Every so often I read a book that perfectly encapsulates what I believe about a certain topic. I read a book this week called “The Truth about Leadership” by Barry Posner and James Kouzes. They are also the authors of the “The Leadership Challenge” and many other meticulously researched books on leadership. This book is basically a summary of what they have learned over their long career. They simplify leadership in the simple truths. Here they are :
” o The first truth is that You Make a Difference. It is the most fundamental truth of all. Before you can lead, you have to believe that you can have a positive impact on others. You have to believe in yourself. That’s where it all begins. Leadership begins when you believe you can make a difference. Over the next three days, we will reveal what you believe about this truth. We will discover the messages that you send to yourself about your own capabilities and leadership.
o The second truth is that Credibility Is the Foundation of Leadership. You have to believe in you, but others have to believe in you, too. What does it take for others to believe in you? Short answer: Credibility. We’ve said it many times, but we need to say it again, especially in these times when people have become cynical about their leaders and institutions: If people don’t believe in you, they won’t willingly follow you. Over the next three days we will show you why this is so important and how to gain Credibility.
o The third truth is that Values Drive Commitment. People want to know what you stand for and believe in. They want to know what you value. And leaders need to know what others value if they are going to be able to forge alignments between personal values and organizational demands. Over the next three days we will dig deep on what you believe and why you believe it. We will help you craft your own principles on leadership and how to craft your own with your team.
o The fourth truth is that Focusing on the Future Sets Leaders Apart. The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is a defining competence of leaders. You have to take the long-term perspective. Gain insight from reviewing your past and develop outsight by looking around. Over the next three days we will help you “light the torch” for your team and co-create the future.
o You Can’t Do It Alone is the fifth truth. No leader ever got anything extraordinary done without the talent and support of others. Leadership is a team sport, and you need to engage others in the cause. What strengthens and sustains the relationship between leader and constituent is that leaders are obsessed with what is best for others, not what is best for themselves.
o Trust Rules is the sixth truth. If you can’t do it alone and have to rely on others, what’s needed to make that happen? Trust. Trust is the social glue that holds individuals and groups together. And the level of trust others have in you will determine the amount of influence you have. You have to earn your constituents’ trust before they’ll be willing to trust you. That means you have to give trust before you can get trust.
o The seventh truth is that Challenge Is the Crucible for Greatness. Exemplary leaders, the kind of leaders people want to follow, are always associated with changing the status quo. Great achievements don’t happen when you keep things the same. Change invariably involves challenge, and challenge tests you. It introduces you to yourself. It brings you face-to-face with your level of commitment, your grittiness, and your values. It reveals your mindset about change.
o Truth number eight reminds you that You Either Lead by Example or You Don’t Lead at All. Leaders have to keep their promises and become role models for the values and actions they espouse. You have to go first as a leader. You can’t ask others to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself. Moreover, you have to be willing to admit mistakes and be able to learn from them.
o Truth number nine is that The Best Leaders Are the Best Learners. You have to believe that you (and others) can learn to lead, and that you can become a better leader tomorrow than you are today. Leaders are constant improvement fanatics, and learning is the master skill of leadership. Learning, however, takes time and attention, practice and feedback, along with good coaching. It also takes willingness on your part to ask for support.
o The tenth truth is that Leadership Is an Affair of the Heart. It could also be the first truth. Leaders are in love with their constituents, their customers and clients, and the mission that they are serving. Leaders make others feel important and are gracious in showing their appreciation. Love is the motivation that energizes leaders to give so much for others. You just won’t work hard enough to become great if you aren’t doing what you love.”
I couldn’t agree with this more. Often we make leadership too complex. It isn’t rocket science. It’s about having a set of principles to live by and be accountable to. It doesn’t have to be these but this is a great start.