Leaders do not do their best when they are maintaining the status quo or when they feel comfortable; they do their best when faced with adversity, crisis, setbacks, and great difficulty, according to James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their short-form ebook Great Leadership Creates Great Workplaces. Thus great leaders tend to come to the fore at challenging and difficult times, like the present.
The global financial crisis, structural change brought about by technology, and numerous other factors are creating great pressures on most workplaces, but good leaders can make a significant difference. According to the authors, the best leaders bring out significantly greater talent and efforts from their workforce. Leadership is a definable set of skills and abilities, which can be learned and improved.
The book goes on to describe five leadership practices: model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart. By honing their skills in each of these areas, leaders can significantly improve the environment and productivity of their workplaces.
The research underlying the authors’ conclusions is more along the lines of qualitative analysis rather than randomised controlled trials of a type likely to satisfy a statistician, but their arguments are on the whole persuasive. This very brief ebook includes a useful summary of ideas contained in The Leadership Challenge, and should be useful to managers who have very limited reading time available.