Creative Writing: Kouzes and Posner: A Starting Point

Pages: 5 (1943 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Leadership  ·  Buy This Paper

Kouzes and Posner: A Starting Point for Effective Leadership

You must unite your constituents around a common cause and connect with them as human beings. -- Kouzes and Posner

In the past thirty years, Kouzes and Posner's work has had a significant impact on how individuals all over the globe view what makes a successful leader. In fact, in the twenty years since Kouzes and Posner first published their book The Leadership Challenge, over one million copies have been sold and it has been translated into twelve different languages. As a result, their LPI the most widely used leadership assessment instrument in the world and more 350 doctoral dissertations and academic research projects have been based on and have explored Kouzes and Posner's The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership model ("The Leadership Model"). Clearly, there is no doubt that Kouzes and Posner have had a significant impact as well as have managed to profit from the marketability and/or popularity of their assessment of what makes a successful leader. However, what is popular or what is marketable is not necessarily what is truly an effective or thorough model for sustainable and lasting leadership in all circumstances. While I agree that Kouzes and Posner's ideas have merit and should be employed by a successful leader, their model should be supplemented so as to reflect a more encompassing analysis of the needs for a successful leader in our rapidly changing global marketplace.

Kouzes and Posner identify five key components as necessary for successful leadership. First, the leader must model the behavior that they wish to see since people will not believe what the leader says if the leader's actions contradict his instructions. Second, Kouzes and Posner concluded that people are not motivated by fear and reward as much as they are motivated by ideas that capture their imagination. Thus, it is important that the group has a vision and that vision is taken as their own. The next concept is that leaders should challenge the process. They should thrive on and learn from adversity and then adopt innovative ways to deal with the past. Additionally, a good leader enables others to act through making people feel able to act and then able to put their ideas into action Finally, people act best when they are passionate; accordingly, leaders should unleash enthusiasm through stories and passion of their own ("Changing Minds").

The Leadership model of Kouze and Posner if adopted by a leader would translate into positive behavioral response. However, the model focuses predominantly upon what it is that employees want to see in a leader. While this provides a good starting point, there is more to leadership than serving as a good model and being able to motivate through telling good stories. For a leader to be successful, the leader must not only know how to model, how to goal set, and how to inspire, but the leader must be able to effectively lead, direct, manage and navigate his/her team through the ups and downs that are inevitably experienced in today's more volatile society than that of the 1980's when Kouze and Posner began solidifying their model (McCrimmin).

One of Kouze and Posner's key tenets provides that leaders should make the group feel as though the innovative ideas have come from them as opposed to the idea being a directive from the leader. In addition to contradicting another tenet in which they tell leaders to be innovative, this notion is also short-sighted because beyond implementation, there are many instances where a leader must simply make decisions and cannot feasibly be expected to consult with the group. Certainly, there is no denying that there are instances when in leading a group when you may want the group to feel a sense of buy-in and ownership in the idea. For instance, this might be the case in adopting an overall theme for the company for the following quarter or for goal setting for the next financial statement. Indeed, when the employees feel that they have created the goal, they are apt to connect to it on a deeper, more meaningful level. Notwithstanding the validity of Kouze and Posner's conclusion that employees should feel as though they have created the idea, there are times -- generally times beyond the initial implementation stage - in which a leader must simply make a decision and lead. In a rapidly changing world, there are instances where there simply is no time to rally the organization and set goals and plans of action according to the wants and needs of the group. Assuming arguendo that there was time in every occasion to do so, it would not be advantageous to have the group's input on every directive. Thus, the Kouze and Posner model needs to explicitly provide for the need for leaders in this day and age to make those directives which are critical for the entity -- with or without input or ratification from the members of the group.

According to Kouze and Posner, for a leader to be effective, the leader must also have established credibility. Credibility to Kouze and Posner is established by a leader whom models what he wants others to be. Indeed, their notion of credibility appears to be a personal credibility: does this leader show the values that we want our employees to show? However, there is no mention of credibility in the sense of actual expertise or experience as well as technical or knowledge-based credibility. While it is helpful to have a leader who exudes the ability to invigorate others through their stories and who models appropriate behavior, it is more critical for an effective leader to possess the actual skills, experience, and knowledge to actually formulate, devise, implement, and manage the actual project at hand. Credibility certainly composes the type of credibility described by Kouze and Posner or, in other words, personal credibility; however, it also requires a substantive component of actual knowledge and technical expertise. Indeed, while John Daly may not appear to be the personal embodiment of the type of man I would like to be, if I want to learn how to drive a golf ball, he certainly has the knowledge, experience, and technical expertise to show me how to hit the ball. Personal credibility without technical credibility can only take the group so far.

Another criticism of Kouze and Posner's model is that it presupposes that to be an effective leader, one should be dynamic in terms of possessing the type of personality in which his or her stories and overall demeanor invigorate and inspire the employees to buy-in to the group's goals. However, this assumption presupposes that a good leader have a certain charisma and ability to draw people in with his/her personality. In my opinion, good leadership can come from an individual with good ideas and a sound policy for implementation despite the fact that this person cannot deliver a joke or tell a story to save his/her life. If the technical expertise is present and the leader understands the industry and the needs of the company, then this person will be able to lead through the inherent credibility of his/her substantive ideas as opposes to through a well-told anecdote.

Another criticism of Kouzes & Posner's work concerns its primary focus on the need for top-down interventions on the part of a leader in order to harness collaborative effort in the pursuit of tasks and goals. Indeed, top-down interventions are necessary; however, they should be used in conjunction with strategies that actually build relationships with and amongst the individuals within the collaborative effort. In fact, in studies which analyze why employees do not feel committed to their job or a need to give extra to their employer it was routinely demonstrated that leaders and their constituents oftentimes were out of sync as the constituents or employees felt as though they were operating on others sides, that leaders were not willing to listen to their needs or act upon the causes of their dissatisfaction, that they felt a significant amount of distrust between themselves and the leadership and, as a result thereof, few workers were actually satisfied (Tate, 2003). What Kouzes and Posner's top-down model fails to emphasize is that leaders don't just communicate directions, they communicate values; and, it is critical for their theory to be truly bought into for the leaders use their leadership and interaction skills not just to convince followers to do as the leaders want, but to truly become more trusting and more connected to the group as well as the group's overall mission (Rosenbach, 1998, p.52).

Given these feelings of disconnect and discontent, it is up to the leader to bridge the gap and to somehow let their employees know they have a common purpose and that they can be trusted to lead them in the right direction. In order to build these bridges, top-down approaches may further make these alienated and distrustful employees feel further disjoined from the administration. Accordingly,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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