Extraordinary Leadership Everyday with Jim Kouzes

Jim Kouzes is a legend in the leadership world. He co-wrote the Global #1 Best Selling Book, The Leadership Challenge, which has been used as a manual and a guide by millions of leaders all over the world. In this intimate conversation you can learn:

  • How every great leader has grown because of enduring challenge, adversity or difficulty
  • Why you can’t get extraordinary things done in organizations all by yourself
  • How leadership has remained relatively stable over the years, but the context has changed
  • Why leaders who master listening, and respond with empathy perform more than 40% higher than those who don’t!

Transcript:Thanks to Jermaine Pinto at JRP Transcribing for being our Partner. Contact Jermaine via LinkedIn or via his site JRP Transcribing Services

The Leadership Hacker News

Steve Rush: What is it that makes some teams and some project teams just absolutely rock and roll where others really flounder? Well, the principle of tribe blaze at the heart of it. In the world that we’re working in now, even in a remote environment, as often the case may be, your task is to find new ways as a leader to develop that sense of tribe to your team, no matter what they’re working on, so that they stay with you and operate at their most effective. And doing this well, will help you keep morale high, productivity at its best and ensuring your team stay with you.

So where do people get that sense of tribal belonging? Well, a sense of tribal belonging usually comes from our four key sources. Shared purpose, unique contribution, pride, and gratitude. So, let’s dig into them. Everybody understands purpose. And when we’re talking about a grand cause, purpose becomes very visible and very obvious. But what if your organization’s role is not to eradicate diseases or fight poverty or clean ocean’s. Purpose can be found in the smallest of things. It’s the why we do what we do every day. It might be to solve a given problem in an industry, whatever the purpose is, it makes teams raise their heads high, see the horizon. So whatever purpose your team might claim, take the opportunity to explore this, link it to your vision and reinforce it every single day. Ownership is key here. Owning purpose usually means that teams consistently keep their purpose at the front of everything they do. If purpose has Y, then a tribal also wants to feel the how they go about achieving it and how they did it for purpose. It’s the Mark of that tribe, differentiators from others tribes. Leadership ownership is key here. So, this is how leaders relate to employees, their philosophies, how they engage in communications, the autonomy they give to their team and how they deal with diversity, equity and inclusion as well. And all brings this together in a society that they can call team or tried, no matter what contribution or challenging factors you might face. Every single individual has a unique contribution to play. If they feel it, they become part of the belonging of that tribe. And that sense of ownership. Everyone wants to feel proud of their achievements and the mark that they’re leaving on the world. And knowing that they’re contributing to something uniquely valuable is an important part of tribal community, but they need to fill it that individual contribution is important as well.

So, people genuinely have an intrinsic sense of pride based on their own self-awareness. And allowing them to show that pride goes a long way and demonstrating pride is not necessarily about bragging or self-promotion. You may feel proud even if somebody else is speaking on the achievements of your team, communicating the story, letting others to feel part of the journey that you’re on can also build pride with those in your business that are not directly correlated to your team. And as you offer rewards for people’s achievements, provide consistent updates and show the real world the influence that directly having. Praising interactions, letting people know their sense of fulfillment. People can feel grateful for what is beyond expectations outside of the normal simply out of the blue. It’s the, we have your back feeling, which is to put the proof in the times of need.

The past 12 months in particular have given an exceptionally high number of opportunities to test whether we really can count on others. Gratitude is also letting people know that. You may feel grateful for something your leader has done, or your peers have done, or your team have done. Have you really let them know? In my experience, gratitude, doesn’t come from a major game changing heroic act. It comes from small unexpected, absolutely sincere acts from one person to another. Behavioral science has shown over and over again that helping others benefits, both the helper and the recipient. If the team members are doing that for each other, and they really feel that they belong to the tribe, if your team are your people, then prove it to them.

Today’s environment makes it more likely that people will look for that sense of belonging alongside you and your team and your business so that they can feel appreciated and feel a sense of loyalty both ways. And as a leader, you can give them that sense of tribe, that belonging and proactively focusing on purpose, the unique contribution, being proud of the opportunity and demonstrating gratitude. That’s been The Leadership Hacker News. If you have any new, insights or stories, please get in touch.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: The guest on today’s show needs no introduction if you’ve ever read about leadership; Jim Kouzes and his co-author Barry Posner wrote the award-winning and best-selling book, The Leadership Challenge, selling millions around the world. Jim’s work impacted the way we think or behave as leaders, and he’s been named as one of the top leadership guru’s globally. The Wall Street Journal cited him as one of the best executive directors in the world, and Jim, it is an absolute pleasure and an honor to have you on The Leadership Hacker Podcast.

