The Leadership Challenge 2

The Leadership Challenge 2

In the last post dedicated to this remarkable book the focus was on the attributes of the great leaders. This post will present the other great insights from the research regarding the practices of successful leaders. From the data’s the authors found remarkable similar patterns of actions. They defined these actions and with them they formed the Leadership Challenge Model of leadership. The model contains the following practices: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act and Encourage the Heart.  


CLARIFY VALUES – People expect their leaders to speak out on matters of values and conscience. But to speak out you have to know what to speak about. To stand up for your beliefs, you have to know what you stand for. To walk the talk, you have to have a talk to walk. To do what you say, you have to know what you want to say. To earn and sustain personal credibility, you must first be able to clearly articulate deeply held beliefs.

The very first step on the journey to credible leadership is clarifying your values—discovering those fundamental beliefs that will guide your decisions and actions along the path to success and significance. That journey involves an exploration of the inner territory where your true voice resides. It’s essential that you take yourself on this voyage because it’s the only route to authenticity and because your personal values drive your commitment to the organization and to the cause. You can’t do what you say if you don’t know what you believe. And, you can’t do what you say if you don’t believe in what you’re saying.

SET THE EXAMPLE – Leaders take every opportunity to show others by their own example that they’re deeply committed to the values and aspirations they espouse. No one will believe you’re serious until they see you doing what you’re asking of others. Leading by example is how leaders make visions and values tangible. It’s how they provide the evidence that they’re personally committed.

Setting the Example is all about execution. It’s about putting your money where your mouth is. It’s about practicing what you preach. It’s about following through on commitments. It’s about keeping promises. It’s about walking the talk. It’s about doing what you say. And because you’re leading a group of people—not just leading yourself—it’s also about what those who are following you are doing. How consistent are they in deed and word? How well are they practicing what’s preached? As the leader you’re held accountable for their actions, too.


ENVISION THE FUTURE – If we are going to be catalytic leaders in life, we have to be able to imagine a positive future. When we envision the future we want for ourselves and others, and when we feel passionate about the legacy we want to leave, then we are much more likely to take that first step forward. If we don’t have the slightest clue about our hopes, dreams, and aspirations, then the chance that we’ll take the lead is nil. In fact, we may not even see the opportunity that’s right in front of us.

Exemplary leaders are forward-looking. They are able to envision the future, to gaze across the horizon of time and imagine the greater opportunities to come. They see something out ahead, vague as it might appear from a distance, and they imagine that extraordinary feats are possible and that the ordinary could be transformed into something noble. They are able to develop an ideal and unique image of the future for the common good.

Yes, leaders are expected to be forward-looking, but they aren’t expected to impose their vision of the future on others. What people really want to hear is not simply the leader’s vision. They want to hear about their own aspirations. They want to hear how their dreams will come true and their hopes will be fulfilled. They want to see themselves in the picture of the future that the leader is painting. The very best leaders understand that their key task is inspiring a shared vision, not selling their own idiosyncratic view of the world.

ENLIST OTHERS – In the personal-best cases that we collected, people frequently talked about the need to get everyone on board with a vision and to enlist others in a dream. People talked about how they had to communicate and build support for the direction in which the organization was headed. These leaders knew that in order to get extraordinary things done everyone had to fervently believe in and commit to a common purpose.

We’ve also learned from our research that constituents expect their leaders to be inspiring. A shared vision of the future is necessary, but insufficient, to achieve extraordinary results. We all need vast reserves of energy and excitement to sustain our commitment to a distant dream, and leaders are expected to be a major source of that energy. We’re not going to follow someone who’s only mildly enthusiastic about something. They have to be wildly enthusiastic for us to give it our all.


SEARCH FOR OPPORTUNITIES – When we analyzed the very first set of personal-best cases, we discovered that the situations people chose to discuss were about major change that had a significant impact on their organizations. The leaders in our study talked about times when they turned around losing operations, started up new plants, developed new products or services, installed untested procedures, renewed operations threatened with closing, or released the creative spirit trapped inside stifling bureaucratic systems. The personal-best leadership cases continue to be about radical departures from the past, about doing things that have never been done before, and about going to places not yet discovered.

EXPERIMENT AND TAKE RISKS – Getting extraordinary things done in organizations demands a willingness to experiment and take risks with innovative ideas.Boldness is not necessarily about go-for-broke, giant-leap projects. More often than not it’s about starting small and gaining momentum. Fresh paint, new carpets, professional uniforms, and a new Express Care service are just as important as grander schemes. In fact, these small, visible steps are more likely to win early victories than are big-bang efforts, and they gain early supporters. Of course, when you experiment, not everything works out as intended. There are mistakes and false starts. They are part of the process of innovation. What’s critical, therefore, is that leaders promote learning from these experiences.


FOSTER COLLABORATION – Leadership is not a solo act, it’s a team effort. In the thousands of cases we’ve studied, we’ve yet to encounter a single example of extraordinary achievement that’s occurred without the active involvement and support of many people. When talking about their personal bests, people spoke passionately about teamwork and cooperation as the interpersonal route to success, particularly when conditions were extremely challenging and urgent. Throughout the years, leaders from all professions, from all economic sectors, and from around the globe have continued to tell us, “You can’t do it alone.”

The ever-increasing turbulence in the marketplace demands even more collaboration, not less. The emphasis on networks, business-to-business and peer-to-peer e-commerce, strategic acquisitions, and knowledge work, along with the surging number of global alliances and local partnerships, is testimony to the fact that in an ever more complex, wired world, the winning strategies will be based on the “we not I” philosophy. Collaboration is a social imperative—without it you can’t get extraordinary things done in organizations.

STRENGTHEN OTHERS – Creating a climate in which people are fully engaged and feel in control of their own lives is at the heart of strengthening others. People must have the latitude to make decisions based on what they believe should be done.  They must work in an environment that both develops their abilities to perform a task or complete an assignment and builds a sense of self-confidence. They must hold themselves personally accountable for results as well as feel ownership for their achievements.

Leaders move from being in control to giving over control to others, becoming their coaches and teachers. Leaders help others learn new skills and develop existing talents, and they provide the institutional supports required for ongoing growth and change. In the final analysis, what leaders are doing is turning their constituents into leaders.


RECOGNIZE CONTRIBUTIONS – Recognition is about acknowledging good results and reinforcing positive performance. It’s about shaping an environment in which everyone’s contributions are noticed and appreciated. In high-performing organizations — and when people reported being at their personal best—people work quite intensely and often put in very long hours, but this doesn’t mean they don’t or can’t enjoy themselves. To persist for months at a demanding pace, people need encouragement. They need emotional fuel to replenish their spirits. They need the will to continue and the courage to do something they have never done before and to continue with the journey. One important way that leaders accomplish this is by recognizing individual contributions.

CELEBRATE THE VALUES AND VICTORIES – Exemplary leaders know that promoting a culture of celebration fuels the sense of unity and mission essential for retaining and motivating today’s workforce. Besides, who really wants to work for a place that has no ritual or ceremony—a boring place that neither remembers nor celebrates anything?

David Campbell, senior fellow with the Center for Creative Leadership, says it well: “A leader who ignores or impedes organizational ceremonies and considers them as frivolous or ‘not cost-effective,’ is ignoring the rhythms of history and our collective conditioning. [Celebrations] are the punctuation marks that make sense of the passage of time; without them, there are no beginnings and endings. Life becomes an endless series of Wednesdays.”