Leader Volume 8, Number 9
Kouzes is chairman of Tom Peters Group Learning Systems in Palo
Alto, California and Dr. Posner is Dean of the Leavey School of
Business, Santa Clara University.
They are the authors
of The Leadership Challenge, Credibility,
and Encouraging the Heart (Jossey-Bass,
San Francisco, 1995, 1993, 1999).
Are you setting a
positive tone for your organization through your own example as a
leader? Here are some
searching questions to ask yourself and find out.
Leaders are role
models whose behaviors send powerful messages throughout the
organization about what is and what is not important.
Leaders set the standard by which other people calibrate
their own choices and behaviors.
Do you lead by example?
begin with, you must be clear about what you believe in and what
you aspire to achieve. But
more important than any espoused values, are your actions, because
when in doubt, people believe your actions over your words,
without fail. Every action you take, or don’t take, is
information about your values and your seriousness about those
Jan Carlzon, as
president of Scandinavian Airline Systems (SAS), colorfully
described leading by example as "Moments of Truth." He
claimed that in his business there were more than 50 million
moments of truth a year, representing the annual number of
passenger-employee interactions. Each moment of truth is an
opportunity for each SAS employee to demonstrate personal
commitment to providing outstanding customer service. That
interaction says more about the company's real values than all the
corporate credos in the world.
Here are some
do you spend your time?
is the truest test of what people really believe is important.
For example, while you say that quality is important, the
amount of time you spend on quality issues is the truest test of
your commitment to quality. What
our constituents say: “Put your time where your mouth is. Walk the talk.”
questions do you ask?
only highlight particular issues and concerns but also point
people in the "right" direction. Pay attention to the
questions you’re asking: They send messages about whether your
focus, for example, is on control of operating costs, on quality,
or on market share. On the other hand, remember that the questions
you’re asked are also an indicator of other people’s interests
do you recognize and reward?
tangible messages to people about what to pay attention to. If you
place a premium on innovation and risk-taking, for example, you
must be willing to "promote" in a variety of ways those
who innovate. You must be attentive to how people are made to feel
when they take risks. Are people rewarded or punished when they
fail? Your actions in such situations set the tone for future
innovation and risk-taking. Who is rewarded, who is promoted and
why, are among the clearest ways in which you demonstrate your
seriousness about a specific set of corporate principles.
Here are two
other ways you can develop your own capacity as a role model for
your current routines.
routines or habitual patterns of behavior consistent with what you
say is most important to you and to your organization? Noted
management consultant Tom Peters has said, "Attention is all
there is. You are as good as--or as bad as--your calendar."
Start spending 20 to 25 percent of your time on your most
important strategic priority. Book up your calendar for the next
four months with visible activities demonstrating your interest
and concern about this priority. Find someone or some department
that’s doing what you wish everyone else was doing, or at least
moving in the right direction. Hold them up as models and make
them heroes. Let everyone get a clear idea about what you’re
looking for and how rewarding you can make doing the right thing
on the lookout for learning opportunities.
Often these occur
in the peaks and valleys of our experiences. At the summit, for
example, you need to remind others of what they have accomplished
and why the journey was worth the effort, and provide them with
perspective on how this achievement was a step in the right
direction. In times of despair, you need to make the struggle
noble and reframe any setbacks as learning experiences.
“words are cheap.” What
you do says volumes more about what’s important to you and to your
organization than all the words, speeches, and mottos plastered on
corporate offices and walls.
© 1999 James M.
Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. All