Thousands of books have been written about leadership development. Millions of pages have been filled, billions of words carefully chosen. What’s the result? The world still needs exemplary leaders and, unfortunately, we don’t have enough of them. That’s not because there’s a shortage of potential talent. Rather, it’s because of demographic shifts, insufficient training and experience and prevailing mindsets that discourage people from learning how to lead.
That’s the core of Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader. In this book, authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner argue that leaders are made, not born. The belief that leadership is only available to a chosen few is a powerful deterrent to development and it prevents many credible candidates from even trying to become admirable leaders.
The authors refer to five core leadership practices they set out in their earlier work:
- Model the way.
- Inspire a shared vision.
- Challenge the process.
- Enable others to act.
- Encourage the heart.
In similiar vein, this book suggests there are five fundamental steps to becoming an exemplary leader:
- Believe you can.
- Aspire to excel.
- Challenge yourself.
- Engage support.
- Practice deliberately.
“Leadership is not some mystical quality that only a few people have and everyone else doesn’t. Neither it is the private reserve of a special class of charismatic men and women. Leadership is not a gene.”
Leadership is about the actions you take, rather than the title on your business card. It is about the values that guide your thinking and behavior, and the vision you have for the world and yourself. Last but not least, it involves your inspiration and aspiration to excel, aiming for something better than the status quo.
Leadership continues to be an important topic because its impact can be either hugely positive or negative. Many studies have shown leadership affects people’s commitment to an organization, their desire to stay or leave, their willingness to contribute, and their inclination to take personal initiative and responsibility. Mindsets also carry over into performance. Researchers in numerous studies have found that people with fixed mindsets give up more quickly and don’t perform as well as those with growth mindsets. Moreover, the mindset of organizational leaders can either facilitate or limit the growth of employees as well as the growth of the business.
“No one can put leadership into you. You have to bring it out of yourself.”
A thoughtful and well-written book, Learning Leadership should prove useful to leaders looking to develop talent within their organizations.