Jim Kouzes: Steve, it’s a pleasure to be with you. Thanks for the opportunity.

Steve Rush: My pleasure, delighted to be here. So, when we first met, you told me, you’d been thinking about leadership ever since you were a young kid as an Eagle Scout; when you were selected in John F Kennedy’s Honor Guard. And I recall you telling me that it was that call to action from Kennedy of, “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” that really inspired you to then think about joining the Peace Corps. Maybe just give us a little bit of the backstory of how that all evolved?

Jim Kouzes: Certainly, Steve. Thanks for that reminder of my early past. I grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC and my father worked for the U.S. Government. He started out as a file clerk and worked his way up to deputy assistant secretary of labor before he retired. And living in that area, we had the opportunity to visit the memorials and the museums and all of the sites that one sees in pictures and as tourists tour around and visit. And I had the great pleasure of living in that community and being in Washington DC at least once a week. And so, I was steeped in the history of the country and the values and the vision of the country, visiting all of those institutions as a young person. And it inspired me to continue that work, particularly when I was selected being John F Kennedy’s Honor Guard as an Eagle Scout at 15 years of age. And I can still remember that very cold winter day in January, standing there before the reviewing stand, where then president John F. Kennedy and his family, and some of his cabinet members watched as the parade went by. And his call to action, as you mentioned as not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Stuck with me and stays with me to this day. And there probably isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about that sense of calling for all of us as human beings to look to serve others. So, I aspired initially to be an ambassador. When I went to university, I studied political science, wanted to join the Peace Corps after I got out, which I did. Became a teacher in the peace Corps, and as a teacher, it changed my career expirations.

I realized the impact that one individual could have on, on young people, and so I wanted to continue that work. When I came back to the U.S. I looked for a job in education. Because I didn’t have any teaching credentials, they wouldn’t let me teach kids, but they would let me teach adults. So, I got a job working in training and development in a Human Resources development organization; development with a consulting firm that was working with the war on poverty, another program, the Johnson administration which was for young people wanting to come involved in community activities that would help people in the United States get out of poverty. And so, I worked for this organization, training people who were in those organizations in communication skills, team building skills, leadership skills. And that was the turning point for me, that was back in 1969-70

And 1972, I was offered a job at San Jose State University to direct a grant project. Met with mental health teams, helping to develop their sense of teamwork in mental health agencies in the Nine Bay Area Counties around San Francisco. And in that process met the Dean of the business school at Santa Clara University, which was just down the road from San Jose State. And he asked me if I’d come direct the executive development center at Santa Clara University, which I did. And while I was unpacking boxes at my office at Santa Clara University, I hear this knock on my door and I turned around and this was a very tall gentleman in the doorway. And he said, “you’re in my office.” Excuse me, I thought this was my office? The Dean told me this was my office and he laughed. And he said, it is your office!

It used to be my office. I’ve moved to another building, but a welcome to Santa Clara University. And if you want to meet some people, have some lunch at the faculty club, get a tour of the campus, please let me know, and I’d be glad to talk to you and walk you around and introduce you to folks. That was Barry Posner, and I took him up on his offer. And as we wandered around campus and talked about where I came from, my background, his background, our interests, we found that we had some common interests. At that time, it was around managerial values, and that led to a 39 year long collaboration.

Steve Rush: Yeah, It’s amazing. There’re not many relationships that last for 39 years, and therefore something’s got to be right about the chemistry.

Jim Kouzes: It is. We’re very different personalities and very different people. And I think that’s part of why it works. We’re not trying, you know, he’s a very funny guy. He’s likes to crack people up almost, you know, every minute there’s a laugh when you’re with Barry practically, which is great. I’m not that person. I’m more of the serious type, but I do enjoy his company. He enjoys mine. Our families have become close friends. They are our closest friends as a couple. He and his wife Jackie, and my wife and I. So, it’s been a wonderful, wonderful relationship.

Steve Rush: And you and Barry’s rise to leadership greatness came about when you published The Leadership Challenge and you’ve done plenty of work before then, but this really kind of excelled you and Barry into the spotlight if you like, into the global arena and be really interested, how did that come about?

