Many articles and books provide in-depth, analytical views of what a successful leader looks like. Most are quite complicated, obscuring the key aspect of exemplary leadership—behavior.
Successful organizations have healthy cultures that emphasize, and hold all employees accountable for, specific critical behavior—behavior that is based upon a set of core values or guiding principles.
Likewise, exemplary leadership is based upon effective behavior that inspires and mobilizes people to achieve extraordinary results. This is well explained in an excellent book entitled The Leadership Challenge by co-authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner.
It’s a practical and sound leadership guide because it is well researched, clearly outlines simple concepts and focuses on essential leadership behavior. Leaders at any level can use this material to identify areas for personal improvement and to develop the key behaviors that will help them inspire, guide and direct their teams in achieving business success.
The Leadership Challenge cites five practices of exemplary leadership:
- Model the way – clarify values, set the example
- Inspire a shared vision – envision the future, enlist others in a common vision
- Challenge the process – search for opportunities to improve, experiment and take risks
- Enable others to act – foster collaboration by building trust, strengthen others
- Encourage the heart – recognize contributions, celebrate values and victories
These practices are based upon a foundation of credibility as described in the 2 laws of leadership;
- If you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe the message.
- You build a credible foundation of leadership when you do what you say you will do.
As you read this book, you’ll see how simple and familiar these concepts are. This doesn’t mean it’s easy—leadership is indeed a challenge and a process of life-long practice and improvement. However, the key to effective leadership is behavior, and The Leadership Challenge provides an excellent model for helping us all become better leaders.