On The Leadership Challenge

I recently finished reading The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “Whether in their early twenties, late seventies, or anywhere between, leaders told us that the fundamentals of leadership are the same today as they were in the 1980s, and they’ve probably have been the same for centuries. Yet the leaders were quick to add that while the content of leadership has not changed, the context—and, in some cases, it has changed dramatically. What is this new context, and what are the implications for the practice of leadership? From heightening uncertainty across the world to an intense search for meaning, our connections as people and as leaders are part of this context. Heightened uncertainty…People first…We’re even more connected…Social capital…Speed…A changing workforce…Even more intense search for meaning.”

2- “Leaders do exhibit certain distinct practices when they are doing their best. This process varies little from industry to industry, profession to profession, community to community, country to country. Good leadership is individual, there are patterns to the practice of leadership that are shared. And that can be learned.”

3- “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.”

4- “Modeling the way is essentially about earning the right and the respect to lead through direct individual involvement and action. People first follow the person, then the plan.”

5- ” Leaders know well that innovation and change all involve experimentation, risk, and failure. They proceed anyway. One way of dealing with the potential risks and failures of experimentation is to approach change through incremental steps and small wins. Little victories, when piled on top of each other, build confidence that even the biggest challenges can be met. In so doing, they strengthen commitment to the long-term future. Yet not everyone is equally comfortable with risk and uncertainty. Leaders also pay attention to the capacity of their constituents to take control of challenging situations and become fully committed to change. You can’t exhort people to take risks if they don’t also feel safe.”

6- “Constituents neither perform at their best nor stick around for very long if their leader makes them feel weak, dependent, or alienated. But when a leader makes people feel strong and capable— as if they can do more than they ever thought possible—they’ll give it their all and exceed their own expectations. When leadership is a relationship founded on trust and confidence, people take risks, make changes, keep organizations and movements alive. Through that relationship, leaders turn their constituents into leaders themselves.”

7- “Success in leadership, success in business, and success in life has been, is now, and will continue to be a function of how well people work and play together. We’re even more convinced of this today than we were twenty years ago. Success in leading will be wholly dependent upon the capacity to build and sustain those human relationships that enable people to get extraordinary things done on a regular basis.”

8- “THE TEN COMMITMENTS OF LEADERSHIP: 1. Find your voice by clarifying your personal values. 2. Set the example by aligning actions with shared values. 3. Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities. 4. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations. 5. Search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow, and improve. 6. Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from mistakes. 7. Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust. 8. Strengthen others by sharing power and discretion. 9. Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence. 10. Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.”

9- “As the data clearly show, for people to follow someone willingly, the majority of constituents must believe the leader is: Honest, Competent, Forward-looking and Inspiring.”

10- “To gain and sustain the moral authority to lead, it’s essential to Model the Way. Because of this important connection between words and actions, we’ve chosen to start our discussion of the Five Practices with a thorough examination of the principles and behaviors that bring Model the Way to life. First, in Chapter Three, we introduce you to why it’s essential to Find Your Voice—that unique expression of yourself that gives you the inner strength as a leader to «j«v what you will do. Then, in Chapter Four, we’ll take a look at how leaders Set the Example, the second half of the formula for establishing credibility. You’ll see how leaders must focus on their own personal values and how they must build and affirm shared values. Throughout the chapters and the action steps, you’ll also learn methods to align actions with values—the step in the process that communicates with deeds. not just words.”

11- ” Voice in this context is both a noun and a verb. It encompasses words and speech. There’s the message we want to deliver, and then there’s the expression of that message. It’s about having a voice and about giving voice. To Find Your Voice you must engage in two essentials: Clarify your values, Express your self. To become a credible leader, first you have to comprehend fully the values, beliefs, and assumptions that drive you. You have to freely and honestly choose the principles you will use to guide your actions. Before you can clearly communicate your message, you must be clear about the message you want to deliver. And before you can do what you say, you must be sure that you mean what you say. Second, you have to genuinely express your self. The words themselves aren’t enough, no matter how noble. You must authentically communicate your beliefs in ways that uniquely represent who you are. You must interpret the lyrics and shape them into your own singular presentation so that Others recognize that you’re the one who’s speaking and not someone else.”

12- “Values influence every aspect of our lives: our moral judgments, our responses to others, our commitments to personal and organizational goals…Values also serve as guides to action. They inform our decisions as to what to do and what not to do; when to say yes, or no, and really understand why we mean it…Values are empowering. We are much more in control of our own lives when we’re clear about our personal values. When values are clear we don’t have to rely upon direction from someone in authority…Values also motivate. They keen us focused on why we’re doing what we’re doing and the ends toward which we’re striving. Values are the banners that fly as we persist, as we struggle, as we toil.”

13- “People want to be part of something larger than themselves. What we’re savings is this: people cannot fully commit to an organization or a movement that does not fit with their own beliefs. Leaders must pay as much attention to personal values as they do to organizational values if they want dedicated constituents.”