Jim Kouzes: Well Barry and I worked together at Santa Clara University through the executive development center and I organized programs, created the programs, recruited faculty, be part of those programs. And there was one seminar in particular that we did with Tom Peters. Tom Peters, the coauthor of In Search of Excellence with Bob Waterman. This was back in the mid-eighties.

Steve Rush: Right.

Jim Kouzes: And Tom had just published that book and we invited him to come to Santa Clara University. This would be for his fees, went through the roof and we couldn’t afford him, but we invited them to come to the University and do a seminar. He was so popular, we invited him back. And this time we invited him back for a whole day event. And then a second day, Barry and I were going to do. Well, Barry and I had some common interests around managerial values and managerial.

We called it managerial excellence at the time. But we didn’t have a book at the time and we didn’t have a theory necessarily. So, as we were preparing for that, I recall very clearly. It was around the time that countries were preparing for the Olympics, the summer Olympics, which was a couple of years away. I was hearing a program on personal best athletic achievements. So, you know, when athletes have their personal best time or their personal best score, people always talking about that in relation to the Olympics. And it just occurred to us. Why don’t we ask the same question about leadership? Tell us about a time when you were at your personal best as a leader.

And we started doing that in preparation for that seminar that we’re doing with Tom Peters. And we asked people to do that exercise prior to coming to the second day of the seminar. And then we broke them into small groups and they talked about their personal best leadership experiences, and they posted them on newsprint sheets in the halls of Kenna Hall or at Santa Clara University. And as we walked down and reviewed, approximately 80 people attending and they were broken into about 10 groups, we looked at all these flip charts and they had very similar words and phrases on them. And that was the moment we realized, you know, there’s some common themes across individual stories of personal best leadership experiences.

Steve Rush: Right.

Jim Kouzes: And so, Barry and I took those case studies that people wrote about their personal leadership experiences and started to essentially sort all the behaviors into different piles. Literally three by five cards on a big conference room table, Kenna Hall, 107. And we sorted them into piles and eventually came up with a five-factor model called the five practices of exemplary leadership. And then we created a tool to research it, to validate the model, asking people to answer a series of questions, or essentially rate like 360 assessments to rate themselves and have other people rate them on these dimensions.

Steve Rush: So, is that the birth of the leadership practices inventory?

Jim Kouzes: Yes. The leadership practices inventory was developed as a research tool initially and later after we had validated and done a number of analysis to simplify it, we were able to develop it as a 360 assessment people use it in leadership development.

Steve Rush: And what were some of the patterns and the behaviors that you noticed that were reoccurring?

Jim Kouzes: Well one of the things that we noticed Steve was that every single case involves some kind of challenge, adversity, difficulty. Imagine people now during the pandemic writing about some of their current experiences, it was that kind of a challenge that people wrote about. Whether it was a turnaround development of a new business. Literally a natural disaster destroying a business, and then reviving, coming back from that experience, so we noticed that. We discovered that, challenge the opportunity for greatness, that people don’t do their best when things are calm and steady and, you know, normal times. We yearn for those normal times. It helps us relax a little bit, but interestingly enough, we don’t necessarily do our best at leading when things are normal.

Steve Rush: Right.

Jim Kouzes: People need to challenge the process. So, we came up with a practice called Challenge the Process. Another thing we noticed is that people mentioned how clear they were about their values and beliefs, what they stood for, and also clear about where they wanted to go. The outcomes were very clear to them, what they wanted to achieve. So came we developed two other practices model. The way and inspire a shared vision from those observations. And then number of people I remember, Bill Flanagan, who was one of the people we interviewed. And we said, Bill, tell us about your personal best. And he said, I can’t. And I said, what you mean you can’t? And he said because it wasn’t my personal best. It was our personal best. It wasn’t me; it was us. And I was just, it stopped me in my tracks. I said, wow, that’s really an important observation. You can’t do it alone.

You can’t get extraordinary things done in organizations all by yourself. That’s our practice. Now we call enable us act. And along the way, when you have face difficulty, you face failure. Sometimes you face other challenges than just the initial one, as you try to innovate and improve. And so, people need encouragement in order to continue down that path. Those are a lot of celebration, a lot of recognition of people’s achievements, small as well as large which we now call encourage the heart. So, the practices emerged from that kind of an analysis of what people told us about those challenging situations that they were engaged in. Model inspire challenge, enable and encourage.

