What is good leadership and how can I recognize it when I see it? While there are many definitions of leadership, the one I like best is: “Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen, despite the obstacles.” –John Kotter.
Every year, hundreds if not thousands of books are published on the topic of leadership. Some are informative but most are not based on valid research. Instead, authors use their intuition or high profile CEO observations to postulate about what good leadership is, or is NOT! One exception is James Kouzes’ and Barry Posner’s classic The Leadership Challenge (now in its 4th ed.) . Kouzes and Posner are longtime collaborators who are also Stanford Business School professors. They strive to explain leadership in terms of behaviors and practices based on real world results. Their mutual goal was “to assist people in furthering their abilities to lead others in getting extraordinary things done.” Their approach is fact-based and outlined in 5 Exemplary Practices that answer the question “What does good look like?”
- Model the Way – Set the example for others to follow.
- Inspire a Shared Vision – Enlist others in a common vision that is exciting and aspirational.
- Challenge the Process – Experiment and take risks to continuously generate small wins and learn from experience.
- Enable Others to Act – Strengthen trust by building trust and facilitating relationships.
- Encourage the Heart – Recognize the contributions of others by creating a spirit of community.