Editor’s note: In honor of Martin Luther King and his great vision for our country, I am updating this post on Leadership. When you think of an important leader in your life, who comes to mind? According to Jim Kouzes, co-author of the Leadership Challenge, the top vote getter isn’t some political leader or entertainer, it’s a parent or other close relative followed by a coach or teacher. We are well acquainted on a personal level with the leaders in our lives. Kouzes was a guest speaker at East Tennessee State University last week and I had the opportunity to hear him speak.
He shared five practices of a leader:
- Model the Way
- Inspire Shared Vision
- Challenge the Process
- Enable Others to Act
- Encourage the Heart
1- Model the way: He sited a CEO of a company who started his presentations playing the piano. He said it helped people to understand who he really was at heart. His life’s dream had been to be a concert pianist. Then Kouzes posed the question: Do the people you lead know who you are, what you care about and why they ought to follow you? Be sure you first define your values/prinicples and what you believe in. “If people don’t believe in the messenger they won’t believe the message,” said Kouzes. Take Action: What have I done today that demonstrates the values that are near and dear to me? (per Lillas Brown.)
2- Inspire a Shared Vision: Kouzes talked about the power of painting a picture of a better future and he used Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech as one of the best examples of our time. “Dr. King didn’t say ‘I have a corporate strategy.'” Kouzes added “Have an image of a place you’ve never been and let people see themselves in the picture.” Take Action: It’s the year 2022: Answer the following: What have we built together? What’s your vision?
3- Challenge the Process: Historically leaders have had to deal with changes, crisis, uncertainty and adversity. Sometimes it happens to us and sometimes we initiate it. One way to improve; at the end of each meeting spend 5 minutes de-briefing: How did we do? What can we do better? He mentioned the study that details the 10,000 hours and ten years of practice needed to make someone an expert. He urges leaders to have “out-sight” not just insight. Take Action: What have you done to improve this week so that you’re more effective than last week?
4- Enable Others to Act: Leadership is not a solo act. It requires team work and trust. Use “we” more than “I” when you speak and listen for that in others. The more we trust the more we’ll risk.Take Action: What can I do in this moment to make others feel more powerful, competent and able to do more than they can?”
5- Encourage the Heart: Finally, he asked how do we develop leaders for the future? “Stay in love.” It gives us the fire to ignite and inspire others. His positivity magic ratio: at least 3:1 (Three to five positives for every negative and give even more positives at home where we already know we are leaders!) Take Action: “Love ’em and lead ’em.” Kouzes said.
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