Steve Rush: I love it. It’s a really great framework. One, that also stood the test of time because in having read the early leadership challenge, and then the latest version, I just noticed the way that you shift the stories. So, the framework stays the same, but you’re able to tap into great other stories to illustrate the change in how we lead as well.

Jim Kouzes: That’s a very important observation, Steve. One of the things that people always ask us is, what’s new? What’s different about leadership now than it was 35-40 years ago? When you first wrote the book and started doing the research. And we said, well, the content of leadership has remained relatively stable over all these years. What’s changed is the context. And sometimes we confuse context with content. We think that if a new challenge comes along like a pandemic now, as compared to the challenges that people face 40 years ago, somehow leadership practices also have to change. Not necessarily. Why would that be the case? Leaders face challenges, millennium before today’s current challenge. What has become evident, however, is the importance of some of those more than others. For example, Steve. Contextually, because we all facing a life and death situation together right now and everyone has been impacted in some very serious ways, many people I know. And perhaps, you know, I’ve had loved ones who’ve passed away or friends who have passed away. So, it’s a very, very difficult, very difficult time. And consequently, people have told us that they want a lot more caring and support from their leaders and encouragement from their leaders than they did before. Our data shows us that the two characteristics of admired leaders are separate piece of research that we have done that has increased more than the others in terms of it’s importance to individuals is caring and support. So contextually, sometimes things become more important, but caring and support has always been there as a part of what good leaders do.

Steve Rush: That’s right, yeah. People often get confused still to this day between the notion of leadership and management. And I know this is a really cliche subject, but management is a relatively new thing. You know, we invented this a hundred years ago to get some control over stuff. Whereas leadership has been going on for millennia.

Jim Kouzes: Leadership has been something we’ve always yearned for and needed, particularly during difficult and challenging times. And you’re right, the notion of a bureaucracy or a hierarchy has emerged, came out of government initially and into business as a result of trying to get better organized if you will, and become more productive and efficient.

Steve Rush: One of the things that you mentioned in The Leadership Challenges, this strength out of adversity and learning from adversity, and just wanted to share some research with you and get your perspective on this. So, I’ve been researching people from ethnic minorities, people who have had to transverse from different locations because of either poverty or war. And what you notice is this massive, massive leadership value, and in fact that people have already got these foundations that they’ve carried with them, for whatever, having faced into adversity, whatever that may be, whether it be through experiences or challenges that they faced, there are foundations that they have there that some of us just take years to develop that they have an innate resource to tap into. What’s your perspective on that Jim?

Jim Kouzes: Diversity equity inclusion is one of the major, major social trends that we’re currently. It’s always been there again. It’s not something that’s not been there and its brand new right now, but it’s increased in its importance with Black Lives Matter here in this country and globally and Asian hate that we’ve experienced here in the United States and other parts of the world.

Steve Rush: Right.

Jim Kouzes: Diversity equity inclusion has become a topic we now talk about daily and there are more initiatives to try to do something about this. So, it’s is a challenge that leaders are facing more today than they have and addressing it head on it, and so it’s an important issue. One of the things that we all need to get comfortable with Steve, however, you’re absolutely right. People from diverse backgrounds bring different kinds of experiences in their own lives that they can contribute to the improvement of organizations.

Steve Rush: Without doubt.

Jim Kouzes: Without a doubt. And diversity improves innovation because of those different perspectives.

Steve Rush: Right.

Jim Kouzes: They have different ideas about how to do things, different experiences that inform innovation and creativity. However, it’s going to be more challenging initially to get to where we can perform at a higher level with more diverse groups. Why? Because people don’t know each other that well, we don’t always know because we haven’t asked and we haven’t seen these diverse perspectives. And until we get to a place where we have a better understanding of each other and feel more comfortable with each other, if you do take a look at performance, it tends to decline initially, but then becomes both more a group becomes more innovative and creative and become higher performers in a more diverse setting. Once they have gotten through that period of time of learning more about each other and learning to trust each other.

Steve Rush: I should imagine it’s part of that bumping into some of those unconscious biases, becoming that they’re recognized biases and learning them, and then relearning how the difference can really make a difference.

Jim Kouzes: Absolutely, and one of the things that’s really important in that process is for leaders to listen. One of the things in our research and others is that the more deeply you listen and listen with empathy, the higher the performance as a leader. One of our colleagues, Rich Reynolds at DDI, Development Dimensions International did some research on this topic. And he reported that leaders who master listening, and responding with empathy perform more than 40% higher than those who don’t master, listening, and responding with empathy.

