How Jim Kouzes has changed?
I recently asked bestselling author and leadership expert, Jim Kouzes some questions. Here’s part of that exchange. I’m reviewing, “The Truth about Leadership,” by Kouzes and Posner, next Thursday, October 21 and giving away 5 copies of their new book.
Leadership Freak (LF): How have you personally changed as a result of your leadership research?
Jim Kouzes: For one thing, I’ve become—or at least I hope I’ve become—much more self-aware. The more I’ve listened to, observed, and read about exemplary leaders, the better I’ve come to understand my own strengths and weaknesses, and some of the ways in which I can improve. I’m very fortunate to have been able to collect thousands of examples of what to do, and what not to do, and I have a much richer repertoire of behaviors to use than before I started doing this work.
I’ve also become more tolerant and forgiving. Leaders are human beings, full of flaws and idiosyncrasies. There is not one leader I have interviewed or studied who’s gotten a perfect ten on all our practices. I doubt they exist. If they did, it’d only be temporary; because once they try new things they make mistakes. I greatly appreciate how difficult it is to sustain exemplary leadership.
I’ve also learned to say thank you more often and to never take trust for granted.
Jim’s last statement most grips my mind and heart. Leadership-influence expresses a trust relationship between leader and follower. Trust not only honors its recipients it also creates profound responsibility. The gift of followership is precious, never to be taken for granted, violated, or abused. In a way, followers make leaders.
I’m enriched by Jim sharing how he has changed.
Which of Jim’s personal change-points do you most connect with?
How has your own research or experience changed you as a leader?
Don’t miss Jim Kouzes’ comment from yesterday’s post, Most Frequent Leadership Advice – Look toward the bottom of the comments.
All the points are brilliant. They look simple but very difficult to master. I believe that simplicity, resilience and forgiveness are the basic and perhaps the most important metrics of effective leaders. Being human is the first and foremost point then followed by acceptance, forgiveness and being more down to earth. I think the more we down to earn, more we connect with the people and vice versa. All these three qualities, I practice, do and teach to family, friends, colleagues and students.
People usually forget to understand that leaders are human beings. Higher they reach in life, farther they go from people. So ego connected with position and personality is the main hindrance. One can overcome this by being simple, human and turning ones weaknesses into strengths.
One of the key points you make provides clear application. When we are “down to earth” it facilitates connection. Great point.
Ajay is a business/leadership teacher in India. Read his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
Good morning Dan. Thanks for the recommendation on the book. It is on my to read list. On the question of which leadership qualities I believe in all of the ones mentioned but particularly credibility which underlies the biggie in my mind TRUST. I find it is difficult at times when working in an organization where everyone including leaders in some way has to report to a higher authority be it the Board or others. Technically as leaders we are working for some one else all of the time. How do you all reconcile actions taken that one knows breach what you as a leader believes in and would have approached or done differently? The often heard phrase around the Board room is “We can’t do that because it will establish a precedent.” I have always looked at guidelines and rules as just tools and not mandates and feel as the saying goes, the “rule makes the exceptions.” I understand in principle the need for consistency but feel there will be plenty of times when the greater good will be served by doing otherwise. The flip side is that perhaps these exceptions prompt us to examine our rules and make adjustments and fine tune them.
What I am driving at is how do you all out there handle incidents wherein one’s credibility is put in question and the only answer we can provide when queried is ” I am sorry but the Board has decided and there is nothing I can do about it.” I feel situations like that undermine our TRUST factor and makes it difficult for folks to continue to rely on us.
Granted we should never promise what we cannot deliver and I am sure all of you, I know I do, have boundaries that cannot be broached and if they are we say adios, but really I would love to hear from the LF community how they handle situations like that. The last things if in fact your are deemed to be very trustworthy and credible in your organization staff will naturally seek you out bypassing the usual lines of the org chart. BTW I for one hate org charts and in my world there are no boundaries when people reach out for help. I have never been “offended” when some one “crosses my line” and solves a problem for me! Sorry for the digression but this came to mind when a recent staff member was disappointed that a certain decision had been made which she felt was inconsistent with our VMV. My response to her is that we need to preserver and keep trying and that the wins as Gandhi says to measure success not in the wins we have but our efforts. So we try to keep on plugging. Thanks you all. Regards, Al
I see your point Al, can cause less than a good night’s sleep. Very tough place to be.
While it is easier to beg forgiveness, particularly when the outcome is for the greater good, sometimes boards do not focus on the greater good, perhaps their focus goes too deeply into a fiduciary focus and perceived accountability that way.
