The Truth about Leadership

One of the best books about leadership that I have ever read is The Truth about Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.  In the book, these two leadership experts condense their many years of vast experience studying and teaching leadership into 10 things that every emerging leader should know.  Here’s their list:

Truth #1: You make a difference.  “Before you can lead others, you have to lead yourself and believe that you can have a positive impact on others.  You have to believe that your words can inspire and your actions can move others.  You have to believe that what you do counts for something.”

Truth #2: Credibility is the foundation of leadership.  “Before anyone is going to willingly follow you – or any other leader – he or she wants to know that you are honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent.”

Truth #3: Values drive commitment.  “Becoming a leader begins when you come to understand who you are, what you care about, and why you do what you do.”

Truth #4: Focusing on the future sets leaders apart.  “The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is the defining competence of leaders.  Leaders are custodians of the future.  They are concerned about tomorrow’s world and those who will inherit it.”

Truth #5: You can’t do it alone.  “Leadership is not about the leader per se.  It is not about you alone.  It’s about the relationship between leaders and their constituents.  It’s about the connection you and your teammates have with each other.  It’s about how you behave and feel toward each other.  It’s about the emotional bond that exists between you and them.  Exemplary leaders know that they must attend to the needs, and focus on the capabilities, of their constituents if they are going to get extraordinary things done.”

Truth #6: Trust rules.  “Trust rules your personal credibility.  Trust rules your ability to get things done.  Trust rules your team’s cohesiveness.  Trust rules your organization’s innovativeness and performance.  Trust rules your brand image.  Trust rules just about everything you do.”

Truth #7: Challenge is the crucible for greatness.  “Whether on the front lines or in the executive suites, whether at the global or local levels, leaders see open doors while others see brick walls.  Leaders seize opportunities that hide inside adversities.  They take the initiative to move things forward.”

Truth #8: You either lead by example or you don’t lead at all.  “The truth of leading by example is accepted worldwide.  It’s ancient wisdom.  For example, there’s an old Chinese proverb that says, ‘The lower beam will not be level if the upper one is not.’  If you want others to behave in ways that are consistent with shared values and beliefs, you’d better make sure your beam is level.”

Truth #9: The best leaders are learners.  “…to master leadership you have to have a strong desire to excel, you have to believe strongly that you can learn new skills and abilities, and you have to be willing to devote yourself to continuous learning and deliberate practice.  No matter how good you are, you can always get better.”

Truth #10: Leadership is an affair of the heart.  “Research indicates that the highest performing managers and leaders are the most open and caring.  The best leaders demonstrate more affection toward others and want others to be more open with them.  They are more positive and passionate, more loving and compassionate, and more grateful and encouraging than their lower performing counterparts.”


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