Based on 30 years of research, James Kouzes and Barry Posner have devised a list of 10 time-tested truths and shared them in The Truth About Leadership. Here are 10 fundamental truths about leadership and becoming an effective leader:
- You Make a Difference. This is the most fundamental truth of all. Before you can lead, you have to believe that you can have a positive impact on others. Believe in yourself. Leadership begins when you believe you can make a difference.
- Credibility Is the Foundation of Leadership. You have to believe in you, but others have to believe in you too. What does it take for others to believe in you? Short answer: credibility. If people don’t believe in you, they won’t willingly follow you.
- Values Drive Commitment. People want to know what you stand for and believe in. They want to know what you value. And leaders need to know what others value if they are going to be able to forge alignments between personal values and organizational demands.
- Focusing on the Future Sets Leaders Apart. The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is a defining competence of leaders. You have to take the long-term perspective. Gain insight from reviewing your past and develop outsight by looking around.
- You Can’t Do It Alone. Leadership is a team sport and you need to engage others in the cause. What strengthens and sustains the relationship between leader and constituent is that leaders are obsessed with what is best for others, not what is best for themselves.
- Trust Rules. Trust is the social glue that holds individuals and groups together. And the level of trust others have in you will determine the amount of influence you have. You have to earn your constituents’ trust before they’ll be willing to trust you. You have to give trust before you can get trust.
- Challenge Is the Crucible for Greatness. Exemplary leaders — the kind of leaders people want to follow — are always associated with changing the status quo. Great achievements don’t happen when you keep things the same. Change invariably involves challenge, and challenge tests you. It introduces you to yourself.
- You Either Lead by Example or You Don’t Lead at All. Leaders have to keep their promises and become role models for the values and actions they espouse. You have to go first as a leader. You can’t ask others to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.
- The Best Leaders Are the Best Learners. Leaders are constant improvement fanatics, and learning is the master skill of leadership. Learning, however, takes time and attention, practice and feedback, along with good coaching. It also takes willingness on your part to ask for support.
- Leadership Is an Affair of the Heart. Leaders make others feel important and are gracious in showing their appreciation. Love is the motivation that energizes leaders to give so much for others. You just won’t work hard enough to become great if you aren’t doing what you love.
These are enduring truths about leadership. You can gain mastery over the art and science of leadership by understanding them and attending to them in your workplace and everyday life.