I am so honored, that I have a privilege to “ship” this blog post for YOU! After one year of giving my all (literally) to what I believe in, the greatest payback ever took place via “sneeze” by THE Jim Kouzes.
Jim’s limitless generosity was exemplified (again!) by replying to my email, in which I have asked him: “Jim, could you answer 5 questions about your new book for readers of my blog, so we can spread the word around?”
Jim responded instantly: “I would be delighted to respond to your 5 questions.“
Enjoy the Truth!
What was your drive/urge to write The Truth About Leadership?
Initially we set out to write a new book aimed squarely at emerging leaders in the Millennial generation. Millennials are an influential group and on the cusp of replacing Baby Boomers as a game-changing force due to their size and position.
So we did what we’ve done in the past, as all good researchers and academics do: We conducted a study and gathered data. We asked a broad sample of Millennials to respond to the following scenario: “Imagine you’re sitting in a meeting with a group of your colleagues. The door to the conference room opens, in walks someone you’ve never met before, and that person says, ‘Hi, I’m your new leader.’ What questions immediately come to mind that you want to ask this person?”
As we reviewed the questions Millennials wanted to ask a new leader, an important insight emerged. We found that their concerns and issues were not all that different from those we’d heard from their older sisters and brothers, and even their moms and dads when they’d responded to the same question. They wanted to know what every other generation wanted to know. Age made no difference.
It reminds me of a time when I shared the platform with renowned leadership educator Ken Blanchard at an association meeting. In the middle of responding to an audience question I was saying, “I don’t know what you call something that’s been the same for twenty-five years, but. . .,” and before I could finish my sentence Ken interrupted, exclaiming, “I’d call it the truth.” It was a moment of clarity. It reinforced our sense that some things about leadership just don’t change that much over time, if at all, and that those things need to be understood for what they are—the truth.
But we wanted to make certain that the lessons we included in The Truth About Leadership not only withstood the test of time but also withstood the scrutiny of statistics. So we sifted through the reams of data that had piled up over three decades and isolated those nuggets that were soundly supported by the numbers. This is a collection of the real thing—no fads, no myths, no trendy responses—just truths that endure.
What are the most emerging attributes of a 21st century leader? Do they differ from the findings in your research for The Leadership Challenge book?
In The Truth About Leadership we explore ten fundamental and enduring lessons about leadership and becoming an effective leader. We talk about the most important things that we’ve learned since we began our collaboration. It’s a collection of fundamental principles that inform and support the practices of leadership. These are lessons that were true thirty years ago, are true today, and we believe will be true thirty years from now.
For those who have read our prior works, some of what we say may sound familiar. It should. But three things make this book different from our previous ones.
First, this is a bolder book. We’re taking a stand that our research supports each and every claim.
Second, it’s based on far more data than any of our other books were. Over the past few years we’ve been able to accumulate a lot more quantitative information and a lot more cases than for our other books.
Third, it’s a more global and a more cross-generational book. The stories and examples we share come from around the world and encompass three generations of leaders. We know that you’ll be the judge, but if you’ve read our other works we still think you’ll find many new and useful insights among these enduring truths.
It’s really tough to select truths that are more important for the 21st century global leader than they were for the 20th century leader, but I’ll highlight two. The first is that that Credibility Is the Foundation of Leadership. This is certainly the case since the global economic meltdown of the last two years. Trust and confidence in leaders of most major institutions has plummeted, and in some cases is at a ten-year low. We’ve said it many times, but we need to say it again, especially in these times when people have become cynical about their leaders and institutions: If people don’t believe in the messenger, they won’t believe the message. Leaders around the world have to really work hard right now to earn back lost credibility and do a lot more to sustain it going forward.
A second truth that requires our attention right now is that 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. The challenge right now is that because of global economic problems as well as heightened uncertainty from global terrorism, global warming, and other adversities that are plaguing our world, many leaders have become much more focused on short-term solutions. It is hard to think about five, ten or twenty years down the road when you’re worried about whether you’ll have a job tomorrow. But, this is exactly why leaders need to be focused on the future. They need to inspire others to see what a better tomorrow will look like and to show people how they will be part of that picture.
Who should definitely read your book? And why?
In The Truth About Leadership we write with the perspective of an emerging leader—someone new in the role or making the transition to leadership for the first time—but the ideas are just as relevant to those with years of leadership experience. They speak to what the newest and youngest leaders’ need to appreciate and understand, and they speak just as meaningfully to the oldest leaders, who are perhaps re-purposing themselves as they transition from their lengthy careers to other pursuits in volunteer, community, or public sectors. Entrepreneurs need to appreciate what we have learned, just as do people leading established enterprises. These lessons ring true on athletic fields and in the halls of government, and they make as much sense in the United States, China, Brazil, the European Union, India, or any other global address that you can imagine. They apply to those who are continuing to hone their skills and to those who’ve had no prior training. They are also relevant to those who want to be more capable in coaching others to be more effective leaders.
Why did you include my story, story of “nobody” from Slovakia into your book?
From the moment I saw the online video about your experience starting Next Generation Leaders of Slovakia I knew I wanted to include your story in The Truth About Leadership. Your commitment to leadership and to your cause was evident in every second of that video. As I came to learn more about your personal story, I became certain that what you did was an example to others of how one person who has passion for a purpose and is willing to persist in pursuit of that passion can make a difference.
You also showed us the power of saying “Yes.” You have to say yes to begin things. You have to say yes to your beliefs, you have to say yes to big dreams, you have to say yes to difficult challenges, you have to say yes to collaboration, you have to say yes to trust, you have to say yes to learning, you have to say yes to setting the example, and you have to say yes to your heart.
So, here’s the question for all of those reading your blog.
“Are you ready to say yes to leadership?”
When you are ready to say yes, doors will open to entirely new adventures in your life. When you are ready to say yes, people will join you on the quest. When you say yes, you will discover your own truth about leadership.
What would be one sentence quote/message, for readers, which they can stick on their room’s wall?
The truth is that You Can’t Do It Alone!
No leader ever got anything extraordinary done without the talent and support of others. 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.
Thank you is underestimation to express gratitude for what you have done for me, Jim!
But one thing I am sure of:
Jim, you have changed my life!