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The leadership challenge: Three lessons from day 1

I'm in San Diego for the Leadership Challenge Forum, and I wanted to provide a mid-week entry about the conference. The Forum itself is designed for those who want to either learn about the Leadership Challenge model, or refine their skills when using the model. Over the course of the next two days, I'll have an opportunity to speak with some of the keynotes, attend a few of the workshops and, most importantly, pass along some helpful information to you.

The Leadership Challenge began in 1983 with a simple research project conducted by Santa Clara University professors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. The project quickly gained momentum, and by 1997 the two academics had gathered more than enough data to develop their own model of leadership, consisting of the five practices of exemplary leadership. This research evolved into a wildly popular book, and over the past 20 years, The Leadership Challenge has sold almost two million copies.

Here are a few nuggets from Day 1 of the conference.

1. You make a difference.

Jim Kouzes gave the first keynote address and provided a summary of his latest book, The Truth About Leadership. Kouzes and Posner examined all the data that they have collected over the past 20 years and looked for commonalties and consistencies across generations. They found ten truths about leadership - a spin-free analysis that they think will withstand the test of time. The first truth dealt with the one assumption that all leaders must hold: that you can make a difference. Without that belief, potential leaders would lack the incentive to take the first step.

2. Remember the forgotten power of praise.

Bill Zipp of Summit Small Business suggested that positive praise has a powerful effect, yet most managers and leaders either don't use it, or when they do their attempts lack substance.  Leaders have been trained to find and correct faults. Zipp passionately believes that managers need to learn from their employees what type of "currency" to use when providing praise. Some employees crave public recognition, while others are mortified by the thought; some enjoy spoken praise while others prefer written. Most importantly, managers should get in the practice of offering praise five times for every one correction. Anything less and they run the risk of having it fall on deaf ears and damaging the relationship.

3. Leadership is how you behave - wherever you are.

One of the advantages of academia is the concept of sabbaticals, and over the past year, Barry Posner has been able to travel to China, Australia, South Africa, Turkey, Italy, England, and Hungary. But Posner decided to do some research along the way. The question he wanted to answer was whether effective leaders were more or less the same around the world. Posner discovered that, regardless of what country you come from, what makes the most difference is how you behave. This is valuable information for those of us leading virtual teams, as it can inspire us to look past the surface.

That's it for Day 1 - stay tuned over the next couple of days for more.

Have idea for what we should write about next? Be in touch at info@menoconsulting.com or visit us at Meno Consulting.  

By Joe Frontiera  |  August 5, 2010; 8:59 PM ET  | Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Five ways to better lead virtual teams | Next: Day 2 at the Leadership Challenge: All about the love


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I have attended several conferences and they seem to get better each time, although there have not been any bad ones. I just finished The Truth About Leadership" and find it to be "spot on."

Posted by: ken777 | August 11, 2010 11:25 AM

Was introduced to Kouzes and Posner just recently in a seminar I took just recently. Have been curious about what they call the "magic ratio" concept - 3 positive comments to each negative at work, and 5:1 at home. It struck me how I tend to just cut to the negative so much of the time. Wondering if they discussed the reseach behind that. Makes intuitive sense, but just curious how they know that's the ratio that makes it work.

Posted by: Mackross | August 6, 2010 3:59 PM

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