“What are you doing as a leader when you are performing at your best?”

This is the question that researchers Kouzes and Posner asked when they interviewed thousands of people in  management and leadership roles in the mid 198o’s. The responses formed the basis of their model “Exemplary Leadership Practices” and which they wrote about in their first best-selling book “The Leadership Challenge“. leadership practices

The first edition of their book was published in 1987 and since then, a further five editions have seen more than two million copies sold.

Over the past 30 years they have conducted intensive surveys and collected written feedback from over 75,000 responses.

The 5 key practices of exemplary leaders are “Model the Way,” “Inspire a Shared Vision,” “Challenge the Process,” “Enable Others to Act,” and “Encourage the Heart”. These five key leadership practices are described in the following terms …..

  1. Model the way – this is about the leader setting the right example in terms of the behaviour and standards that are expected of people when they are getting business done
  2. Inspire a shared vision – refers to the ability of the leader to create and articulate a compelling vision of what the organisation can become. The leader helps people to believe they can make a difference and helps them to see where they fit in this bigger picture. They engages them in wanting to contribute  to this vision, because the leader has connected it to ideals and values shared by the team
  3. Challenge the process – referring to the relentless desire of the leader to seek opportunities for improvement. They are not satisfied with the status-quo but are regularly encouraging people to seek better ways of doing things. This leadership practice is about being willing to take risks and accept disappointment as part of learning to do better.
  4. Enable others to act – is the willingness of the leader to show faith and trust in their people; to give them the freedom and space to be able to perform to their best and to encourage them to develop and apply their capabilities.
  5. Encourage the heart – refers to the practice of the leader showing care and concern for their people. It is about the leader showing passion for what they are doing and expressing appreciation to others for their efforts and celebrating their contributions

In addition to asking leaders about their practices, the researchers asked people this question “What do you look for and admire in a leader?”. The responses were not too surprising.

The key traits identified through their research include  honesty, competency, inspiration and being forward-thinking.

Their research has convinced these 2 academics that effective leadership comprises a set of traits and practices that can be learned – regardless of whether a person is an extroverted or introverted personality. The book “The Leadership Challenge” has become a popular leadership guide used by many of the top organisations around the world. It has become a central component in their leadership development programs, because it is evidence-based  in identifying what good leaders do.

The authors of the book have also developed a popular 360 degree feedback instrument based upon their five practices, “Leadership Practices Inventory“. The assessment and accompanying feedback aims to develop greater self-awareness and provide leaders with direction on their development journey. The instrument is available in Australia through WorkSmart

If you are based in Melbourne and wanting to attend some leadership training, check out our 2 day highly interactive Leadership Course