasting, Patricia Maryland of Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit, Maggie Hammid of Lam Research and others, they show the transformative power of effective leadership on a number of organizations of various size.
I was unaware of this book and its reputation before I'd encountered it, but after reading it, I can understand why it is valued and respected, and a leader in its chosen field.
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