Leadership Notes #41 – The Leadership Challenge

(This series of “notes” first appeared in the YahooGroup “VenturingList” and are written by Michael Brown. I thought that they were worth sharing with the Commissioner Corps.)

“The Leadership Challenge” by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner is now in its fourth edition (2007). It’s proved to be a very popular work, spawning workshops, a conference, and various support materials, including a 360 degree assessment tool (the Leadership Practices Inventory) and a journal, a workbook and activities book. It’s even lead to a version developed for students, which can be used in high school or college level programs. “The Student Leadership Challenge” has its own LPI and support material. (I have yet to check out this book, so can’t comment on it.) Information on this can be found at the website www.leadershipchallenge.com, which has a variety of material available.

The authors of the LC set out to research and interview leaders about leadership itself. From this research, which included leadership in both business and non-profit groups, they developed their model of leadership. They make a big point that their work is based on 25 years of research.

The core of their model is a set of 5 practices. These practices enable leaders to get extraordinary things done. The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart

These 5 Practices are built on 10 Commitments of Leadership (essential behaviors), basically 2 commitments per practice, with these commitments based on fundamental principles. These are:

• Model the Way
o Clarify values by finding your voice and affirming shared ideals
o Set the example by aligning actions with shared values

• Inspire a Shared Vision
o Envision the future by imagining exiting and ennobling possibilities
o Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations

• Challenge the Process
o Search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve
o Experiment and Take Risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience

• Enable Others to Act
o Foster collaboration by building trust and facilitate relationships
o Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence

• Encourage the Heart
o Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence
o Celebrate the values & victories by creating a spirit of community

More fully, “Model the Way” is about having a set of values, being clear about those values, and expressing them to others. People then see that the leader is true to the values expressed, they will be more willing to work with the leader.

“Inspired a Shared Vision” is about have a compelling vision; visualize that and communicating it to others. Part is that is the leader listening to the dreams (visions) of others, and showing them how those dreams can be realized.

In previous Notes, we’ve have covered both the importance of having ethics and values and adhering to them, as well as the importance of having a vision and expressing that vision to those we lead.

“Challenge the Process” is about being willing to change the status quo and step into the unknown. What is sometimes called “thinking outside the box”: being willing to innovate, grow, and improve. It’s also about risk taking, as the leader often must be a pioneer in doing some new and challenging. This can also require learning from mistakes, as sometimes what is being tried out may not work as expected.

“Enable Others to Act” is about working with people. Teamwork, collaboration, and cooperation are what it’s all about. The leader must build trust, and be willing to listen to over points of view and treat others with respect. This also includes allowing others to step up and make decisions and support them. (this is what a servant leader does in developing others and mentoring them)

“Encourage the Heart” is about reward and recognizing others for their accomplishments. While that seems so obvious, it’s a concept that needs to be re-emphasized because some people seem to forget it. The authors have also created additional materials just on this topic such as a book and workbook.

As noted, the LC is a big concept. The support material they have is intended to help people develop these behaviors. I think “The Student Leadership Challenge” would be a work of value for our Venturers to use. The activity book is full of a variety of activities to help develop these behaviors. I have only skimmed thru it, but wonder if this is a resource that could be used to help develop programs for our youth?

The authors also have a fairly new work out, “The Truth About Leadership”. This smaller work contains 10 “truths” about leadership, all which tie into the 5 Practices. The 10 Truths are:
1. You Make a Difference
2. Credibility is the Foundation of Leadership
3. Values Drive Commitment
4. Focusing on the Future Sets Leaders Apart
5. You Can’t do it Alone
6. Trust Rules
7. Challenge is the Crucible for Greatness
8. You Either Lead by Example or you Don’t Lead At All
9. The Best Leaders are the Best Learners
10. Leadership is an Affair of the Heart

As this is a shorter work, it may be of value to start with this one, before tackling the larger “Leadership Challenge” work.