Next week I will be meeting with the Dean of Business at SCU. His name is Barry Posner. Barry is an internationally renowned scholar on leadership and management. His book (The Leadership Challenge) is one of the bibles on leadership. In it, he discusses the topic of leadership from many angles. What I like most about the book is its universal concept of leadership. The book’s preface is titled: Everyone’s Business — Leadership for today and tomorrow.
This tiny article is by no means a summary or a review of the book. Its just my own take on some of the topics discussed. The book was co-authored by Jim Kouzes.
Leaders are not born, they are taught. People who are great leaders have chosen to be that way. This is a point the book makes sure to make throughout the chapters. But what do I mean by great leaders? Who are these people and do we have example of them in our everyday lives?
In my life, my dad was the first leader that I ever respected. My dad has many good qualities that I really find hard to foster in my own character, but the one thing that has never ceased to mesmerize me is his patience. People! My father is a fighter. He was unfortunate enough to have a very rare disease in his blood system. This has caused him great amounts of pain and suffering. Despite all the pain and sleepless nights he had, I hardly ever heard him complain. Actually I lived with my dad for 20 years, I heard him cursing like twice.
Lets get back on track here with the topic of leadership. As you can see, my respect for my dad and my opinion of him was based on intrinsic traits that he had. His actions and the way he dealt with his problems is what made me value him. Its not only me who thought that my dad is a great man. Whenever there was a problem in the family, they called him to resolve it. Whenever someone wanted to get married, they asked my dad to lead the group asking for the bride’s hand (sorry if you do not know the context behind the marriage procedures in the Arab world. What you need to know is that this is a really big deal =).
So someone like my dad’s has established credibility by modeling the way. People who have lived with him for a long period of time trust his opinion and judgment. Posner discusses the importance of credibility thoroughly in the book. People will simply not follow if they do not think that you are credible. Leaders Model the way for others. Posner describes five practices that all leaders share and modeling the way is the number one leadership practice.
The other day I came across John Hennessy’s speech when he was announced as president of Stanford University. His first paragraph was a quote and guess what his second paragraph was about? He was building his credibility, he tied in the message of the quote with his work at Stanford and he listed many of his accomplishments. He knows that he needed that base, people’s reaction must have completely changed after they were reminded of his credentials. Credibility is the foundation. The worst thing that can affect your credibility is not walking the talk. Being flaky and not standing behind your words. In Islam, the prophet told his companions that their tongue is probably their worst enemy. Leaders have to watch what they say, because once its said, it’s done. There is no backing out. I feel like a hypocrite, because I almost never think about what I’m saying and I get in trouble because of it. Its getting late, so hold for the next episode of this leadership series.