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Book:  The Truth About Leadership

Author:  James Kouzes & Barry Posner

Purchase:  PrinteBookAudiobook

Citation:  Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2010). The truth about leadership : the no-fads, heart-of-the-matter facts you need to know. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. The characteristic that people most admire in a leader is honesty. Being honest means telling the truth and having ethical principles and clear standards by which you live. (pg. 17)

  2. One of the best ways you can show others that you care and appreciate their efforts is to be out there with them. Walk the halls, eat in the cafeteria, listen to complaints, go to parties.  It helps you stay in touch with what is really going on.

  3. Your job as a leader is to make sure people get the information they want and need, when they want and need it, and in a form they can use and understand.


Other Key Ideas:​

Becoming a leader is a process of internal self-discovery.  In order for me to become a leader and become an even better leader, it’s important that I first define my values and principles.  If I don’t know what my own values are, how can I set expectations for others. (pg. 32)

According to research, the impact of being very clear or not about the organization’s values doesn’t seem to make much difference in how committed people are to their organizations.  But when leaders are clear about their personal values, employees are more committed to their organizations. (pg. 37)

If your personal values are aligned with the company’s values, you’re probably going to be successful in the long term.  If they are not aligned, it requires you have a split personality when you go to work. (pg. 38)

Those who are optimistic about life are far more likely to be successful than those who view the current events through the lens of a pessimist. (pg. 58)

Having the ability to listen and to understand the perspective of others has been shown to be the most glaring difference between successful and unsuccessful leaders. (pg. 64)

It is important to truly believe that your direct reports can be better, and as a leader, you need to convince them of their potential.  Often, people just lack a little courage and confidence. (pg. 71)​

An example of trust and customer service is the following from an insurance company:  We believe our members. A real simple example of this is when a member calls us and says, “my child is sixteen years old and is a high school honors student.” We say “fine, thank you very much” and we give them the discount.  We don’t require the member to send in a report card; we don’t ask for a letter from his principal. We just believe in the customer because, as a member, until you prove otherwise, we believe what you say. It’s about trust. We trust the members and they trust us. (pg. 81)

When it comes to sustaining trust over the long term, you have to communicate, communicate, communicate.  Selectively sharing information, failing to keep people informed, and telling people too late about matters important to their work only leads to distrust and suspicion. (pg. 88)

A big part of being seen as credible is keeping your promises.  When you give your word that you’ll do something, and then you follow through on your commitments, it has a powerful effect on people. (pg. 113)

Nothing undermines or erodes your credibility and your effectiveness as a role model faster than not being willing to acknowledge and take responsibility when you’ve made a mistake. (pg. 114)​

Another way you can hold yourself accountable is to seek and accept feedback.  Feedback is vital to the growth and development of leaders. How can you learn very much if you’re unwilling to find out more about how your behavior is impacting the behavior and performance of those around you?  (pg. 116)

To master leadership you have to have a strong desire to excel, you have to believe strongly that you can learn new skills and abilities, and you have to be willing to devote yourself to continuous learning and deliberate practice. (pg. 121)

If you want a rough metric of what it takes to achieve the highest level of expertise, the estimate is about 10,000 hours of practice over a period of ten years.  That’s 2.7 hours a day, every day, for ten years. (pg. 127)​

One of the best ways you can show others that you care and appreciate their efforts is to be out there with them.  Walk the halls, eat in the cafeteria, listen to complaints, go to parties. This type of visibility and availability makes you more real, more genuine, more approachable, and more human.  It helps you stay in touch with what is really going on. (pg. 143)

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