James Kouzes and Barry Posner developed The Leadership Practices Inventory, a survey to ascertain the most important qualities of successful leaders. Over the past thirty years, over three million respondents have ranked the leadership characteristics that matter to them most.
Can you guess what these qualities are?
People want and follow leaders who are:
If you ponder this for a moment, this seems like such a no brainer.
Of course, we want our leaders to be honest. It's hard - no impossible - to follow someone you don't trust.
Of course, we want our leaders to be future-oriented. It's hard to follow someone who doesn't know where they are going.
Of course, we want our leaders to be inspiring. Work is hard and, especially in the nonprofit sector, our battles long. We want and need the encouragement and can-do attitude that inspiring leaders provide.
Of course, we want our leaders to be competent. It's hard to follow someone (even the nicest someone) if they don't know what they are doing or can't get things done.
Here is the question that stymies me.
If we know what we want from our leaders (and ourselves!) why is it so hard to find and be the types of leaders who actualize these values in the real world?
The answer is simple. We're human. Unfortunately, we're prone to ego, fear, confusion and all kinds of other human emotions that hurt our ability to lead and lead well.
Still, if you aspire to become a better leader (I hope you do!), there are concrete steps you can take to enhance your leadership skills and become a more powerful force for good in the world.
First, create your own leadership code of ethics (see above and mine below) - a simple statement of the values you choose to lead by.
Second, ask for feedback. Ask trusted advisers, friends, mentors and those you serve how you can improve your leadership and then USE their feedback to improve.
Third, take on leadership roles. Like any skill, leadership takes practice. You can't become a better leader in the abstract. Volunteer at your local church, temple or mosque. Take on a new challenge at work. Step up in your family and community to serve others. These experiences provide the training ground for your leadership.
Fourth, read about and take The Leadership Challenge by Posner and Kouzes and join millions of others trying to build a better word.
Here are the principles that guide my leadership.
- Tell the truth.
- Be vulnerable aka admit mistakes.
- Care deeply about others.
- Listen well.
- Learn as much and as quickly as you can about everything!
- Express praise.
- Be passionate.
- Have fun.
What are the values that you lead by?