“Leadership is everyone’s business.”
– From The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes & Barry Posner
My introduction to Kouzes and Posner’s book, The Leadership Challenge, occurred in the late 1990’s when I was invited to participate in a leadership program that was a joint venture between my company and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. It was one of the textbooks for the course whose theme was appropriately titled “Leadership Makes the Difference”. As often happens, though, a few weeks after completing the course the book ended up in my bookshelf where it sat for many years collecting dust, until thankfully a few months ago it was brought back to my attention. Since re-reading it I now consider it one of the most important books in my library. I find myself referring to it often and listing it as recommended reading on my Wisdom in Leadership website. Now in its fifth edition, The Leadership Challenge is considered a classic work on the subject of leadership, but it was not until I re-read the final chapter entitled “Leadership is Everyone’s Business” several times over that it all began to soak in. For me the following sums up their entire message in a nutshell:
“. . . leadership is not about position or title,” the authors explain. “It’s not about organizational power or authority. It’s not about fame or wealth. It’s not about the family you are born into. It’s not about being a CEO, president, general, or prime minister. And it’s definitely not about being a hero. Leadership is about relationships, about credibility, and about what you do. And everything you will ever do as a leader is based on one audacious assumption: that you matter.” But that was not their final point. The zinger comes from a quote by Army Major General John H. Stanford when they asked him how he’d go about developing leaders. Here’s his response: “The secret to success is to stay in love. Staying in love gives you the fire to ignite other people, to see inside other people, to have a greater desire to get things done than other people. . . . I don’t know any other fire, any other thing in life that is more exhilarating and is more positive a feeling than love is.” . . . . Surprised by the General’s response? Shouldn’t be. It’s the first and great commandment, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . and love your neighbor as yourself.” Ancient wisdom ever true!