In their seminal book, The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner outline the five fundamental practices of exemplary leadership. The information on this site, including the eBook, uses the five practices as a framework for identifying movie clips which model great leadership.
In over 30 years of original research, and data from over three million leaders, Kouzes and Posner collected thousands of ‘personal best’ stories—the experiences people recalled when asked to think of a peak leadership experience.
Although people’s individual stories were different, their leadership experiences revealed similar patterns of behaviour, allowing Kouzes and Posner to identify the five leadership practices outlined below.
Challenge the Process
Leaders venture out and are not afraid to challenge the status quo. They step into the unknown, looking for opportunities to grow, innovate and inspire. All the stories collected by Kouzes & Posner involved leaders facing a challenge – and no one claimed a personal best by keeping things the same.
Leaders who challenge the process are willing to challenge the system to get new products, processes, services and systems adopted – even if there is a risk of failure. And if they do fail, they learn quickly from their actions.
Inspire a Shared Vision
Leaders imagine an exciting, attractive future, and have personal belief in those dreams and their abilities to make extraordinary things happen. Their clear vision or dream of the future pulls them forward.
They are also able to inspire their followers and bring them with them. They do this by knowing their people, speaking their language, and having an intimate knowledge of their people’s dreams, aspirations and values.
Enable Others to Act
Leaders recognise they cannot change everything themselves – they must foster collaboration and build trust in their teams and everyone who has a stake in achieving the vision.
Leaders who enable others to act make it possible for others to do good work, working hard to make others feel strong, capable and committed. They don’t hoard power – they give it away in order to foster commitment.
Great leaders build relationships based on trust and confidence, and make people feel strong and capable – as if they can do more than they ever thought possible.
Model the Way
Exemplary leaders recognise that if they want to gain commitment and achieve the highest standards, they must model the behaviours they require of others: it’s their behaviour that wins them respect.
But first they must be clear themselves about their own guiding principles, and be prepared to talk about what they hold as important.
They then ‘model the way’ – demonstrating through their daily actions their deep commitment to their beliefs, and inspiring people to follow them as a result.
Encourage the Heart
People can often become disenchanted, frustrated or exhausted: great leaders encourage the heart of their people to carry on, no matter how hard the task. Genuine acts of caring can lift the spirits and motivate them to continue.
In practical terms, this means showing appreciation for people’s contributions – whether the gesture is simple or grand – and creating a culture of celebration.