The Leadership Challenge for Church Leaders, Part 2

Part 1 of this post series provides the background and context you need to understand my purpose in writing.

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s work, The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, may be one of the most important and influential works on leadership in the past 30 years. If you lead or want to, it is worth your time.

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In the field of education where I work primarily, it is important that learning content be based on valid and reliable research. I think this is also a good rule of thumb for those in leadership in the church, where all good research starts between Genesis and Revelation.

It is that research-base that provides strong support for the principles, specifically the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, that make up the book’s core. Kouzes and Posner’s conclusions are based on data from thousands of leaders over 32 years in a wide variety of fields. Beyond that, their research has included learning from followers the competencies that make great leaders.

To wit, K&P have conducted studies of thousands of followers across six continents and for each iteration of the book. The most important leadership competency in the view of followers has stayed constant since 1987.

K&P Followers Final

You’ll find the complete chart on page 34 of The Leadership Challenge, Fifth Edition

Followers were asked: “What qualities would you most look for and admire in a leader, someone whose direction you would willingly follow?” The chart above lists the top five through the years. Honest, Forward-Looking, Competent, Inspiring and Intelligent, with Honest always being the most important competency from a follower’s standpoint. Where I work, I use a 360-degree performance evaluation process and try always to assess myself on those competencies from the viewpoint of those I lead.

As a result of their research, Kouzes and Posner drew several important conclusions about the kind of leadership that impacts organizations positively.

  • “Without leadership there would not be the extraordinary efforts necessary to solve existing problems and realize unimagined opportunities.” (p. 1)
  • “Leadership is within the grasp of everyone.” (p. 3)
  • “Titles are granted, but it’s your behavior that earns you respect.” (p. 16)
  • “You can’t command commitment; you have to inspire it.” (p. 18)
  • “Challenge is the crucible for greatness.” (p. 19)
  • “Leaders venture out; they don’t sit idly by waiting for fate to smile on them.” (p. 19)
  • “Innovation comes more from listening than from telling.” (p. 20)
  • “The best leaders are simply the best learners, and life is their laboratory.” (p. 21).
  • “Leaders foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships.” (p. 21)
  • “Personal best leadership experiences are never stories about solo performances… …leadership is a relationship.” (p.30)

All of those ideas are reflective of the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership referenced above. They are:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart

I’ll tackle them one at a time as this post series continues.

As always, I’m grateful that you’re investing your time here.

Suggested Leadership Books

Robert Greenleaf/Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness 25th Anniversary Edition

Kouzes & Posner/Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge (J-B Leadership Challenge: Kouzes/Posner)

Ken Blanchard/Leading at a Higher Level, Revised and Expanded Edition: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations

Michael Fullan/Leading in a Culture of Change

Patrick Lencioni/The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable

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