If the message you are getting indicates the board’s decision is final, then would seem that finding venues for closer connections with some of the board members is in order. To be at the table when there is that discussion of ‘yes this does set a precedent…and that is the right thing to do’ is important. That is the personal approach and if coupled with a cogent and impactful true story does carry some qualitative weight that can shift a board. Then you still have to have the data or quantitative weight to factor in.
Seems like much of this might have to be prep work, done on a one-to-one basis with recitation of some of the leadership values we have identified here.
Doc you made several very good points which I plan to put in practice. I like the idea about having closer relationships and more personal ones with individual Board Members and I particularly am keen on being “present” when the discussions take place as it represents a golden moment to contribute one’s perpective. Thnaks for the insights Doc, they are much appreciated. Regards, Al
Caught in the middle is the worst place to be. When I lead seminars for newly promoted mid-levels, the topic of “owning” decisions of upper management is a big one.
When the mid-level was a front-line employee they could complain/whine about decisions of the “uppers” but now they can’t. Now the “enforce” those decisions. If they don’t own them even when they disagree they lose credibility.
In those cases, we discuss the proper boundaries of honesty cp. the tension with business objectives, ethics, and leadership strategies.
In my opinion, candor that does not blame, honesty about ones own opinion along with one’s responsibilities may be acceptable.
I can image the medical world is even more difficult because issues in the medical field are so complex. Add HIPPA to the equation and people get stuck in a powder keg.
I’m rambling. 🙂
You have my best regards,
Dr Diaz is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/al-diaz
Dan you are very perceptive to have brought up “mid-levels.” We have just organized them and had them elect their President representative with access to administration. They have provided me with a “wish” list and I will be presenting them to the Board on Wednesday. Most of them seem like very reasonable requests and I plan to put into practice “meeting individually with some of the Board Members (aka Doc’s advice) and see what happens when the full Board meets. Hanging on to credibility as you alluded to can make boundaries hard to keep and all one can do as you say is use candor and honesty as much as possible. Thank you so much for your great “rambling” suggestions and comments, they are much appreciated. Kind regards, Al
I think it’s interesting that he talks about how true leadership is about changing the self, not the world.
From there all good things flow.
Awareness, forgiveness, gratitude…I think he says it all. Whatever spiritual disciplines we take in life lead us to the same place. When you think of business and leadership as a spiritual discipline, it opens many doors. And makes you more effective.
Love the point about self awareness.
It seems so simple, and most of us think we are pretty self aware.
But I bet that, if there were a purely objective way to measure it, most of us drastically overestimate how self aware we truly are.
Thanks for the point – I’m taking it as a personal challenge to get a better sense of how self aware I truly am, and then take steps to become more so.
Jim and Barry, thanks for providing the “How” that I commented on yesterday.
Self-awareness, tolerance [I would add patience, too], forgiveness, and thankfulness are certainly values that need to be exposed to those whom a great leader is leading.
Which of Jim’s personal change-points do you most connect with?
Thankfulness resonates with me the most because it is the instant expression I can exercise to connect with the person I am interacting with.
How has your own research or experience changed you as a leader?
My research and experience into motivation science, via David McClelland, has had the greatest affect on me personally (i.e., self-awareness) and my interactions with those I know and interact. Gaining a better sense of your and others’ motivations – Achievement, Affiliation, or Power – places you in a position to better demonstrate self-awareness, tolerance, forgiveness, and thankfulness.
With respect to trust, I am reminded of President Reagan’s quote, “Trust, but verify.”
To all be safe and have an energizing weekend…Jim
The change-point that resonated with me the most was the one about tolerance and forgiveness. As a teenager, I heard a parent of one of my friends speaking in church about starting a fire in his home, accidentally, when he was a young child. No one was injured, but there was damage to the home. His father, once everyone had gotten safe, immediately said something to the effect of: I love you no matter what. I imagine all of us in the LF community have had to, at one time or another, approach our leader with adverse information, possibly as a result of some mistake we have made. For me, the leaders who respond with “how can this go differently next time?” instead of “how could you have done something so stupid?” are the ones who gain my trust and who I will try harder for in the future.
As far as my own experience, having transitioned from supervising 8 people to being supervised by a former peer, I feel more keenly what I imagine she is going to feel when I make a request or a choice that goes wrong. I understand better how a leader feels accountable to those above him/her on the pecking order and how their reactions/fears may be based in some set of circumstances/expectations far broader than a specific job objective.
