Today, I want to offer high-level thoughts on the practices of leadership, and recommend a great book if you want to explore these thoughts deeper. There must be a thousand books on leadership.* I have found one most foundational and I return to it often; it’s The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, and the 4th Edition has just come out.
There are a lot of reasons I like this book best, but the central one is that the five practices the authors outline are both few enough to remember yet broad enough to truly cover the waterfront. In almost any situation I am in or am analyzing, I feel that if I ask “Which of the five practices is missing?” I will almost always be led to practical strategies to get results. Here are Kouzes and Posner’s five practices (paraphrased a bit) offered as questions you might consider to apply in your leadership contexts:
- Is there an inspiring vision being shared here? Are we heading towards the same picture of success? Are we heading somewhere that we consider worthwhile?
- Am I modeling the way? This asks whether I am walking the walk. When people see me do they see someone doing what I am asking others to do? And at the most basic level: do we do what we say we will do around here?
- Are we challenging ourselves to see, learn, and do more and better all the time? Are we creating an atmosphere of excellence, where we’re constantly innovating, experimenting, and learning how to do things better?
- Am I always enabling people to do more as individuals and as a team? In great organizations they are constantly upgrading people’s skills and abilities, inviting people to step up and do more. And great organizations elevate collaboration enabling teams to achieve results.
- Am I encouraging individuals and teams with celebration, energy, and exuberance? Great organizations generate energy, and when people achieve, these organizations find creative ways to celebrate it – recognizing individual and team accomplishment. Are you uplifting hearts?
You might do a little inventory of the places you lead and ask which of the 5 practices – if practiced better and more frequently – would lead to greater results and satisfaction. It’s a way to practice the third practice above – challenging yourself to:
Lead with your best self,
* Check out the carousel at the bottom left of this page for my top choices in leadership books