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The Truth about Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know Hardcover – August 16, 2010
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A fresh look at what it means to lead from two of the biggest names in leadership
In these turbulent times, when the very foundations of organizations and societies are shaken, leaders need to move beyond pessimistic predictions, trendy fads, and simplistic solutions. They need to turn to what's real and what's proven. In their engaging, personal, and bold new book, Kouzes and Posner reveal ten time-tested truths that show what every leader must know, the questions they must be prepared to answer, and the real-world issues they will likely face.
- Based on thirty years of research, more than one million responses to Kouzes and Posner's leadership assessment, and the questions people most want leaders to answer
- Explores the fundamental, enduring truths of leadership that hold constant regardless of context or circumstance-leaders make a difference, credibility, values, trust, leading by example, heart, and more
- Shows emerging leaders what they need to know to be effective; fans of The Leadership Challenge will find a dynamic new look at the real challenges leaders face today
Drawing from cases spanning three generations of leaders from around the world, this is a book leaders can use to do their real and necessary work-bringing about the essential changes that will renew organizations and communities.
Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner
A: Shortly before we began writing this book, we had the chance to share the platform at an association meeting with renowned author and leadership educator Ken Blanchard. In responding to an audience question, one of us was saying, “I don’t know what you call something that’s been the same for twenty-five years, but. . .,” and Ken interrupted with, “I’d call it the truth!” It was a moment of clarity. It reinforced our sense that some things about leadership just don’t change that much over time, if at all, and that those things need to be understood for what they are—the truth. We wanted to record those enduring leadership truths that we learned over the years. We also wanted to make certain that the lessons we included in The Truth About Leadership withstood not only the test of time but also the scrutiny of statistics. So we sifted through the reams of data that had piled up over three decades and isolated those nuggets that were soundly supported by the numbers. This is a collection of the real thing—no fads, no myths, no trendy responses—just truths that endure. Q: What one piece of advice would you give a new leader, or a young person entering the workforce?
A: Dream. Imagine. Think big. We need your creativity, enthusiasm, and idealism. The truth is that focusing on the future sets leaders apart. The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is the defining competence of leaders. It’s not something people expect from colleagues, but they definitely expect it from their leaders. You have to take a long-term perspective if you’re going to guide people to places they have never been before. And, as important as it is, inspiring a shared vision is the most difficult of all the leadership practices to master. You need to start now in developing the capacity to envision an ennobling and uplifting future. We’d also tell them that you have to say yes to begin things. You have to say yes to your beliefs, you have to say yes to big dreams, you have to say yes to difficult challenges, you have to say yes to collaboration, you have to say yes to trust, you have to say yes to learning, you have to say yes to setting the example, and you have to say yes to your heart. So, here’s the big question: Are you ready to say yes to leadership? Q: What would you say to a more seasoned leader?
A: Two things. First, the truth is that the best leaders are the best learners. Leaders are constant improvement fanatics, and learning is the master skill of leadership. We found in our research that those leaders who engaged more in learning, regardless of their style of learning, were more effective at leading regardless of their years of experience. Seasoned leaders have learned a lot, and they need to keep on learning and practicing every day of their lives. They also need to share their learning with all of the emerging leaders in their organizations. Second, we’d remind them that the truth is you either lead by example or you don’t lead at all. Credibility is the foundation of leadership, and credibility is earned minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day when you do what you say you will do. We’ve seen far too many examples lately of seasoned leaders who seem to forget this very basic lesson. Keep in mind that your example is the most powerful teaching tool you have. To your direct reports, you are the most important and influential leader in your organization. Make sure you set the best possible example you can for those who’re looking to you for guidance. The legacy you leave is the life you lead. Q: Of these ten truths, which resonates the most for you?
A: You can’t do it alone. No leader ever got anything extraordinary done without the talent and support of others. You need others and they need you. You’re all in this together. You have to be sensitive to the needs of others, listen, ask questions, develop others, provide support, and ask for help. We are reminded of this every day as we work on our books. We’re reminded of it not only by the leaders who share their stories with us, but also by the fact that we’ve been working collaboratively for nearly thirty years with each other and with our publishers. We could never have done what we’ve done without the caring support and involvement of so many other people. We are so grateful to be part of an extraordinary community. Q: What can fans of The Leadership Challenge expect from this new work?
A: For those who have read our prior works, some of what we say may sound familiar, as we are building on the major lessons we’ve learned from over thirty years of research. But three things make this book different from our previous ones. First, this is a bolder book. We’re taking a stand that our research supports each and every claim. Second, it’s based on far more data than any of our other books were. Over the past few years we’ve been able to accumulate a lot more quantitative information and a lot more cases than for our other books. Third, it’s a more global and a more cross-generational book. The stories and examples we share come from around the world and encompass three generations of leaders. We know that you’ll be the judge, but if you’ve read our other works we still think you’ll find many new and useful insights among these enduring truths.
“This book cuts through the clutter and reminds us of what really matters. The introduction alone is worth the price of the book.”
