In the introduction to Learning Leadership, the authors—James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner-- share an anecdote. They typically ask a group of 50 people who have come together for leadership development, “How many of you think of yourself as a leader?” Usually only about 10 percent raise their hands. Most participants fail to think of themselves as leaders. This book is designed to help individuals to break the mythological barrier that leadership is only reserved for a special few.
If you have read the authors’ The Leadership Challenge or Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge, you are familiar with their model of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership and their Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI). There is little new here as far as the model goes, but the purpose of this volume to serve as a self-directed guide to becoming an exemplary leader based on the model.
Each chapter is short enough to be read in a few minutes, but every chapter concludes with “The Key Message and Action” summary and a “Self-Coaching Action” or exercise. One of the best of the coaching assignments is the L.I.F.E. exercise at the end of chapter 8 where the reader is asked to project himself or herself into the future ten years and receiving a Leader of the Year award. The reader is asked to consider the Lessons, Ideals, Feelings, and Expressions that people will say about her or him. What makes people think of the person as a leader? As a result, the reader starts to develop a path that might attain that status.
The great strength of the book is that it articulates principles that I think are basic to a coach approach to personal (and leadership) development:
- Embracing a growth mindset.
- Clarifying personal values.
- Commitment to moving forward.
- Developing support systems.
- Learning from failure.
- Embracing meaningful feedback.
- Recognizing that lasting change takes time.
Learning Leadership will be a helpful resource for personal study or part of a group discussion.