on January 7, 2007
I am in the midst of a serious crisis in our work environment. I purchased multiple books to help me evaluate our situation. This book was one of the best I read. It made me question why it's taken me so long to act on a problem that we have had for a while. Thank you for such a wonderful book that asked great questions to get me to realize how important this change is to our organization. This book will inspire you to be a better leader and it is quite easy to read. Some of my favorite passages are:
- "We're (leaders) presented with the chance to change a life."
- "Nothing really significant can ever be achieved unless people feel appreciated by their leader."
- "Extraordinary achievements never bloom in barren and unappreciate settings."
- "Leadership requires a resonant connection with others over matters of the heart."
- "Leadership is personal."
- "If you have people working for you in leadership roles who truly don't care if other people don't like them, THEN FIRE THEM." (emphasis I added)
My personal favorites, which just emphasized that my intuition was right along...
- "It's about intimacy. It's about familiarity. It's about empathy. The kind of communication needed to enlist others in a common vision requires understanding constiuents at a much deeper level than we normally find comfortable. It requires understanding others' strongest yearnings and their deepest fears. It requires a profound awareness of their joys and their sorrows. It requires experiencing life as they experience it."
- "When was the last time I fought for a value that I cherished? When was the last time I was resolute in the face of stern resistance? And we also have to ask ourselves am I ready for my next RPM (Rosa Parks Moment)?"
This is one of those books that should be in every new manager's library and every manager that has been leading for more than five years. It will give you great ideas to start and will bring you back to what made you successful. But, it also challenges you to try new ideas and learn from your mistakes, as well as others. BUY THIS BOOK!
on September 18, 2006
I found the authors nailed it with this book. It's full of insights into being a leader. . . and in a conversational, easy to read format. The book is full of compelling stories, I read it in a couple of sittings.
I guess what I loved most about it was the common sense, no nonsense way leadership is viewed. Simple statements (not simplisitic) such as "We will work harder and more effectively for people we like. And we will like them in direct proportion to how they make us feel." As they point out we don't need to read mountains of studies on emotional intelligence to understand the truth of these words.
on September 15, 2006
I have become increasingly familiar with the work of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner for the past 5 years and now they've taken Leadership to an even more exciting level. We all leave a legacy and have a choice of how we want people to remember us. It's the way we live and this is an inspiring resource to how we each can do that in the most positive way. This a great follow up to their insightful research of The Leadership Challenge and is filled with stories of how I can facilitate learning in others to not only take the challenge, but to also accomplish extraordinary results. Anyone can do it, and this book helps us learn how. I use it in every class I teach. This is a "must have" resource for anyone teaching leadership or wanting to learn more of the logical ways to simply move closer to living the legacy we desire.
on October 21, 2006
Kouzes and Posner boil down their 20+ years of research on the characteristics that define true leaders in this easy to read, no nonsense book. They discuss the fact, by definition, no one can be a leader unless they have followers, and no one will follow those with poor leadership skills. Leadership is about treating people with respect, no matter where they may be on the corporate ladder. The authors really hit the mark with this concise, but well thought out and extremely relevant synopsis of the traits of true leaders. This is a must read for those in positions of responsibility for others in the corporate world, as well as in our government and educational institutions.
In twenty-one separate but related essays that comprise this volume, James Kouzes and Barry Posner share their thoughts about the positive and enduring impact that an effective leader can have. The nature and extent of each effective leader's legacy, of course, varies from one to another. While reading the Introduction and then the first few chapters, I began to think about great leaders throughout history such as Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Mohandas Gandhi. Obviously, there are differences between and among them and other great leaders in terms of when and where they lived, the circumstances in which they were born and raised, and the challenges they faced. However, all of them had a vision of what ought to be as well as an absolute faith that it could be fulfilled, they attracted the support of others who shared their vision and their faith, and they possessed what Bill George characterizes as "authenticity."
Also as I read this book, I thought about the film It's a Wonderful Life in which George Bailey (portrayed by James Stewart) is given the opportunity to know what would have happened, and not have happened, had he not lived. He eventually realizes that the quality and value of his own life are best measured by the quality and value he gives to the lives of others. That is his "legacy," the core concept that Kouzes and Posner rigorously examine throughout their book. A simple idea? Yes and no. We are well-advised to remember Oliver Wendell Holmes' assertion, "I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity."
Kouzes and Posner are persistent empiricists and diehard pragmatists. They devote almost all of their attention in this book - as they do in their previously published classic, The Leadership Challenge - to the practice of effective leadership. Their observations and insights are based on decades of research that included hundreds of interviews and responses to surveys from thousands of leaders within all manner of organizations throughout the world. What they learned is what they share in their two books, this one and the aforementioned The Leadership Challenge.
