Cheif Learning Officer Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

What Makes a Good Leader?

 -  9/28/05

No one can argue that a great leader can boost an organization's growth and performance in much the same way a poor leader can run one into the ground. But what makes a leader effective or ineffective is a more nebulous concept to pin down.

According to Jim Kouzes, lecturer and author of seven books on leadership, including the best-seller The Leadership Challenge, the qualities that make an effective leader have two distinct perspectives: what followers look for and what research from the past few decades has shown. "There are four things consistently that we have found that people most look for in a leader. Number one, people want a leader who's honest, trustworthy and has integrity. Second (they want someone) forward-looking, who has a vision of the future, foresight and thinks about the long term. Third, people want a leader who is competent, has expertise, knows what they're doing, and fourth is inspiring, dynamic, energetic, optimistic and positive about the future."

Research on how leaders execute those qualities or how leaders put those attributes into action, has produced five practices that successfully leaders indulge. "First, they model the way," Kouzes said. "They set an example with their own behavior, and they are clear about what their values and beliefs are, as well as the values and beliefs of the organization. Second, they inspire a shared vision. They are forward-looking and envision an uplifting or ennobling future and then enlist others in that. Third, they challenge the process. They search for opportunities to change and innovate, to grow and improve, and then they also experiment and take risks. Fourth, they enable others to act. They support individual development, and they also foster collaboration. Last, the fifth practice, which we've identified as 'Encourage the Heart,' leaders recognize and reward individual achievements, and they also celebrate team accomplishments."

Kouzes and Posner have been using an instrument called the Leadership Practices Inventory to measure leadership capabilities since 1980. It is a 30-item behavior-based questionnaire that measures the five practices on a scale of one to 10 from both individual leaders and their observers -- or followers -- standpoint in order to identify those worthy of the title leader. Kouzes also said an easy way to identify leaders is by noticing who has followers. Typically, however, the Leadership Practices Inventory helps to identify leaders based on whether or not people's behavior matches specific attributes and practices.



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