Steve Rush: That’s a massive shift, isn’t it?

Jim Kouzes: Massive.

Steve Rush: I mean, 40% is really tangible.

Jim Kouzes: Absolutely.

Steve Rush: One of the other things that comes out in your work and research over the decades is how passionate you are about purpose and linking, not just purpose to people’s work, but to people’s lives. Tell us a little bit about how that might help me as a leader?

Jim Kouzes: Purpose gives us a reason for doing what we’re doing. It helps us to answer the question, why? Why are you doing what you’re doing? And it also, because we have that sense of purpose increases determination. So, like if we’re clear about where we want to go and what we want in our lives and why we are doing what we’re doing. We’re going to be much more determined, much more dedicated, much more committed. So, organizations, leaders, and organizations that help people both to understand how their purpose fits with the larger organizational purpose and how in this organization, you can live out your personal purpose. We’ll find that employees are significantly more committed. They’re more likely to work together as teams, they see their work is more meaningful. They have a sense that they’re making a contribution. So, it has a lot of positive effects. And in the world of education, interestingly students who have this sense of self-transcendence purpose for learning that is I’m learning this subject matter, not just for me to get a grade and graduate, but for me to make a contribution to others, if they have that sense of self-transcendence purpose for learning, they’re more likely to continue learning when the task is tedious and difficult. So, it has a lot of positive effects, whether it’s at work or whether it’s in the classroom, whether it’s in the community. If I could use an analogy to help people understand this. Think about having to put a jigsaw puzzle together. Let’s imagine we had a box of a thousand pieces, you know, for a jigsaw puzzle.

Steve Rush: Right.

Jim Kouzes: And a leader came along and dumped them on the table in front of us and said, okay, put it together, put this puzzle together and walked away.

Steve Rush: Yeah, I can imagine.

Jim Kouzes: What would be the first thing that you would want to know?

Steve Rush: Why?

Jim Kouzes: Yeah. So why is this important? Anything else you’d like to know, or see?

Steve Rush: What’s the reason I’m going to do it? What am I going to see when it’s done?

Jim Kouzes: What am I going to see when it’s done? Show me the cover of the box top so that I can see the finish puzzle. Then I can have a better sense of what I’m trying to put together. What happens in organizations is people are given a piece of a puzzle, it’s called a job and they’re told, okay, now put this piece in the puzzle without ever being shown the box top, without ever being shown the end result. Consequently, it takes more time, one struggles, has more frustration, often gets into more conflict with other people because they don’t know where they fit. If we would just simply show that box top to people. When we give them a job or talk about their work, it would be more likely that they would be more involved, more committed, more dedicated, and also have a sense that they’re making a contribution to the finished product, to the end result, to the destination the organization, or the team is trying to go in. So, I think for leaders to understand that it’s our natural inclination to want to know where we fit in the overall big picture and what we do fits in that overall big picture. Leaders would be a lot more effective. Unfortunately, only about according to another colleague of ours John Kotter has done research on communicating vision in an organization, did a study and found that only 0.58% of communication market share. If you will, inside an organization is about the vision of the organization.

Steve Rush: Wow.

Jim Kouzes: That’s less than 1%. We figure it needs to be for senior leaders, at least 25% of your time needs to be spent on communicating the larger vision of the organization and where we’re headed, why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Steve Rush: What do you think the reason is that organizations or maybe leaders don’t give it as much attention Jim?

Jim Kouzes: Its very challenging to do, we find in our research. It’s very difficult to master this particular practice, which we call inspire a shared vision. And digging into that and trying to figure out why that is, what we discover is that it’s more about communicating the vision than it is about having it. So, leaders can be very clear in their own minds about where we want to go and what we want to create, but getting it out of their heads and into the heads and hearts of those on their teams is a more challenging effort. So, it’s largely about communication. And so, when thinking about one’s own development as a leader, think about how can I communicate where we are wanting to go in the future, whether it’s a month from now, five years from now, 15 years from now, where we want to go in the future? How can I communicate that in such a way that other people can see themselves in that picture? Let me use another analogy.

I’ll pick a city other than London or San Francisco. When I say Paris, France, what first comes to your mind?

Steve Rush: The Eiffel Tower.

Jim Kouzes: The Eiffel Tower. So that’s a physical place, right?

