Challenged by The Leadership Challenge

Friends,
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,
Dan
* Check out the carousel at the bottom left of this page for my top choices in leadership books

Friends,

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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,

Dan

* Check out the carousel at the bottom left of this page for my top choices in leadership books

The Leadership Challenge By: James Kouzes and Barry Posner

6 responses to “Challenged by The Leadership Challenge

  1. Mr. Mulhern I really enjoy reading your leadership advice & find it useful in my development. I have a concern I would like for you to address. I belong to social organizations that have been around for some time, the members are quite seasoned, constantly reminding me this is how its always been. They say they want new members because they know they are old & tired of doing all the work. However any conversation in regards to new membership is met with resistance plus a negative attitude about young people of today. I also find that they say they are aboard with new ideas yet when put on committees to bring back to the members its all talk, no action. This delays further action & progress. Seeking assistance.

  2. Hi Dan,

    Barry Pozner has always been a favorite, and when I get back from Ireland, I’m going to get a copy of this book. I think all of us who read your site are leaders in one way or another, and keeping your mind and life open are sure ways to expand your influence on others. Please know that I am well and inhaling the green fragrences of the “auld sod”. See you in October.

  3. Oh how this triggered something in me and it was one small part hidden in the message. I was forwarding it on to some friends and started writing to them, then ended up with something I figured I’d share, so here goes!

    I think I will have to add this book to my book list, point number 5 in particular really hit me. How often as a leader is it easy to fall into the “Darn it, surely it’s not that hard to seek to better yourself and be a go-getter and solution oriented and why can’t these people I’m leading just ‘get it’ and ‘just do it’” which of course then leads to lazy leading where we just expect people are going to grow without seeking to ‘lift their heart’ as is mentioned in the book summary.

    On that topic of lifting hearts, you know when you’ve managed it don’t you, when you have gone that extra distance to really reach deep enough to get to the heart in the 1st place. It’s finding that trigger that really might motivate someone to grow even just a little. It could be something as obscure as chatting to someone about a personal hobby of theirs that is a real passion but seems ‘weird’ to everyone else but when you ask them about it, their eyes light up and they talk for ten minutes and you know they feel a bit better about the world for having done so and that someone actually showed an interest in them… tell me that won’t affect their performance.

    Guess I’ll have to read the book to up my rate of lifting hearts.

    Thanks for sharing about it Dan.

    Daniel

  4. Thanks, Dan, for the reminder about the 5 key practices. Given that it’s the beginning of our programming and fundraising year, as well as the Jewish New Year, it’s the perfect time for me to ask my department heads to do some introspection. I’ve asked them to cite examples of steps they are taking in their departments to implement the 5 practices and share them at our next staff meeting. Hopefully, it’s contagious!

    David

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