Leadership is Everyone's Business - Kouzes & Posner

As soon as I saw the title of Chapter 13 -- Leadership is Everyone’s Business -- I knew it was going to resonate with me personally. We often think of leaders as people with special power or responsibilities. In fact, we all have opportunities to lead in our day-to-day lives. If we do not consider ourselves leaders, then we will often overlook those chances. If we do not practice and hone our leadership skills in these common place situations, then we have little hope of being prepared when a more meaningful leadership challenge arises. As Kouzes & Posner explain, “As each of us takes individual responsibility for creating the world of our dreams, we can all participate in leading” (p. 346).

(I do not say this as someone who has mastered Kouzes & Posners exemplary leadership practices, or any other collection of leadership skills. Just as someone who feels strongly that they are important skills to develop.)

In what arenas of your life do you consider yourself a leader? How did Kouzes and Posner influence your perspective on your role?

Kouzes & Posner’s begin the chapter by pointing out that managers make the difference for their employees. This reinforces the age-old adage that “People choose to join companies, but they decide to leave managers.” Later, the authors reiterate this concept with stories demonstrating the meaningful impact that leaders have on their constituents.

How does your relationship with your direct manager influence how you feel about your job and/or organization? Can you think of another factor that has more influence? Have you ever left a company because of your manager?

Kouzes & Posner provide a powerful reminder that leadership skills can be developed. “It’s not the absence of leadership potential that inhibits the development of more leaders, it’s the persistence of the myth that leadership can’t be learned. This haunting myth is a far more powerful deterrent to leadership development than is the nature of the person or the basics of the leadership process” (p. 340). Everyone is encouraged to develop their own leadership skills and to help those around us do the same. The organization that I work for takes the position that “Everyone is a leader.” It is a good reminder that we are all responsible for our actions, and (to some extent) how those actions impact the people around us. Occasionally, it also seems like an excuse for not holding those with positional power accountable for their behaviors.

What negative consequences to you foresee in everyone considering him/herself a leader? How might those consequences be mitigated?

The book ends with a surprising twist, declaring that “”The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love” (p. 351). Kouzes & Posner go on to say that successful leaders stay in love with “leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce,” and customers.

What role has love played in your experiences as leaders? Do you agree that is “the secret to success?

Comments

How does your relationship with your direct manager influence how you feel about your job and/or organization? Can you think of another factor that has more influence? Have you ever left a company because of your manager?

Stacey – I’m going to answer one question here because it relates not to me but to something I saw on TV last week that I thought was brought out in this question and was excited to see that it fit within chapter 13 of Kouzes and Posner.
I recently started watching the show Trust Me on TBS. This last episode focused on the influences of others that you work with, how they lead vs. how you lead, and the influences leaders have on others. The end result of this episode was that one of the higher level employees, a partner, that was looked up to by fellow employees decided to go his separate way within the advertising firm because of influences from another manager/leader that was the other partner. Both of these men were friends and partners of the firm at the same time. One did get promoted to a higher level position, indirectly supervising the other. You could see that the sway he had being promoted influenced his working relationship with the other. There were many instances left unsaid, disagreements never solved, a lack of respect from the one that didn’t get promoted, and so on. You could see that although a kind, caring leader to others in the firm, that his attitude towards his promoted partner created a sense of negativity that was seen by everyone.

As a result of their differences within their new relationship, you could see that there was not as much care and encouragement from the one partner, where the other who had been promoted, was at the top of his high game, mostly cheery, and leading his own way. Their disagreements eventually escalated, both partners doing and saying things in front of their employees, which resulted in poor leadership and bad behavior on both of their parts. Eventually, although humorous in the plot, one employee left work for a few days, the entire office went to his house to do a staff corporate psychology retreat, and as a result of it, one partner decided to partner on his own within the firm severing the relationship between the two.

Based on the brief description of the episode above, I would agree with Kouzes and Posner that “Leadership is everyone’s business”, that everyone gets involved in some part of leadership. The people relationships built are often the most important piece in the staying power and influence leaders can have within an organization overtime. When one leaves due to negative influences within an organization it can be felt throughout. The person you are, the leader you are, is a direct influence to everyone - even those that you don’t work directly with. It is important for everyone to constantly be reminded of that and keep an eye on their behaviors and reactions because they are a reflection to those that they work with at any given moment.

Note: There was a lot more to this episode that related to effective leadership that I could go into, but there isn’t enough space, so the focus was just on the influences and relationships. I would definitely recommend this show to anyone who is looking at it from a leadership perspective. It is pretty funny too.

I think the relationship that you have with your direct manager can greatly affect/influence how you feel about your job/organization. I have never left a job because of a manager, and feel real lucky to have had many jobs were I genuinely liked my manager. It has usually been the case that I felt bad about leaving my job because of my friendship with my managers and co-workers. And in some cases my like of my managers and co-workers kept me at a job longer than I wanted to stay because I did not want to let them down by quitting.