14- “The Three Stages of Self-Expression: Finding one’s voice and finding one’s unique way of expressing the self is something that every artist understands, and every artist knows that finding a voice is most definitely not a matter of technique. It’s a matter of time and a matter of searching—soul-searching…When first learning to lead, we paint what we see outside ourselves—the exterior landscape. We read biographies and autobiographies about famous leaders. We observe master models and ask the advice of mentors. We read books and listen to audiotapes by experienced executives. We participate in training programs. We take on job assignments so that we can work alongside someone who can coach us. We want to learn everything we can from Others, and we often try to copy their style…Somewhere along the way, you’ll notice that your speech sounds mechanically wrote, that your meetings are a boring routine, and that your interactions feel terribly sad and empty. You’ll awaken to the frightening thought that the words aren’t yours, that the vocabulary is someone else’s, that the technique is right out of the text but not straight from the heart. While you’ve invested so much time and energy in learning to do all the right things, you suddenly see that they’re no longer serving you well. The methods seem hollow. You may even feel like a phony…If, as David did, you’re fortunate enough to experience an integrative turning point in your development—a point where you’re able to merge the lessons from your outer and inner journeys—you move on to becoming an authentic leader, in whatever field you’ve chosen for yourself. You’re able to recognize your own voice from the multitude of other voices ringing in your ears, and you find ways to express yourself in a singular style. You become the author of your own experience.”

15- “There are five essential aspects to their behavior and actions that leaders need to be conscious about in their efforts to align shared values through the example of the actions they take: 1) Calendars, 2) Critical incidents, 3) Stories, analogies, and metaphors 4) Language 5) Measurements.”

16- “Create alignment around key values. Researchers have demonstrated that there are three central themes in the values of highly successful, strong-culture organizations: High performance standards. A caring attitude toward people. A sense of uniqueness and pride.”

17- “When we feel passionately about the legacy we want to leave, about the kind of future world we want for ourselves and for others, then we are much more likely to voluntarily step forward. If we don’t have the slightest clue about our hopes, dreams, and aspirations, then the chance that we’ll take the lead is significantly less. In fact, we may not even see the opportunity that’s right in front of us.”

18- “At the beginning what leaders have is a theme. They have concerns, desires. questions, propositions, arguments, hopes, dreams, and aspirations—core concepts around which they organize their aspirations and actions. Leaders begin the process of Envisioning the Future by discovering their own themes. Everything else leaders say about their vision is an elaboration, interpretation. and variation on that theme. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your ability to articulate your own themes and ultimately your visions of the future. Express Your Passion…Explore Your Past…Pay Attention to Your Experiences…Immerse Yourself.”

19- “Leaders are possibility thinkers, not probability thinkers. Probabilities must be based upon evidence strong enough to establish presumption. Possibilities are not. All new ventures begin with possibility thinking, not probability thinking. After all, the probability is that most new businesses will fail and most social reforms will never get off the ground. If entrepreneurs or activists accepted this view, however, they’d never start a new business or organize a community. Instead, they begin with the assumption that anything is possible. Like entrepreneurs and other activists, leaders assume that anything is possible. It’s this belief that sustains them through the difficult times.”

20- “Whether they’re trying to mobilize a crowd in the grandstand or one person in the office, leaders must practice these three essentials to Enlist Others: Listen deeply to others. Discover and appeal to a common purpose. Give life to a vision by communicating expressively, so that people can see themselves in it.”

21- “If you want to create a climate that sustains personal-best leadership experiences, what situations would you look for? What context would most likely offer the right conditions? What leadership actions are required to establish a culture that is characterized by challenge, energy, excitement. determination, inspiration, and innovation? It’s already clear that you need shared values and a shared vision. What else? To Search for Opportunities to get extraordinary things done, leaders make use of four essentials: Seize the initiative. Make challenge meaningful. Innovate and create. Look outward for fresh ideas. Leaders take charge of change. They instill a sense of adventure in others, they look for ways to radically alter the status quo, and they continuously scan the outside environment for new and fresh ideas. Leaders always search for opportunities for ways to do what has never been done.”

22- “Leaders raise the bar gradually and offer coaching and training to build skills that help people get over each new level…They challenge people, sometimes to their very cores—and participants come out changed and ready to take on new risks and experiments…In this endeavor, Reno and Randi demonstrate, as do all exemplary leaders, the need to: Initiate incremental steps and small wins. Learn from mistakes. Promote psychological hardiness.”

23- “High-stress/low-illness executives made these assumptions about themselves in interaction with the world: 1- They felt a strong sense of control believing that they could beneficially influence the direction and outcome of what was going on around them through their own efforts. Lapsing into powerlessness, feeling like a victim of circumstances, and passivity seemed like a waste of time to them. 2- They were strong in commitment, believing that they could find something important, or worthwhile. They were curious about what was going on around them, and this led them to find interactions with people and situations stimulating and meaningful. They were unlikely to engage in denial or feel disengaged, bored, and empty. 3- They felt strong in challenge, believing that personal improvement and fulfillment came through the continual process of learning from both negative and positive experiences. They felt that it was not only unrealistic but also stultifying to simply expect, or even wish for, easy comfort and security.”

