Co-authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner have spent 30 years together studying leadership, and in their book Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extrordinary Things Happen in Organizations, they reveal what they find to be the most common practices amongst the best leaders.
The first thing they noticed was that “when people recall their personal-best leadership experiences, they always think about some kind of challenge. Why? Because personal and business hardships have a way of making people come face-to-face with who they really are and what they’re capable of becoming. They test people, and they require inventive ways of dealing with new situations. They tend to bring out the best in people.”
Kouzes and Posner found that leaders like to give other challenges, but not without reason or purpose. In their research, they found that people do their best when their motivation comes from within. “Their tasks or projects must be intrinsically engaging. When it comes to excellence, it’s definitely not ‘What gets rewarded gets done’; it’s ‘What is rewarding gets done.'” The importance of helping another grow with certainty is far more important to leaders than their time and money.
The next practice they noticed among leaders was their ability to encourage initiative in others. Leaders don’t want to be the only voice heard; instead, “they want people to speak up, offer suggestions for improvement, and be straightforward about their constructive criticism. Yet when it comes to situations that involve high uncertainty, high risk, and high challenge, many people feel reluctant to act, afraid they might make matters worse.” Leaders conteract this reluctancy by creating an environment that makes people want to seize every opportunity. The first can be allowing a chance for people to enhance their skills. “Training is crucial to building people’s ability and their confidence that they can effectively respond to and improve difficult situations they face. People can’t deliver when they don’t know how, so you have to upgrade capabilities continuously.”
How do you approach leadership in your workplace?