Steve Rush: Yep.

Jim Kouzes: Did anything else come to mind when you think about Paris?

Steve Rush: Relaxing, coffee, streets, ambiance.

Jim Kouzes: Yep, exactly. Did you pop into your mind the square kilometers or the population of the city of Paris?

Steve Rush: No, not really. Strangely enough. Right?

Jim Kouzes: Those are numbers. Those are those are numbers that, you know, leaders often, when they talk about vision, talk about numbers, they talk about financial outcomes.

Steve Rush: Yeah, that’s right.

Jim Kouzes: They talk about quantities of things. They should be talking about the Eiffel Tower and they should be talking about coffee and walking down the streets and enjoying the museums and the sights of the city and the smells in there. That baguette of bread or the croissant you have in the morning over the cappuccino or espresso, that’s the kind of things leaders need to get comfortable with talking about. It’s not so much about the numbers.

Steve Rush: It’s about the story that’s not been told yet, right?

Jim Kouzes: Yeah, exactly. And what it will be like when we have attained our aspirations as an organization or as a team.

Steve Rush: That’s a really great way of framing it. Thank you for that Jim. I love.

Jim Kouzes: You’re welcome.

Steve Rush: So, you wrote your latest book, Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership. which I love by the way. So, this is how to make a difference, regardless of your title role or authority. And for me, this just absolutely illustrates that leadership is everybody job.

Jim Kouzes: Absolutely. When we initially wrote our first edition, we were talking about managerial excellence and that was what was in our heads. But what we quickly realized was that the stories that people were telling us were not just about being managers in organizations, they were often stories about being the first on a team to ascend a particular mountain peak or what they did in their community or what they did as a coach of a team of young people. And it occurred to us that when people are talking about leadership, they often think just about organizational leadership, just about being a manager, but we didn’t explore it as deeply as we did with this current book. And we just decided that we would write about people who may be managers in another walk of their life, but the stories that they were telling us about their personal best were only about outside of having a title of manager, director, managing director inside an organization.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Jim Kouzes: We also took our data and we have about 5 million people in a database. And we just isolated those individuals who are identified as individual contributors. They didn’t have direct reports, but they were project leaders on teams, or they were people who took initiative inside an organization and emerged as leaders. And we asked those people, they worked with to give feedback to that individual contributor on the same five practices of exemplary leadership using the leadership practices inventory. And we found the identical pattern that we see with those who have managerial positions. And that is the more frequently they, as peers engaged other peers, the more frequently they use the five practices of exemplary leadership, more likely it was that they would be viewed as effective leaders. They would have teams which had hired team spirit. People would feel more committed to the organization. Turnover would be lower. A lot of those same measures, which we would use with managers were also true for individual contributors who lead peers.

Steve Rush: I love that because I’ve been talking about fact that for me, and having my experiences in coaching and working with great leaders around the world. Leadership, isn’t a job title. It’s a behavior, and what you’ve done is quantify that with some real data.

Jim Kouzes: That’s right. We feel exactly as you do; leadership is a set of skills and abilities. It’s a set of behaviors and actions and people are more likely to follow. If you will, more likely to be engaged with leaders who more frequently demonstrate the kinds of practices that other people, when they demonstrate those behaviors are more likely to want to become engaged with a leader in an organization. One of the things though that we also discovered is peer leaders need to work a little bit harder than managers to get the same kind of engagement.

Steve Rush: Interesting, yeah.

Jim Kouzes: So, if you were to look at our bar charts and you would see this perfect up into the right, the more frequently leaders engaged in behaviors, but if a manager can get say 51% of people to feel engaged when they do this at a seven or an eight, it takes a peer leader, a nine and a ten level of frequency to get to that same level. So, you have to work a harder.

Steve Rush: Is that the assumed responsibility that comes with the manager label?

Jim Kouzes: I think, yeah. People assume, well, this person is a manager and they’re my manager. And you know, there’s sort of the role that I’m in, the role that they’re in, I’m supposed to be following this person.

Steve Rush: Hmm.

Jim Kouzes: So, you have the benefit of the position. Whereas with peers, people kind of look and say, well, you’re my peer. Who made you the leader of this project? Who made you the leader of this organization? It’s just a little bit more energy, a little bit more effort into it than you might, if you had the benefit of a title.