24- “Turbulence in the marketplace, it turns out, requires more collaboration, not less. Collaboration is the critical competency for achieving and sustaining high performance—especially in the Internet Age!..Indeed, world-class performances aren’t possible unless there’s a strong sense of shared creation and shared responsibility. To Foster Collaboration, leaders are essential who can skillfully: Create a climate of trust. Facilitate positive interdependence. Support face-to-face interactions.”

25- “To put it quite simply, trust is the most significant predictor of Individuals’ satisfaction with their organizations. When leaders create a climate of trust, they take away the controls and allow people to be free to innovate and contribute. Trusting leaders nurture openness, involvement, personal satisfaction, and high levels of commitment to excellence. Be Open to Influence…Make Yourself Vulnerable…Listen, Listen, Listen.”

26- “Creating a climate where people are involved and important is at the heart of strengthening others. People must have the latitude to make decisions based on what they believe should be done. They must work in an environment that both builds their ability to perform a task or complete an assignment and promotes a sense of self-confidence in their judgment. People must experience a sense of personal accountability so that they can feel ownership for their achievements. We’ve identified four leadership essentials to Strengthen Others: Ensure self-leadership. Provide choice. Develop competence and confidence. Foster accountability.”

27- “Exemplary leaders understand this need to Recognize Contributions and are constantly engaged in these essentials: Focus on clear standards. Expect the best. Pay attention. Personalize recognition.”

28- “Leaders are out there for a reason. One of the reasons, we would maintain, is to show that you care. One way of showing you care is to pay attention to people, to what they are doing, and to how they are feeling. And if you are clear about the standards you’re looking for and you believe and expect that people will perform like winners, then you’re going to notice lots of examples of people doing things right and doing the right things. In contrast, what happens in organizations where managers are constantly on the lookout for problems? Three things: managers get a distorted view of reality; over time, production declines; and the managers’ personal liability hits bottom. Wandering around with an eye for trouble is likely to get you just that. More trouble.”

29- “When we’re open we make ourselves vulnerable—and this vulnerability makes us more human and more trusted. If neither person in a relationship takes the risk of trusting, at least a little, the relationship remains stalled at a low-level of caution and suspicion. If leaders want the higher levels of performance that come with trust and collaboration, then they must demonstrate their trust in others before asking for trust from others. As discussed in Chapter Nine, when it comes to trust, leaders ante up first.”

30- “If leaders are to effectively Celebrate the Values and Victories, they must master these three essentials: Create a spirit of community. Tell the story. Set the example. By bringing people together, sharing the lessons from success, and getting personally involved, leaders reinforce in others the courage required to get extraordinary things done in organizations.”

31- “Stories put a human face on success. They tell us that someone just like us can make it happen. They create organizational role models that everyone can relate to. They put the behavior in a real context. They make standards more than statistics; they make standards come alive. By telling a story in detail, leaders illustrate what everyone needs to do to live by the organizational standards.”

32- “The process of development should never be intrusive. It should never be about just filling someone full of facts or skills. It won’t work. Education should always be liberating. It should be about releasing what is already inside. The quest for leadership is first an inner quest to discover who you are. Through self-development comes the confidence needed to lead. Self-confidence is really awareness of and faith in your own powers. These powers become clear and strong only as you work to identify and develop them. Learning to lead is about discovering what you care about and value. About what inspires you. About what challenges you. About what gives you power and competence. About what encourages you. When you discover these things about yourself, you’ll know what it takes to lead those qualities out of others. Sure, we’ve said already that every leader has to learn the fundamentals and the discipline, and to a certain extent there’s some period during which you’re trying out a lot of new things. It’s a necessary stage in your development as a leader. The point is you have to take what’s been acquired and reshape into your own expression of yourself.Sometimes liberation is as uncomfortable as intrusion, but in the end when you discover it for yourself you know that what’s inside is what you put there and what belongs there. It’s not something put inside you by someone else; it’s what you discover for yourself.”

33- “Leadership practices per se are amoral. But leaders—the men and women who use the practices—are moral or immoral. There’s an ethical dimension to leadership that neither leaders nor constituents should take lightly. This is why we began our discussion of leadership practices with a focus on finding your voice—your authentic self grounded in a set of values and ideals. These, you have to find for yourself and test against others. There are. according to the late John Gardner, Stanford professor, secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Johnson administration, and founder of Common Cause, four moral goals of leadership: Releasing human potential. Balancing the needs of the individual and the community. Defending the fundamental values of the community. Instilling in individuals a sense of initiative and responsibility Attending to these goals will always direct your eyes to higher purposes. As you work to become all you can be, you can start to let go of your petty self-interests. As you give back some of what you’ve been given, you can reconstruct your community. As you serve the values of freedom, justice, equality, caring, and dignity, you can constantly renew the foundations of democracy. As each of us takes individual responsibility for creating the world of our dreams, we can all participate in leading.”

34- “Humility is the only way to resolve the conflicts and contradictions of leadership. You can avoid excessive pride only if you recognize that you’re human and need the help of others.”

35- “Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting. It’s hard to imagine leaders getting up day after day, putting in the long hours and hard work it takes to get extraordinary things done, without having their hearts in it. The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love: staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with those who honor the organization by using its work. Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

The Leadership Challenge

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