Here are two brief composite excerpts that, I hope, suggest the thrust and flavor of their thinking:
Not a week goes by "that we don't hear someone in an executive role say something to this effect: `I don't care if people like me. I just want them to respect me." Get real! This statement is utter nonsense - contrary to everything we know about leadership...people perform significantly more effectively when their leaders treat them with dignity and respect, listen to them, support them, recognize, make them feel important, build their skills, and show confidence in them. Likeability is a major factor in being successful in just about every endeavor in life."
"You can leave a lasting legacy only if you can imagine a brighter future, and the capacity to imagine exciting future possibilities is the defining competence of leaders. Today's leaders have to be concerned about tomorrow's world and those who will inherit it. They are the custodians of the future, and it's their job to make sure that they leave their organizations in better shape than they found them. We've surveyed thousands of people on what they want in leaders, and their tell us that being forward-thinking is second only to honesty as their most admired leader quality...Get everyone involved in asking, What's next?...Another crucial question is, What's better? What's better than what you're now doing or anticipate doing in the foreseeable future?...It's imperative that we spend less time on daily operations and more time on future possibilities."
If you think these remarks are simplistic, please read the Holmes quotation.
I wholly agree with James Kouzes and Barry Posner that, ultimately, a leader's "legacy" should be determined by the nature and extent of her or his positive and enduring impact on the lives of those with whom they have been associated as well as those with whom there may be only a brief and single encounter. "You just never know whose life you might touch. You just never know what change you might initiate and what impact you might have. You just never know when that critical moment might come. What you do know is that you can make a difference. You can leave the world better than you found it."
To those who read this commentary, I suggest asking the same question I ask myself each day: "What will my legacy be?"
on July 7, 2015
I read this book as part of a leadership class I'm taking. I liked that the book dealt with more current issues and leaders than some of the other books we've read.
The book was on target when it said that leaders are in the position to serve. I find myself asking my staff what is impeding them from completing their work. I see myself as responsible for removing those impediments.
The book also indicates that a true leader is effective when he or she understands his or her goals and these goals are in alignment with his or her organization's goals. While it is a safe statement, it has a lot of truth to it.
This easy-to-read, well-organized inspirational book shows you in 21 short chapters what it takes to become a leader. The essays are concise and transparent, and the numerous examples will inspire anyone who needs a boost in leadership energy. Some material is repeated, basic or familiar, but the book offers a great deal of wisdom about motivational leadership and making your mark. If you'd like a short but solid manual on leadership issues to read on the airplane or over the weekend, we recommend tossing this into your carry-on or briefcase.
Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner are well known for the leadership text, The Leadership Challenge. While it is an in depth blueprint for leadership, A Leader's Legacy is a more succinct and thought provoking book. As the authors point out, much of the material is based on the questions that people have asked them over the years, and I was very pleased at the amount of insight that they offered in less than 200 pages. This is an excellent next level book to follow up The Leadership Challenge. Kouzes and Posner present their material in 21 essays organized into four high level categories:
The essays are self contained and less than 10 pages each making for an ideal daily reading exercise. While there are no throw away essays, I'll highlight some of the ones that I found most meaningful from each section.
Chapter 2 - The Best Leaders Are Teachers
There are really two thoughts in this topic. The first matches the title of the chapter, and the real point is that it is a leader's job to help the people they lead become better. The leader has to be willing to give something to those that they lead, and that is part of the legacy. The second (and subordinate) thought is on how we teach. Stories are a powerful thing. Can you remember one of your leaders sharing something specific about their experience and relating it to the current situation? There is also a great deal of self awareness needed here because our interactions and stories leave a lasting impression on the people we lead. Are we careful and deliberate in the messages we give our people?
Chapter 10 - Let Your People Go
I was surprised at the content of this chapter based on its title. I expected it to be about letting people take on new opportunities rather than hoarding them in a selfish way. However, the real topic turned out to be micromanagement. It's about empowering people to unleash their full potential. This is the key in moving from accountability (external motivation) to responsibility (internal motivation). Long term, sustainable results (hence a legacy) come from responsibility.
Chapter 15 - Leaders Are Followers, Too!
Being the leader doesn't make someone the de facto expert in every situation. Leaders must recognize when it makes sense for someone else to set the direction in a given situation. It requires the leader to know and trust their people, but delegation is a powerful aspect of leadership. Used properly, it gets better results for the task at hand while also developing the leadership capabilities of others.
Chapter 20 - Failure Is Always an Option
Despite the quality of a leader and what they've been taught, bad things still happen. The authors do a good job of discussing the difference between probability and possibility. Many times the improbable is still possible, and leaders who leave a solid legacy recognize the difference and accomplish great things. The other topic that is so often overlooked is the impact of the learning curve. The mistake is often repeated to expect no dip or an increase in performance even when a team or person is trying something new.
Like I said, the other topics are also excellent, but I'd essentially have to write the book again to describe it. If you liked The Leadership Challenge, this is an excellent follow up book. I highly recommend it.