Steve Rush: Hmm. Make load of sense. And of course, the whole principle about leadership and you call this out in chapter seven of your book. Is leadership development starts with self-development and that’s where leadership really starts. So, if I was a leader listening to this and I wanted to kind of kickstart that self-discovery of me, if I was a little bit stuck right now, what would be your counsel to me?

Jim Kouzes: Well, the first thing I would recommend you do is to believe in yourself. Now that may sound patently obvious. But one of the things we did find in our research is that people who have a growth mindset, that is a belief that I can learn to lead. I can change my behavior, are more likely to be viewed by others as effective leaders than those who have a fixed mindset.

Steve Rush: Definitely yeah.

Jim Kouzes: So, you need to believe in yourself, you need to believe that you can. And the next thing, if you get over that hurdle and say, yeah, I can grow. I can develop as a leader. What should you do first? I would just suggest that you write a credo memo, that you sit down and clarify for yourself what the values and beliefs are that should guide your actions and decisions.

Steve Rush: I love that, yeah.

Jim Kouzes: What are those five to seven principles that, I should follow and my team should follow? Leaders who are clear about their, what we call leadership philosophy, which is the combination of values and vision together. Are much more likely to be viewed as effectively to the much more likely to have engaged teams. The second thing I’d say is to do the life exercise, L-I-F-E. L is for lessons, I is for ideals, F is for feelings and E is for evidence. What are the lessons that you would like people to say, they learn from you? What are the ideals that you would like people to recognize you believe in? What are the feelings you would like other people to have when they are around you? And what’s the evidence that you have made a difference. I imagine five, ten years from now, you’ve won the leader of the year award. What would those lessons, ideas, feelings, and evidence be that people would talk about? Do that exercise.

Steve Rush: And cognitively of course, having that positive affirmation to start the journey in the right direction, right?

Jim Kouzes: Absolutely. It gives you, what’s called the often in literature, an ideal self. What is your ideal self around these particular dimensions? And then using that framework for yourself to ask yourself and hopefully get some feedback from others and how am I doing right now on that? And what can I do today to act on that so that I make sure that five years, ten years from now, people say those things about me.

Steve Rush: Yeah, love it.

Jim Kouzes: People tell those stories. And so, you create this sense of who you want to become, and that helps you to determine what you need to do to grow and develop. Believing in yourself that you can, and having principles that will guide you along the way. And then I would hire a coach. I would engage in some kind of leadership development activity starting at the earliest possible age.

Steve Rush: So, thinking about yourself, Jim, what is it that keeps you curious? What is it that keeps you so passionate about what you do?

Jim Kouzes: The stories that people tell me. I just enjoy so much hearing when I ask people about, tell me about the time when you were at your best as a leader. What did you do? And people’s eyes light up. They get very expressive. I haven’t found a person who can’t tell me at least one story and each time they say, well I don’t know, you know, personal best, they pause for a moment. But once they get going, once they start to talk about that experience, I can remember a time when I was you know, I was coaching my son’s tennis team and this, and they begin to just get really, really passionate about that. Or I remember the time when, you know, when I was told, no, I had two years to turn the operation around or we were going to shut it down. And that really energized me. And I began to think about all the different things we could do and they just start to be so expressive about that. That’s what keeps me going is the energy I get from other people when they tell those stories.

Steve Rush: And by you translating those stories for others, we connect keeps the fuel and the energy going. Doesn’t it. So, thank you for that.

Jim Kouzes: Yeah. Oh, you’re very welcome. It’s a delight to do it.

Steve Rush: So, I’m going to turn the lens now, a little on you, and this is going to be really challenging for you. Because I suspect of all the guests that we’ve had on the show so far, you have probably experienced much more leadership experiences and challenges throughout your career than most, but I’m going to try and ask you to distill your leadership thinking, your top tips, ideas, or tools down to your top three leadership hacks Jim. What would they be?

Jim Kouzes: Well, I think we already talked about two of them. And I just add would add one more. The credo exercise is a sense of values and beliefs. One of the things that we know is that being clear about personal values leads to higher level of personal commitment. It’s more important to know your own values initially than it is to know the organization’s values. So do that credo exercise, do some exercise where you clarify values and beliefs in the life exercise, which will L-I-F-E, lessons, ideals, feelings, and evidence. Those two hacks will help you get started on creating an ideal self and understanding of your own values.

Steve Rush: Sure.

Jim Kouzes: The third thing I would say is that in every interaction with every person, just ask yourself this question. What can I do in this moment to make the other person with whom I’m interacting, feel more powerful, efficacious, and capable, perhaps more than they even thought they could after this interaction is over?

