5 Practices of Leadership

How do you make it possible for ordinary people to accomplish the extra-ordinary? How do you get people to follow you to places they’ve never been before? How do you get other people with free will and choice to move forward together on a common purpose? Just how do you get others to want to do things that matter and make a difference?

In helping the Toastmasters club to start in Mauritius, in a sense I have with my Toastmasters friends attempted to answer the above questions or least created a practising ground to hone our skills in a friendly atmosphere. I rejoice to learn that the Port Louis Toastmasters club is growing from strength to strength. I am invigorated. I like to make more contributions to see the sprouting of the latent leadership talents of my fellow Toastmasters. I have in mind those who are working on the leadership track.

JAMES KOUZES & BARRY POSNER have studied the performance of great leaders and have been able to single out the five practices that enable them to get extraordinary things done. I would recommend you to read their books on leadership to sharpen your personal skills.

I like to call this KOUZES & POSNER’s piece of work: the five practices of Leadership.

1. Challenge the process.

Leaders venture out. Those who lead others to greatness seek and accept challenge. Although some people attribute their success to “being in the right place at the right time”or even to “luck,” none merely sit idly by waiting for fate to smile on them. Every single personal best leadership case involves some challenge—perhaps an innovative new product, a cutting-edge service, groundbreaking legislation, an invigorating campaign, a revolutionary turnaround, or the start-up of a new business.

No Leaders are pioneers—people who step out into the unknown. They take risks, innovate, and experiment to find new and better ways of doing things. But leaders need not always be the creators or originators of new products, services, or processes. Product and service innovations tend to come from customers, clients, vendors, people in the labs, and people on the front lines.

The leader´s primary contribution is in recognizing good ideas, supporting those ideas, and challenging the system to get new products, processes, services, and systems adopted. They know that innovation and change involve risk and potential failure. The key that unlocks the door to opportunity is learning in the face of obstacles. As weather shapes mountains, problems shape leaders. Leaders are learners. They learn from their mistakes as well as their successes.one achieves a personal best by keeping things the same.

2. Inspiring a shared vision.

When people describe their personal-best leadership experiences, they tell of times when they imagine exciting futures. They have visions and dreams of what could be. They have absolute belief in these visions, and they are confident in their abilities to make extraordinary things happen. Every organization begins with a dream. The vision is the force that invents the future.

Leaders inspire a shared vision. They gaze across the horizon of time, imagining the attractive opportunities that are in store. Leaders desire to make something happen, to change the way things are, to create something new.

In some ways, leaders live their lives backwards. They see pictures in their mind of the results even before they start their projects. Their clear image of the future pulls them forward. Yet, visions seen only by leaders are insufficient to create an organized movement or a significant change. A person with no constituents is not a leader, and people will not follow until they accept a vision as their own. Leaders cannot command commitment; they can only inspire it.

To enlist people in a vision, leaders must know their constituents and speak their language. People must believe that leaders understand their needs and have their interests at heart. Only by knowing their dreams, hopes, aspirations, visions, and values can the leaders enlist support. Leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue. Breathing life into the hopes and dreams of others enables them to see exciting possibilities. Leaders forge a unity of purpose by showing constituents how the dream is for the common good.

Leaders communicate their passion through vivid language and an expressive style. The leader´s own belief in and enthusiasm for the vision are the sparks that ignite the flame of inspiration.

3. Enabling others to act.

Grand dreams do not become significant realities through the actions of a single leader. Leadership is a team effort. We developed a simple one-word test to detect whether people are becoming leaders—the frequency of their use of the word we. Exemplary leaders enlist the support of all who must make the project work. In today´s virtual organization, cooperation is not just within a small group of loyalists. It includes peers, managers, customers, clients, suppliers, citizens—all those who have a stake in the vision. Leaders involve those who must live with the results, and enable others to do good work. People do not do their best when they feel weak, incompetent, and alienated. Those who must produce the results must feel a sense of ownership.

The work of leaders is making people feel strong, capable, informed, and connected. Leaders enable others to act, not by hoarding power, but by giving it away. When people have more discretion, authority, and information, they are more likely to use their energies to produce extraordinary results.

Leaders know that teamwork, trust, and empowerment are essential. Leaders turn their followers into leaders themselves. This requires leadership to be a relationship, founded on trust and confidence. Without trust and confidence, people do not take risks. Without risks, there is no change. Without change, organizations and movements die.

4.Modeling the way.

Titles are granted, but leadership is earned. Your behavior earns you respect. Leaders don´t ask others to do things they are unwilling to do first. Leaders go first. They set an example and build commitment through simple, daily acts that create progress and build momentum.

Leaders must first be clear about their guiding principles. Leaders are supposed to stand up for their beliefs, so they had better have beliefs. Eloquent speeches about common values are not enough. Leaders´ deeds are far more important than their words and must be consistent with them. New tomorrows are not realized without hard work and persistence. Personal-best projects require relentless effort, steadfastness, competence, and attention to detail.

Leaders need operational plans. They must steer projects along the course, measure performance, give feedback, meet budgets and schedules, and take corrective action. Concentrating on producing small wins, leaders build confidence that even the biggest challenges can be met. They strengthen commitment to the long-term future.

5. Encouraging the heart.

The climb to the top is arduous and long. People become exhausted, frustrated, and disenchanted. They are tempted to give up. Leaders encourage their constituents to carry on. If people sense a charlatan making noisy pretenses, they will turn away. But genuine acts of caring uplift the spirits and draw people forward.

It is part of the leader´s job to show people that they can win. Encouragement can come from dramatic gestures or simple actions, individual recognition or group celebration. Encouragement is serious business. It is how leaders link rewards with performance. When striving to raise quality, recover from disaster, start a new service, or make a change, leaders make sure people benefit when behavior is aligned with cherished values. Caring is at the heart of leadership.

Leaders also give themselves encouragement. They love what they are doing. Love—of their products, their services, their constituents, their clients and customers, and their work—may just be the best-kept leadership secret of all.

The self-confidence required to lead comes from learning about ourselves—our skills, prejudices, talents, and shortcomings. Self-confidence develops as we build on strengths and overcome weaknesses. The best leaders take advantage of the broadest possible range of opportunities. They try, fail, and learn from their mistakes.


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