One of the best books on leadership I’ve ever picked up is The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner.  Absolutely an incredible book.  Full of great insights, lots of really helpful illustrations, and very transferable concepts.  It’s sold over a million copies for a very good reason.

In their research Kouzes and Posner found that great leaders, people getting extraordinary things done in organizations, were consistently settling in on five key practices.  They were personally modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart.  The authors also found that embedded in these five practices are a set of behaviors that can serve as a "basis for learning to lead."  From these behaviors they’ve developed 10 commitments that can serve as "a guide in getting extraordinary things done."

Because I’ve been thinking more about values today I was pulled back to some key ideas in the chapter on the commitment to set the example by aligning actions with shared values.  It’s all about doing what you say you value.  Or, your actions speak louder than words.

According to Kouzes and Posner there are "5 essential aspects" to a leader’s behavior and actions that leaders "need to be concious about in their efforts to align shared values through the example of the actions they take:"

  • Calendars: "How you spend your time is the single clearest indicator about what’s important to you."
  • Critical Incidents: "Those events in leader’s lives that offer the chance to improvise while staying true to the script."
  • Stories, analogies, and metaphors: "Stories help people know what is important (purpose and values) and how things are done."
  • Language: "Our words evoke images of what we hope to create and how we expect people to behave."
  • Measurements: "Score-keeping systems are essential to knowing how you’re doing."

So when you look at your own world, are you using these 5 essential aspects to drive alignment?  If you measured your behaviors, which of these essential aspects are you scoring the highest?  And which of them are you scoring the lowest?

For more on these ideas you may want to pick up a copy of The Leadership Challenge.

Aligning Shared Values with Action