The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® Model

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Some of us lead well, and some of us lead less well, yet regardless of how effective our leadership is now, we all have the capacity to improve.

A fundamental element for improving our leadership efficacy is to develop a greater awareness of others, which mostly comes from listening to what they have to say. 

James Kouzes and Barry Posner did exactly this when evolving their well-known Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® Model, documented in their book The Leadership Challenge.

Leadership is not about personality; it’s about behaviour – an observable set of skills and abilities.

– James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Through asking thousands of people how different qualities of leadership affected and influenced them, they were able to identify five distinct practices that describe the most effective leaders.

Five practices of Leadership

These practices apply to all sectors requiring good leadership, whether that be sport, business, politics, the military etc.

So here they are…

1 Model the way

Great leaders create a series of small, incremental objectives so that followers can experience lots of little victories on the way to achieving a larger goal. They also establish standards of excellence which outline how these objectives and goals should be pursued, whilst showing how their people should treat one another. 

Furthermore, and underpinning this, they model outstanding behaviours, living these standards of excellence, and therefore being an example to everyone else.

How many leaders do you know that ask others to do things they would not do themselves?

2 Inspire a shared vision

Great leaders aim to create a future that is better than now by daring to dream of unique and exciting possibilities. 

Although they passionately believe in their vision, they understand that to make it come true, others need to believe in this vision too. 

Therefore, through magnetism and quiet persuasion, they excite and enlist their followers to breathe life into what becomes a shared vision for all.

Can you think of any leaders who didn’t even share their vision with you? 

3 Challenge the process

Great leaders seek innovative ways to improve the existing state of affairs. 

To do this requires experimentation and calculated risk taking, which inevitably leads to mistakes and disappointments occurring from time to time. Yet this is all part of the growth process, which effective leaders both understand and accept. 

On balance, which of your leaders have been the most effective over the long-term…the one’s who’ve played it safe, or those who have challenged the status quo?

4 Enable others to act

Great leaders embolden their followers, fortifying each person with self-confidence, and treating them with respect. 

When people feel valued, they are much more likely to produce and sustain extraordinary efforts. 

In addition to building a culture of trust and dignity, exceptional leaders also nurture collaboration and team cohesion. 

Do you tend to produce your best results when empowered or micro-managed?

5 Encourage the heart

Great leaders recognise the contributions of their followers, which consequently increases their determination even more.

They celebrate successes and share the rewards with their followers, valuing each person and making them feel like an important member of the team or organisation. 

Have most of your leaders fully appreciated your unique skills? 

I’d love to hear your best or worst experiences of leadership, so please do let me know!

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15 Thoughts

  1. Great post and I have been in leadership all my life. From an assistant manager to running my own store, I have 25 years of experience. I work in retail and it has changed much over all these years, it’s not the same. I believe in servant leadership and for me it was always being in a position to mentor others and develop those with the aspirations to promote. After all, we all had someone at some point who took us under their wings. It’s not only you work that gets you noticed but also who you know and who is willing to develop you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, an inspiring post. I think there is a sixth exemplary practice though, and probably the most important. ‘The ability of ‘self reflection ‘ and ‘adaption’ of ones own personal behaviours towards becoming a selfless leader.

    Liked by 1 person

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