Leadership and Change.
Kouzes and Posner Reading, Ch. 5&6
The Leadership Challenge
Part 3 of the book -- The leadership Challenge, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner is made up of chapters 5&6 of the text, and they discuss the second series of the practices of exemplary leadership, which they call Inspire a Shared Vision.
This chapter reinforces it is important for exemplary leaders to envision the future. The authors begin this discussion by introducing us to Pam Omidyar, founder of HopeLab. As a research assistant in the cellular immunology lab at Stanford university, Pam had the responsibility of performing experiments on cancer cells. She toyed the concept of developing a well-designed videogame where kids with cancer "could blast away their cancer cells and also learn about what goes on in their bodies during treatment' (p. 104). Her ability to envision the future gave rise to the formation of HopeLab. Quite an interesting concept she had. What does a videogame has in common with young cancer patients and their treatment ? A food for thought maybe? The authors maintain that catalytic leaders , not only need to be able to imagine a positive future, but they also need to act on their imagination.
Another major quality that exemplary leaders possess is the ability to look beyond the present. They are able to envision the future and "gaze across the horizon of time and imagine the great opportunities to come" (p. 105). And for them to do this, they have to make sure that what they see is also something that others can see, and are willing to follow, with the aim of achieving a set goal. One of the key points that the authors raised in this chapter is the notion of shared vision. They believe that when visions are shared between the leader and the led, all involved sustain higher levels of motivation, and withstand more challenges than when visions are not shared. Shared visions allow exemplary leaders to imagine immense possibilities and opportunities that they can take advantage of . Pam of HopeLab envisions to apply the Re-Mission model to other interventions and innovations.
Several ways that exemplary leaders can imagine possibilities are also described in this section. Leaders need to reflect on their past. The saying that ther is no future without a past comes to mind here. The hypothesis for the Janus Effect sums it up very beautifully: "We make sense of our world retrospectively, and all understanding originates in reflection and looking backward ... We construct the future by some kind of extrapolation, in which the past is prologue, and the approach to the future is backward-looking" (pp. 107-108). Exemplary leaders need to attend the present as well as prospecting the future. Finally, they have to feel their passion.
This chapter concludes by imploring exemplary leaders to find a common purpose since their key task is not to sell their own personal views of the world, but to inspire a shared vision. The authors contend that one can't mobilize people to willingly travel to places they don't want to go. Exemplary leaders should find a common purpose by listening deeply to others, determining what's meaningful to others, making it a cause for commitment, and being forward-looking in times of rapid change.
Now My Story About two weeks ago, I happened to stumble on Paul Hempe and Chad Campbell's story. They are co-owners of ZerOwBags -- a company that its mission is to prevent trash (plastic) from entering landfills and waterways. Based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and working out of Paul's basement, they collect plastic bags from groceries stores and other businesses in the Twin Cities, and transform them to handbags, totes and assessories. Paul tells a very compelling story of their reason for forming this company. He had recently become aware and concerned about the plastics in the environment. ZeroWbag's mission is "to do something creative and useful to raise awareness about the problems of plastic in the environment, and encourage people to change their behaviors (use less plastic packaging and carry re-usable bags to any store for shopping). This singular effort by these individuals is certainly addressing one of the major problems facing society today, and perhaps for many years to come. I believe that they have not only envisioned the future, but they have also imagined the possibilities and opportunities that their action has yielded both to them and society. When I stopped by at their factory last week, I had the opportunity to see some of their finished products, I was astounished to see what great end products can come out of "trash". And they are quite expensive too. Now , think about Pam Omidyar's story and that of Paul/Chad. Do you see any similarities? Are they exemplary leaders? What do they have in common? What would Kouzes and Posner say about Paul/Chad?
Chapter Six Kouzes and Posner continue their discussion about inspiring a shared Vision by enlisting others. They maintain that leaders that have the ability to enlist others are always enthusiasic and excited to do so. Keith Sonberg, director of site operations for the Roche in Alto, California, inspired his staff to go above and beyond the call of duty by sharing with them the vision of the company's future. Generally, people are willing to follow a leader who is widely enthusiastic, and not one that is mildly enthusiastic about something. By enlisting others, exemplary leaders then have the ability to appeal to common ideas. Visions are about ideas, and they allow people to imagine exciting possibilities, breakthrough technologies, or revolutionary social change. They achieve this by connecting to what's meaningful to others -- bringing their ideas into the conversation. They also take pride in being unique ,since uniqueness fosters pride and boosts the self-respect and self-esteem of everyone associated with the organization. Exemplary leaders also try to align their dreams with the peoples' dreams. Here, leaders learn how to appeal to peoples' ideas, move their souls, and uplift both theirs and the peoples' spirits. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech provides a vivid example of an exemplary leader that appeals to peoples' ideas, moving their souls, and uplifting their spirits.
Now, imagine yourself on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D. C. on August 28, 1968, listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering this speech. What would be your reaction to this speech? (Consider the mode/situation of the country when this speech was delivered). Imagine also that on January 19, 2009, at the same venue, you were there, watching President Barack Obama's inaugural speech. What would be your reaction to this speech? Do you notice any similarities in structure, content and formant between the two speechs? (Consider also the mode/situation of the country when this speech was delivered). President Barack Obama's Inaugural Speech can be accessed at: http:// news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090120/apongoprwh/inaugurationobamatext
The chapter ends by providing ways that leaders can animate the vision. They can do this by the use of symbolic language. Paul/Chad of ZerOwBags have such eye-catching phrases like: War on Waste!, Repurpose a Purpose!, Be an Ambassador for mother earth!, Be the Change you wish to see in the world!, Fashion Bulletin: Green is the new Black! ,that one can't help paying attention to. Leaders can also animate visions by making images for the future, by expressing their emotions, and by speaking from the heart. I hope you enjoyed these chapteras as well as I did. The authors have shown that they have a lot of credibility, and they use live examples of real people to make their point. Please let me know what you think about these chapters. Thank you for reading this piece.
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.