Kouzes and Posner Reading, Ch.1&2
Reading Blog Lead Entry Dialogue Leader: Nathan Volz 1/22/2009
The Leadership Challenge
Part one of Kouzes and Posnerâ€™s The Leadership Challenge, incorporates chapters one and two and is entitled "What Leaders Do and What Constituents Expect.â€? The first chapter sets the context for the "The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadershipâ€? by introducing readers to two examples of energetic, visionary business leaders, Dick Nettel of Bank of America and Claire Owens of SG Group (Kouzes and Posner, 2007, p.3).
Nettel shares his strategies for reinventing what had been a completely demoralized call center at Bank of America. He spent time listening to everybodyâ€™s stories, collecting feedback on what was wrong and what an ideal environment would look like. His process for this was more extensive yet somewhat similar to the snow card activity we conducted in class last Tuesday.
Nettel recognized that there were positive feelings about the workers themselves, despite the environment and previous lack of leadership. He used the ideals and positive feedback to help craft commitments for a vision and initiated frequent, all-inclusive meetings to discuss strategies and to make sure that everybody knew his story and why he chose to be there. Nettel made the solution everybodyâ€™s responsibility and made sure to circle back throughout the process to ensure that actions were aligned with the commitments and vision. He also made a point to build morale by reinventing "pride day,â€? "celebrating heroes," and by encouraging employees to recognize one another (p.7).
Question: Have you ever been part of an organization that was demoralized and uninspired? In the text, Dick Nettel of Bank of America stated, "We had people who were walking around like they ran over their dogs on the way to workâ€? (p.3). How does your experience compare? What did you or your leaders do to promote an innovative change?
Claire Owens of SG Group recognized that "leadership opportunities are everywhereâ€? and described how the loss of her job in the marketing industry prompted her to invent a new marketing business model that could also share her values (p.8). Owens made a point of clearly communicating her values to her workers. Owens also understood that excellent customer service is critical in her industry and that to inspire accountability she needed to treat her employees like people, not merely staff, taking into account their personal needs, accomplishments, and their ability to share new ideas.
Nettel and Owens reinforce the key point that "leadership is not about personality; itâ€™s about behaviorâ€? (p.15) and they exemplify the main focus of the first chapter, The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.
In summary, the Five Practices include: â€˘ Model the Way â€“ Leaders must clarify values and follow up with deeds. "People follow the person first, then the planâ€? (pp.15-16). â€˘ Inspire a Shared Vision â€“ Leaders must inspire and enlist others, not command followership (pp.16-17). â€˘ Challenge the Process â€“ Leaders must venture out, be pioneers, be innovative, experiment, take risks, initiate small wins and incremental changes, and constantly learn and adapt (pp.18-20). â€˘ Enable Others to Act â€“ Leaders should strengthen everyoneâ€™s "capacity to deliver.â€? They should strive for collaboration and trust, using "weâ€? instead of "Iâ€? (pp.20-21). â€˘ Encourage the Heart â€“ Leaders need to engage their colleagues and employees in genuine acts of caring, and celebrate values and victories. They need to be authentic when doing so (pp.21-23).
Another key learning from the first chapter is that "leadership is a relationshipâ€? (p.24). According to the authors a successful leader-follower relationship can never be based on fear and distrust. Establishing mutual respect and confidence is essential. The first chapter ends with the list of "The Ten Commitments of Leadership,â€? which are the behaviors within the five practices (pp.25-26). Since those commitments are each covered in detail in chapters three through twelve, I will defer this discussion to later blogs.
Question: Dick Nettel also said he woke up early one morning and realized that he needed to make a difference in peopleâ€™s lives. I had a moment like this about five years ago when I realized I wanted to return to my native Detroit and help the people there. Iâ€™ve been working towards that goal since then. Have you ever had a Dick Nettel epiphany or perhaps a Jerry MaGuire moment when you ate bad pizza, woke up in the middle of the night, and developed a conscience? What is/was your mission? Do you remember what triggered your realization?
In the second chapter of part one, "Credibility is the Foundation of Leadership,â€? Kouzes and Posner begin by describing how twenty-five years of research has solidified their conclusion of "what people look for and admire in leadersâ€? (p.28). From a list of of twenty key leadership characteristics, four have consistently been ranked the highest, across all study groups, internationally, culturally, economically and otherwise (p.29). These four state that a leader must be honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent. These attributes are not always what people get, but according to the authors, it is always what they want if they are to be willing followers (p.29).
Question: To repeat the question that Kouzes and Posner have already asked more than seventy-five thousand others, "What values, personal traits, or characteristics do you look for and admire in a leader?â€?(p.28). From your personal experience, was there a leader who exemplified this attribute and inspired you to follow?
Kouzes and Posner also assert that "credibility is the foundation of leadershipâ€? and that three of the four key characteristics mentioned previously are essential for a leader to be seen as credible in the eyes of his or her followers (p.37). These characteristics have been defined in other research studies as trustworthiness, expertise, and dynamism, which the authors equate respectively to the attributes of being honest, competent, and inspiring (p.37). Being forward-looking is still a vital characteristic, yet there is no foundation upon which to build a shared vision without first having credibility. Kouzes and Posner follow this with their First Law of Leadership, "If you donâ€™t believe in the messenger, you wonâ€™t believe the messageâ€? (p.38).
The authors further state that credibility matters because the strength of a leaderâ€™s credibility has a direct impact on a followerâ€™s loyalty, commitment, energy, and productivity (p39). It is also critical that leaders behave in a way that models their credibility. This leads us to "The Kouzes-Posner Second Law of Leadership,â€? to "Do What You Say You Will Do.â€? The authors refer to this at "DWYSYWDâ€? (p.41).
Question: Kouzes and Posner say their First Law of Leadership is "If you donâ€™t believe in the messenger, you wonâ€™t believe the messageâ€?(p.38). I have been in many situations where as a mid-level manager I had to deliver and enforce decisions that were poorly made, and later proven so. What if you were a mid-level manager or a low-ranking officer in the military and you had to relay a bad decision from a superior that could undermine your credibility? This scenario happens all the time in companies and organizations. How do you maintain your professionalism and also the respect of your followers? What happens if the decisions are consistently poor over an extended period of time?
I have included number of specific questions that I hope will be intriguing and generate some discussion. Please feel free to respond to one, any, or all at your choosing, or perhaps create your own questions for me and for others. Thank you! - Nathan
Cited Source: Kouzes, James M. and Posner, Barry Z. 2007. The Leadership Challenge: How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations. 4th ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.