Still working on the self-aware piece, been getting lots of great mirror moments with the LF crew of course. This ebbs and flows. Often seem to remember how I do not want to lead, having experienced the negative spin. Have landed on the ‘barely know what I don’t know, know there’s lots I will never know (and need others for that expertise) and that I need to know a lot more to be effective’ leadership approach. I highly value an organization that has a culture that values ongoing learning, positive and negative, as that is aligned with what I am seeking and that is how an organization can improve.
As I focus more on a legacy perspective, I find I am often less tolerant of overt/covert or intentional waste of resources, time, & energy. Tolerance to learning mistakes or flaws (one person’s flaw is another’s strength) can always improve…and may mean that my role in the unlearning plays a factor which I am accountable for.
In my learning/unlearning, I snowboard and my mantra is ‘you’re not having fun if you don’t fall down’, however, if I keep running into a tree or a fumarole (bad thing, trust me), then I am not learning and not having much fun.
Definitely agree with Mr. Kouzes about not taking trust for granted, far too much like gossamer to take lightly. However, interwoven trust can be so strong and vital for an organization. And we never say ‘thanks’ enough. And we perhaps even more rarely write ‘thank you’ notes enough…thanks to Q. Studer for that learning.
Thanks all for your thoughts on this post!
Leadership Research is something new and gratifying on part of Jim Kouzes. The summarized 3 points speak of volumes of great learning by studying success stories and observing good traits in effective leaders.
I like the first point of becoming self-aware and moulding the work style to remain successful. However. I don’t agree on the point of trust not to take as granted. It’s conflicting. You trust only few people who are dependable and who can be part of your winning team. If one has selected and developed the right team then there is no question of doubting on the trust as kept in any individual.
Creating a team which can deliver the best is the biggest challenge for any leader. Trust is the only way you inspire people to perform. Trust is never taken as granted. It is the only way one can effectively delegate and keep the morale of people high with entrusted responsibilities with immense authority.
so great to “see” Jim on your blog!
I had a privilege to collaborate and interact with Jim and I must say, that all what he says he does. I have never seen more accurate living example of “talk walker” as Jim. Humble, grateful, insanely generous, totally trustworthy, lifelong learner…and I could carry on and on;-)
cheers from Slovakia
P.S.: when you will read epilogue of the Truth About Leadership you will know what collaboration with Jim I am talking about;-)
Again thank you all for your very gracious and generous comments about our work. I am honored and humbled. I’m learning so much from reading what you have to say. The LF community has created a glorious virtual classroom.
In reading your comments two things come to mind. The first has to do with self-awareness. I’m sure every member of the LF community knows how important feedback is to becoming more aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses and one’s impact on others. It’s essential to continuous learning and growth. Interestingly, in our research, Barry Posner and I have found that asking for feedback is not all that easy for leaders to do. On the “Leadership Practices Inventory” – our 360-degree assessment tool – the statement on which leaders consistently score the lowest is: “asks for feedback on how his/her actions affect other people’s performance.” In other words, the behavior that leaders and their constituents consider to be the weakest is the behavior that most enables leaders to know how they are doing! It’s tough for all of us, me included, to make ourselves vulnerable like that. It’s necessary, but never easy.
Reading your comments and stories also reminds me of a time my wife, Tae, and I were driving through Truckee, California on our way to Tahoe. We stopped at a store, the Jackass Ridge (that’s its real name!), to get a little gift. On the outside of the store, nailed to the exterior wall, was a hand-carved wooden sign that read: “This building is dedicated to the memory of Ignatius Joseph Firpo. ‘What we have done for ourselves dies with us; what we have done for others remains, and is immortal.'” What a wonderful reminder of where our attention needs to be—as leaders, followers, friends, family members, and citizens.
The leadership legacy you leave lives on not in what you have done for yourself. When you go, it goes with you. But what you do to teach others, engage others, inspire others, support others, develop others, and enrich others carries your legacy long after you’ve left.
I’m impressed by how the LF community is so focused on contributing to the growth and learning of others. Thank you. And….your comments and feedback are always welcome!
Great post! Excellent points about the imperfections of leaders and how difficult, but possible it is to sustain effective leadership. I have learned in studying leadership that the role of a leader is forever evolving. Considering he or she learns from their mistakes, will build more of a solid foundation and fortitude for future situations that require leadership. Lastly, I truly believe that a leader is only as relevant as the individuals being lead. A simply thank you or acknowledgement for great effort always goes a long way.