—PATRICK LENCIONI, president, The Table Group, and author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Getting Naked
“The leadership truths Kouzes and Posner lay out have not only endured the test of time but are even more relevant now in a world transformed by Twittering Millennials. Buy copies for yourself, your boss, and also for leaders of your organization.”
—CHARLENE LI, author of Open Leadership, and founder, Altimeter Group
“The Truth About Leadership provides some of the best practical advice on leadership I’ve read in a long time. If you have not read Kouzes and Posner and you manage people, shame on you. Start here. If you have read their work and your workplace needs a shot in the arm, you’ll find this book a quick, engaging jewel that will help you become a more trusted, credible, and valued leader.”
—ADRIAN GOSTICK, author of The Carrot Principle
“I’ve always been a big proponent of simple truths. That’s why I love the new book from Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Truth About Leadership. Jim and Barry spell out ten fundamental truths about leadership and every one of them is right on. If you want to do a fact check on your leadership expertise, read this book!”
—KEN BLANCHARD, coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and Leading at a Higher Level
“Regardless of your experience, age, generation, or life stage, The Truth About Leadership will remind you of the vital role leaders play in our lives, renew your interest in understanding what makes a leader great, and rekindle your desire to be an inspiring leader yourself.”
—LYNNE LANCASTER, coauthor of When Generations Collide and The M-Factor
“Elegant in its simplicity and powerful in its depth, The Truth About Leadership dazzles the reader with evidence-based knowledge and practical inspiration This is that one in a million book that serves to pull an entire field together for the reader. No matter how many books you’ve read on leadership, you will better understand each of them after reading this remarkable book.”
—COLONEL TOM KOLDITZ, PhD, professor, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and author of In Extremis Leadership
“This is a book a leader should put on his or her nightstand and read a chapter a night to refresh on what is important from a leadership perspective.”
—STEPHEN ALMASSY, Global Vice Chair, OCA/Industry, Ernst & Young Global Limited
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Patrick Lencioni rightly says, "This book cuts through the clutter and reminds us of what really matters." Kouzes and Posner immerse their readers in to fundamental leadership truths:
Truth # 1: You make a difference
Truth # 2: Credibility is the foundation of leadership
Truth # 3: Values drive commitment
Truth # 4: Focusing on the future sets leaders apart
Truth # 5: You can't do it alone
Truth # 6: Trust rules
Truth # 7: Challenge is the crucible for greatness
Truth # 8: You will lead by example or you don't lead at all
Truth # 9: The best leaders are the best learners
Truth # 10: Leadership is an affair of the heart
Once again, the authors are quick to point out the necessity of credible leadership that empowers and inspires people. I cannot recommend this book high enough. However, my encouragement is to read Kounzes' and Posner's earlier works before tackling this one.
One of the main premises in the book is: "We tell our audiences that as much as the context of leadership has changes, the content of leadership has not changed much at all. The fundamental behaviors, actions, and practices of leaders have remained essentially the same since we first began researching and writing about leadership over three decades ago. Much has changed, but there's a whole lot more that's stayed the same."
The authors then go on to introduce the ten truths:
1- You make a difference
2- Credibility is the foundation of leadership
3- Values drive commitment
4- Focusing on the future sets leaders apart
5- You can't do it alone
6- Trust the rules
7- Challenge is the crucible for greatness
8- You either lead by example or you don't lead at all
9- The best leaders are the best learners
10- Leadership is an affair of the heart
What sets this book apart is the amount of research set forth to bring forward these conclusions in a concise and direct manner. The truths are further supported by stories to further exemplify the behaviors and attributes of leadership. A must read in the area of leadership and remember: "Leadership can be learned"!
Below are some excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:
1- "Leadership is not about who you are or where you come from. It's about what you do."
2- "The five practices of exemplary leadership...1- Model the way 2- Inspire a shared vision 3- Challenge the process 4- Enable others to act 5- Encourage the Heart."
3- "Before they are going to voluntarily heed your advice, take your direction, accept your guidance, trust your judgement, agree to your recommendations, buy your products, support your ideas, and implement your strategies, people expect that you will measure up to these criteria."
4- "The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is the defining competence of leaders. Leaders are custodians of the future. They are concerned about tomorrow's world and those who will inherit it."
5- "Here are four actions to keep in mind (trust): Behave predictably and consistently...Communicate clearly...Treat promises seriously...Be forthright and candid."
6- "This means that you need to find a goal that can sustain your interest and the interest of those around you, for some considerable time. To be the most successful, you and your constituents must have a passion for a purpose and the perseverance to hang with it for the long term. This focus gives meaning to sticking through the hard times and to dealing with the often-inevitable disappointments and setbacks that accompany any significant significant accomplishment."
7- "Leadership can be learned. It is an observable pattern of practices and behaviors, and a definable set of skills and abilities. Skills can be learned, and when we track the progress of people who participate in leadership development programs, we observe that they improve over time. They learn to be better leaders as long as they engage in activities that help them learn how."