I do think being friends with managers can be difficult in some situations. In a few of my past jobs I was friends with my manager outside of work. I remember the first time I hung out with a manager outside of work, I was very cautious at first, because I did not want it to change our “work” relationship. I was concerned that I could either be taken advantage of when we were at work by the manager dumping more responsibility/work on me or that the opposite would happen and my manager would start to play “favorites” and give me less work/responsibility which could cause co-workers to become upset with me. Luckily neither of these things happened and our work relationship remained the same as it was before we became friends outside of work.

I think Kouzes and Posner helped me realize that leadership does not just come from “the head of the company,” but that everyone in an organization can be a leader. Their readings also really helped me examine my current job and

What an inspirational chapter!

I consider myself to be a leader in the classroom. I teach two lectures and five labs per week, and I consider myself the leader by default. I say by default because I am the only person in the classroom who has the knowledge which needs to be communicated to the students. Leading the classroom is my responsibility. I use many techniques to get the students excited about learning. For instance, I am constantly giving positive feedback when I see success in the labs, but I also point out their shortfalls and discuss ways in which they can improve. I am always pointing out the fact that lab is where mistakes are allowed; it's okay to make mistakes in lab because lab is where the vast amount of learning takes place. It's one thing to read about applications and procedures in a text book, but it's another to apply what you have learned from the lectures and textbooks in a lab setting. I am their cheerleader when things go well and I am their support when things don't work out as planned, and I strongly encourage my students not to give up.

What role has love played in your experiences as leaders? Do you agree that is “the secret to success?

"The secret to success is to stay in love," is a sentence that really hit home with me (351). I agree that love is "the secret to success." Love is the reason why I am teaching at the University. To be honest in the beginning, I did not love teaching. I was self conscious and timid in front of the students, but it is the technical side of the funeral profession that I am in love with and the technical side is what I teach. Once I overcame the scariness of being in front of the classroom, the teacher side of me came out. I love the subject material and it's this love I have that is seen in the classroom. When the students hear my excitement in my voice it creates excitement in them. The subject material isn't always pleasant, but I'm able to put a little spark in the students' interest by being enthusiastic and loving what I do.

Week 11-April 5, 2009

Chapter 13

Awh…!! What an endearing way to end a book—really a manual!—called “The Leadership Challenge.”

It ends on a good note; one will be hard-pressed to feel dejected after reading: “leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart (p. 351).” And this is all too apparent in the preceding comments especially as Jody shares about how she overcame her fears and just let her love for the technical sides of the funeral business overtake her! ;o)

So Stacey asks:
What role has love played in your experiences as leaders? Do you agree that is “the secret to success?
I think love has always played the role in my leadership experience. This is because, one does not often choose to be a leader, but may feel called, compelled to address a need, thus, facing some challenging situations. And these situations are often unwelcome or uneasy, so I have often found myself questioning the worth. I find that it is this love and vision I have for a group, project, or issue that has me remaining in the leadership role. For example, I recently decided to stay on the BGAPSA (Black Graduate and Professional Students Association) board for the next year. I was going to excuse myself from these responsibilities but there are still some things I would like to see happen, and would like the opportunity to positively influence our community. And I’m sure we can all agree that when we’re leading with love, more than just duty it inspires us and those around us, and it is often the recipe for a successful and durable outcome. For me, my responsibility to meet a collective need often outweighs my personal need to have more time for myself. I just hope, in this instance, I won’t regret leading from my heart instead of my head!

I just returned from a weekend in San Francisco attending the Angioma Alliance Family Conference. Angioma Alliance is an organization for those affected by cavernous angiomas (cranial cavernous angiomas/malformations- “CCM”), their families, health professionals, and researchers. It is an advocacy, education, and support organization. Connie Lee, the founder and president, is an incredible leader. I told her that this weekend, and typical of Connie, she quickly pointed to others for the success of the organization. Within seven years of its founding, Angioma Alliance has held five annual family conferences, two scientific conferences, established a DNA tissue bank for research purposes, funded medical resident research grants, supported national legislation regarding anti-discrimination of hereditary diseases and support for research funding, and pressed NIH for research support which has moved it from a little known “orphan” condition to a hot research topic. All these accomplishments have been a collaborative effort, but in no small part due to Connie’s inspiring leadership. Connie embodies K & P’s five practices and ten commitments of leadership. Connie continues to encourage each of us to support Angioma’s mission in any and all ways that we are able. She personally recognizes each of us for our contributions. For example, Connie seems to know each of us by name, and amazingly wrote handwritten thank-you notes to each and every one of the fifty plus attendees of this weekend’s conference. Leadership for Connie is indeed an affair of the heart. The inspiration and energy for her efforts comes from her commitment to her daughter, Julia, who has had multiple surgeries, the first at 4 months of age for CCM. I invite you to meet Connie Lee at http://www.angiomaalliance.org/pages.aspx?content=55&id=110. And while there, why not learn more about this amazing little non-profit, Angioma Alliance?

