Most frequent leadership advice of Jim Kouzes

I recently asked bestselling author and leadership expert, Jim Kouzes some questions. Here’s part of that exchange.


Leadership Freak: “What piece of leadership advice do you give out most frequently?”

Jim Kouzes: “The most important advice that I can give a leader is credibility is the foundation of leadership. I bet I’ve said this at least once a day for the last 30 years.

This is the inescapable conclusion we’ve come to after thirty years of asking people around the world what they look for and admire in a leader, someone whose direction they would willingly follow. The key word here is “willingly.”

It’s one thing to follow someone because you think you have to “or else,” and it’s another when you follow a leader because you want to. It turns out that the believability of the leader determines whether people will willingly give more of their time, talent, energy, experience, intelligence, creativity, and support.

Only credible leaders earn commitment, and only commitment builds and regenerates great organizations and communities.”

(More tomorrow)


I’m currently finishing, “The Truth about Leadership,” by Kouzes and Posner. Chapter two focuses on credibility. Their First Law of Leadership is, “If you don’t believe the messenger, you won’t believe the message.”

Their research indicates the top four characteristics of admired leader’s are honesty, forward-looking, inspiring, and competency. (in order of importance)


Yesterday, I heard a leader explaining that he convinced his organization to make major investments in an unseen vision. This leader has delivered in the past. Now his organization is following him into the future. That’s credibility.

All leaders inevitably ask others to believe in a not-yet, a vision.

The benefit of credibility is if you do what you say, others will be more willing to do what you say.


How can leaders best exemplify the most admired leadership qualities – honesty, forward-looking, inspiring, and competency?

I think there can be too much or too little of these qualities, what about you?

(300 words or less does not include the introduction, the questions, and this comment.)