Good business leaders are honest, forward-looking, competent and inspiring.
These characteristics hold true on a global basis, Jim Kouzes, a researcher, writer and teacher in the area of leadership, told a management development seminar in Edmonton.
Surveys have found that these are the only four characteristics that score above 50 per cent in a list of 20 characteristics. The actual numbers may vary in degree from country to country, but that is the only difference; Canadian responses put honesty at 90 per cent while the global results are 88 per cent; Canadians put competence at 59 per cent, while the global score is 66 per cent.
Kouzes is chair emeritus of the Tom Peters Company and an executive fellow at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, Calif. He was leading a half-day seminar by the University of Alberta School of Business Centre for Executive and Management Development.
“If you take a look at the top three people in any company, why do people get ahead, why do they get to the top?” he asked. “If you don’t get along well with the people who report to you, it’s highly unlikely you will be successful.”
He stressed that “people don’t quit their companies; they quit their managers,” noting only 11 per cent of staff were likely to
voluntarily leave a job where they ranked a supervisor as excellent, compared to 40 per cent who leave voluntarily where the supervisor was ranked as poor.
Alongside the four characteristics of good leaders is the credibility scale: trustworthiness, expertise and dynamism, which correlate to the characteristics. “If we don’t believe in the messenger, we won’t believe the message,” Kouzes said.
At the same time, he noted, someone can be a trustworthy individual whom you believe capable of doing certain things but not others, citing as an example a handyman who looks after his house when he’s away. “If I had to have brain surgery, I wouldn’t trust him to do the surgery.”
According to Kouzes, good leaders:
* Model the way: “Do what you say you will do.”
* Inspire a shared vision: If the leader doesn’t have a clear vision of the goal, how can
employees be expected to have any vision?
* Challenge the process.
* Enable others to act.
* Encourage the heart.
“Just because a person has a title, it does not make that person a leader. Leadership is earned; it is not a right that comes with a title. The only way to really think about leadership is to think about all your constituents as volunteers. You’re only there because they believe you should be there.”