THE LEADERSHIP Challenge marks 25 years since the book was first published. We’ve spent three decades researching, consulting, teaching, and writing about what lead- ers do and how everyone can learn to be a better leader. We’re honored by the reception we’ve received in the profes- sional and business marketplace.
The Leadership Challenge is about how leaders mobilize others to want to get extraordinary things done. It’s about the practices leaders use to transform values into actions, visions into realities, obstacles into innovations, separateness into solidar- ity, and risks into rewards. It’s about leaders who create the climate or cul- ture in which people turn challenging opportunities into remarkable successes.
We persist in asking the same basic question we asked when we started our journey: What did you do when you were at your personal best as a leader? We’ve talked to men and women, young and old, representing every type of organi- zation, at all levels and functions, from many different places. Their stories, and the behaviors and actions they describe when they do their best, resulted in the creation of the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership:
1. Model the way. Titles are granted —behavior earns you respect. Exemplary leaders know that if they want to gain commitment and achieve the highest standards, they must be models of the behavior they expect of others. To Model the Way, you must first be clear about your guiding principles. You must clari- fy values by finding your voice and affirm- ing the shared values of the group.
Eloquent speeches about common values aren’t enough. Leaders’ deeds are far more important than their words when constituents want to determine how serious leaders really are about what they say. Words and deeds must be consistent. Exemplary leaders set the example by aligning actions with shared values. Through with unexpected economic downturns, personal betrayal, loss of physical abili- ty, natural disasters, civil unrest, and technological disruption. Leaders ven- ture out—they don’t sit idly by waiting for fate to smile on them. Leaders are pioneers, willing to step out into the unknown. But leaders aren’t the only creators or originators of new prod- ucts, services, or processes. In fact, it’s more likely that they’re not. Innovation comes more from listening than from telling. You have to constantly be look- ing outside yourself and your organi- zation for new and innovative products, processes, and services. You need to search for opportunities by seizing the ini- tiative and by looking outward for innova- tive ways to improve.
Since innovation and change involve experimenting and taking risks, your major contribution will be to create a climate for experimentation in which there is recognition of good ideas, sup- port of those ideas, and the willingness to challenge the system.
When you take risks, mistakes and failures are inevitable. Proceed anyway. One way of dealing with the potential failures of experimentation is by con- stantly generating small wins and learning from experience.