I recently came across The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. The book’s been out a while — the latest edition was released in 2012. This is not a book review, though I do recommend that you click the link, pop over to Amazon and buy yourself a copy. In the meantime, I’d like to take a closer look at Chapter One: The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

Kouzes and Posner conducted extensive research, collecting thousands of “personal best” anecdotes from real-life leaders, while trying to determine exactly what goes into the people who get things done. While every anecdote is different, Kouzes and Posner discovered five patterns of behavior exhibited by extraordinary leaders. They dubbed these patterns of behavior The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

  • Model the Way. Leaders establish principles concerning the way people (constituents, peers, colleagues, and customers alike) should be treated and the way goals should be pursued. They create standards of excellence and then set an example for others to follow. Because the prospect of complex change can overwhelm people and stifle action, they set interim goals so that people can achieve small wins as they work toward larger objectives. They unravel bureaucracy when it impedes action; they put up signposts when people are unsure of where to go or how to get there; and they create opportunities for victory.
  • Inspire a Shared Vision. Leaders passionately believe that they can make a difference. They envision the future, creating an ideal and unique image of what the organization can become. Through their magnetism and quiet persuasion, leaders enlist others in their dreams. They breathe life into their visions and get people to see exciting possibilities for the future.
  • Challenge the Process. Leaders search for opportunities to change the status quo. They look for innovative ways to improve the organization. In doing so, they experiment and take risks. And because leaders know that risk taking involves mistakes and failures, they accept the inevitable disappointments as learning opportunities.
  • Enable Others to Act. Leaders foster collaboration and build spirited teams. They actively involve others. Leaders understand that mutual respect is what sustains extraordinary efforts; they strive to create an atmosphere of trust and human dignity. They strengthen others, making each person feel capable and powerful.
  • Encourage the Heart. Accomplishing extraordinary things in organizations is hard work. To keep hope and determination alive, leaders recognize contributions that individuals make. In every winning team, the members need to share in the rewards of their efforts, so leaders celebrate accomplishments. They make people feel like heroes.

— From The Leadership Challenge

As I was reading this, I began to wonder how I might explain these principles in the context of communication strategy. From my newspapering days, professional development programs seemed to constantly stress “change management.” (Given what the newspaper industry’s been through, is there any wonder why?)

It dawned on me… the same precepts apply to coaching businesses to take on social marketing! Let’s face it, fear of change is probably the greatest obstacle between most businesses and effective use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like. So I sat down and started researching what was to be an excellent piece for an upcoming Triple Strength e-newsletter. But alas, Google revealed to me that  the job of explaining The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership in the context of social marketing has already been done, and done well, by Mark Smiciklas of Intersection Consulting, a Vancouver-based digital marketing firm.

Please, click here to read Mark’s excellent take on the topic.


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