Leadership is everywhere. Whether it’s a president leading a country, a coach leading players to a national championship, parents leading a family or a doctor leading a patient through a journey of an illness, we all lead at some point in our lives and at other times…we follow. The question is, “What type of leader do you want to be?” There are many models to choose from – transactional, transformational, classic leadership theory and ethical and critical leadership (to name a few)! However, my recommendations are two specific models that reflect the “best practices” in the way one chooses to lead. One model is outlined in the The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner (1995) and the other is Robert K. Greenleaf’s servant leadership model.
The Leadership Challenge is a clear, evidence-based path to achieving the extraordinary—for individuals, teams, organizations, and communities. It turns the abstract concept of leadership into easy-to-grasp practices and behaviors that can be taught and learned by anyone willing to step up and accept the challenge to lead.
Kouzes and Posner’s model reflects the beliefs and teachings of Greenleaf’s servant leadership model. The basis for any model is the desire to lead, which needs to be rooted in a strong desire to serve.
According to the Greenleaf Institute on Servant Leadership, “servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.” In Greenleaf’s The Servant as Leader essay, published in 1970, “The servant-leader is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”
Kouzes and Posner give similar, but more contemporary ways to become an exemplary leader by outlining the five practices of exemplary leadership, which are:
In today’s world, there is a great need for ethical and compassionate leaders. This type of leadership calls each of us to a higher purpose, moving beyond “me” or “us” and into the realm of serving for the greater good. There are many ways one can serve others as a leader. We can each model the way for those we are leading or mentoring. We can inspire a shared vision by communicating in a collaborative and meaningful way how we, as a team, are going to achieve our goals.
Creating an environment where everyone checks their titles at the door, where open, honest dialogue can take place among leaders and followers without fear of retribution or retaliation, is a way to challenge the process. Providing staff with the tools and resources needed to be successful enables them to act, perform, and do their jobs to the best of their abilities and beyond. In addition, who among us doesn’t want someone to encourage us, lift us up, and help us to be the best version of ourselves? Most individuals long for that, both personally and professionally. Leaders have the ability to make that impact in someone’s life and to serve them in a way that makes a difference.
Lao-tzu, philosopher and poet of ancient China, said it best:
“To lead people, walk beside them… As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate… When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!’”
For more information about our Leadership development training/services or the Leadership Challenge, contact us at 740-725-6325.
Anne Johnson is a Program Manager for the Alber Enterprise Center, which is part of Ohio State University Extension and Ohio State at Marion campus, serving businesses throughout Ohio. Her focus is on the long term support services and healthcare sectors. In addition, Anne is a trained facilitator for The Leadership Challenge® (Kouzes and Posner).