Stacey, I would like to respond to your first question: In what arenas of your life do you consider yourself a leader? How did Kouzes and Posner influence your perspective on your role? -- I have actually been involved in a number of occasions that leadership positions have been trusted on me and in most of those situations; I had proved that I have the leadership skills to make a difference. I belong to a non-profit organization – a cultural association formed several years ago that its mission is to preserve the culture of the Igbo speaking people of Nigeria, in Minnesota, and to educate the same (our cultural heritage) to our American born children and the people of Minnesota. Since the officials of this organization are purely volunteers, quite often it becomes extremely difficult to fill up these positions. This is because most of the members’ claim that they are very busy with work, family, and what-have you.

About five years ago, we were on the verge of electing new officers to continue the work of the association. The outgoing President had appointed me to chair the elections committee. I was really happy for this appointment because under normal circumstances, an electoral officer would not be nominated for any office. But oh boy was I wrong. Nobody was willing to take any position. The situation became so frustrating that we didn’t know what to do. Some members suggested returning all the serving officers unopposed for another term, but none of them liked this suggestion At that point, one of the members raised up his hand to make a nomination. He nominated me for President. Taken aback by this recent development, and all the members chanting my name for president, my continued protests about this “ambush” fell on deaf ears. By the time I knew it, a number of the members had already volunteered for the rest of the offices.

Needless to say that our administration was quite successful. We expanded our yearly cultural festival to include other cultural African groups in Minnesota, as well as other Nigerian cultural groups in several states. Our relationship with our Canadian counterparts was further strengthened. Kouzes and Posner (2007) ended their excellent book by letting the reader into “the secret to success in life” which they say is “staying in love”. They contend: “Of all 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 products and services” (p. 351). Lastly, Kouzes and Posner have reinforced in me that a leader lives within me, and with this conviction, I believe I am now best suited to take up leadership challenges.

What role has love played in your experiences as leaders? Do you agree that is “the secret to success"?

I would have to agreet that 'love' is integral to being successful as a leader. At first, I was somewhat uncomfortable accepting the word 'love' as the most important component of success, I'm more inclined to use 'passion' or 'inner drive'. But after reading the stories and anecdotes - and more deeply reflecting on personal observations of great people, I realized that I do agree with Kouzes & Posner. Love is what turns an occupation into a vocation/calling, or at least that is how I often think of it.

Others have also pointed to this powerful quote by Kouzes & Posner: "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 products and services" (p 351). For me, the most poignant aspect of this concept is that you really can tell when a leader's heart is not in it. Most of the strategies taught by Kouzes & Posner are impossible to achieve without love. Work isn't just work when a person's heart is in it.

As defined by Kouzes and Posner, “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 products and services" (p 351).

I do agree with this. I have left jobs because of a supervisor and the lack of opportunity, but I have also left because I was no longer in love with the work. There is nothing more draining than experiencing the dread of going to work on Monday morning –when it’s only Friday night!

Perhaps with love all things are worth it - the good days and the bad days. Love provides the energy required to continue to tackle the tough decisions, provide opportunities for others to shine, coach the seemingly un-coachable, and otherwise be consistent in the five practices. Love can help you survive stress and love will help you avoid burnout.

I was thinking about passion versus love in relation to my last career. I was in the field of social work for 15 years. I had wanted to be a social worker since the age of 12. In the end, however, burn out caused me to fall out of
love. It took me two years to realize I still have a passion for working with people - just not in that same context. But getting back in touch with the love that moves me to do the work provides an enormous amount of clarity for personal sustenance and leadership.

How does your relationship with your direct manager influence how you feel about your job and/or organization? Can you think of another factor that has more influence? Have you ever left a company because of your manager?

Working with One Yoga has been the most fulfilling nonprofit experience I have had so far. I owe a big chunk of how I feel to my relationship with the Executive Director. We have developed a relationship out of our shared understanding of how non-profits work (especially in a time when One Yoga is really stepping into unfamiliar territory). I see many of the examples of leadership listed by Kouzes and Posner on page 343 exhibited in how she takes on the organization.

Living in the moment and showing humility, two topics of discussion in chapter 13, run very parallel to yogic thoughts, which makes me think more about ways of becoming an effective leader. I appreciate that these topics are presented because I think they are many times overlooked when considering leadership. Sometimes we think that leaders have to always be looking forward or changing from the past but if they are not present, a leader cannot truly be a good listener or actor towards growth in the organization. Also, by being open to make mistakes and admitting them when they happen a leader can show that they are approachable and able to stand up to challenges thus enticing others to follow.

Last year I quit my job because of my boss. Unfortunately, this businesses survives and thrives because of all of the effective leaders who kiss the owner's a*#. The managers let her walk all over them without speaking out because they are paid very well. What this means for employees like myself, who work under the managers, is that our job security is nil. A prime example of this happened the other night when the owner walked in drunk and proceeded to fire the host, who is a very personable, very good worker. The managers sat by and let her tell them to fire this host because she didn't want him working for the business, no other reason. Interestingly enough, the same thing happened to me last fall, before I quit. There is no doubt that the owner lacks what a great leader is but the example of her success with the business makes it painfully clear to me how money affects how some people view success.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs