Everyday people, extraordinary leadership
LEADERSHIP is a mindset – a way of approaching life. It’s about how you act and what you do. It can be taught and then tested and refined in practice.
We all have a responsibility to lead in the context in which we find ourselves. James Kouzes and Barry Posner emphasize this point in Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership. The book is about what “individuals do to bring about change and improvement”.
Most leaders have no titles. And this book is written for them – for those who can and should lead “without the benefit of a hierarchical position and rank”.
To help you develop trust and grow as a leader, the authors present an operating system of leadership practices based on their proven five best practices of leadership. Together they define what managers do.
Leadership is essentially about your relationships, your credibility, and what you do. Leadership has everything to do with how you behave.
The authors share the personal stories of ordinary people who behaved as informal leaders. As you read these stories of people from all walks of life doing their best, they reveal a number of common behaviors and actions that the authors have summarized in the five practices:
Model the way
It is your behavior that earns you respect. Those in charge of everyday life would say things like, “I had to be clear about my personal values and then make sure I had the interview.” Setting an example creates credibility – the foundation of leadership.
Modeling the path begins with knowing and being able to articulate your values. But good leadership goes beyond that. “In order to lead others successfully, common values must be understood and affirmed – the principles that can strengthen and strengthen collective engagement.”
Inspire a shared vision
Managers see what could be. It is their clear vision of this future that pulls them forward. “The more I imagined what was possible, the clearer I could describe what the future holds for all of us.” “We had to be aligned so that we could find a common purpose as a team in the future.”
To follow your vision, people need to see how to make it their own. You need to understand the hopes and aspirations of those with whom you are dealing.
You need to breathe life into visions, not only through your own enthusiasm and expressiveness, but also by listening to and communicating the hopes and dreams of others so that they clearly understand how their values and interests are being served.
Challenge the process
All everyday leadership examples included some changes from the status quo. “Managers are pioneers at best. They are ready to venture into the unknown and continuously look for opportunities by taking the initiative and looking externally for innovative opportunities for improvement. “Look for ways to make a difference.
Be ready to experiment and learn from your mistakes and setbacks. Identify and remove self-imposed constraints and organizational conventions that block innovation and creativity.
Empower others to act
It is not a guide if you do it alone. Leadership is not leadership in a vacuum. To enable others to act, relationships and trust must be built. Trust comes from trusting others. Giving people a choice creates competence and trust.
You will empower others when you enable them to exercise choice and discretion, as you develop the competence and confidence in others to act and excel, and when you promote the accountability that compels action.
Encourage the heart
Expect the best from others and show that you care. Recognize others. The everyday leaders in these examples stated that “they needed to encourage the hearts of those they worked with to move on, especially when they were tempted to give up.”
Through attention, encouragement, personalization of appreciation, and maintaining a positive attitude, leaders stimulate, ignite, and focus people’s energies and drive. Encouragement is more personal and positive than other forms of feedback and builds trust in relationships.
The behaviors associated with the five practices are not gender, race or context specific. Everyone can put these practices into practice in his or her life and lead them with the best of themselves. Leadership starts with working on you. Start with believing that you can make a difference right where you are, and consciously practice these behaviors in your context. It will change you and you can then change other people’s lives.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:31 am
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