Steve Rush: Really pretty powerful thought.

Jim Kouzes: If we could all just stop, in particularly as leaders, but just as human beings and say, when I’m interacting with this individual, what can I do to help this person feel better about themselves? To help this person feel more successful, to feel that they’re more capable and more powerful? If people walked away from any leader feeling that way, just imagine how much more they would feel engaged than if they walked away feeling well, I just got put down by my boss or reprimanded or not listened to.

Steve Rush: Yeah. I love that. And very powerful as well in the process.

Jim Kouzes: Absolutely.

Steve Rush: So, you come away feeling not only have you helped somebody, but in doing so, that feeling of gratitude is going to be a self-fulfilling energy boost for us All.

Jim Kouzes: Absolutely.

Steve Rush: The next part of the show plays straight back into ironically, what we talked a little earlier about, which is that learning from adversity, we call it Hack to Attack. So, this is where something in your life or work hasn’t perhaps worked out as well. But you’ve actually used that as a real-life experience that is now a fuel for your work. What would be your Hack to Attack Jim?

Jim Kouzes: Early on in my career, this was probably in the first two, three years. The project I was working on. It was a grant project and it was coming to an end. It was in my dream job. I was just getting started. I was really beginning to find my passion for work and contract was coming to an end. So, I knew I was going to be out of work. I was nervous. I was scared. I was newly married. I looked down the road a couple of months and there was no job opportunity. And I had bills to pay and like just uncertain about what was going to happen to me. And then my supervisor came and told me, he said, I’ve recommended you for a job at San Jose State University. And I didn’t even know where San Jose State University was at the time. I was living in Austin, Texas.

I had to look at a map and see where San Jose California was. And my wife and I noticed it was about 50 miles South of San Francisco. And we said, we’ll take it. I said, I’ll take the job. And we packed up and moved. I didn’t even have a contract to go, but I had some faith that this commitment that was made to me was going to be there when I arrived, you know, to this day, I look back on that and other similar kinds of events. And I learned a very important lesson. Stuff happens.

Steve Rush: Yup.

Jim Kouzes: But if you’ve demonstrated some skill and you have a network of support, good stuff can result.

Steve Rush: Definitely, so.

Jim Kouzes: You know, knowing that by demonstrating enough of a level of competence that other people have confidence in you and building relationships with other people early on can benefit you for a lifetime. I have learned that lesson over and over and over again throughout my career.

Steve Rush: Yeah. I talked to my kids, and I have four kids and two are in work and work, one and two students. And I talked to him about the emotional piggy bank, you know, pay it forward and you know, put deposits in other people’s emotional piggybank. Make them feel good because one day you’re going to get a return on that investment.

Jim Kouzes: Absolutely. And you know, that’s always led me to the number one bit of advice I would give anyone about how to become a better leader.

Steve Rush: Yeah. And the very last thing we get to do, and one of my favorite parts of the show is we get to take you on a bit of time travel and you get to bump into Jim at 21, toe to toe and give Jim some advice. What would it be?

Jim Kouzes: Well just back to that story, because I was a little older than 21, but not by too many years. And that particular situation taught me that you can’t do it alone.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Jim Kouzes: I give that piece of advice to any young person with whom I speak, about what should I do to help myself in my career? What can I do to make sure that I can be successful? And I say, well, first of all, recognize you can’t do it alone. No one who’s ever gotten to the top is a self-made person.

Steve Rush: Very true.

Jim Kouzes: We hear that a lot. This person was a self-made millionaire, but really, you know, all by yourself, nobody else helped you. There was no one else involved. You did it all alone.

Steve Rush: It’s a really interesting cliche, you hear all the time, but it’s completely baloney.

Jim Kouzes: It’s completely baloney. If you recognize that it takes a mentor, it takes a coach, a parent you know, you think back over your own life and think about anything that you accomplished, that’s meaningful to you. And I guarantee you, there were other people involved who committed themselves to you and your success for you to get there.

Steve Rush: Yeah, absolutely right.

Jim Kouzes: You know, with that recognition then you know, I think, you know, during every period of my life where I grew in advanced, I can, you know, I can appoint individually coach, advice, supported, helped me along the way. And with that knowledge, if I had that knowledge previously, I would have benefited from it.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Jim Kouzes: And I think everyone can benefit from just recognizing that, we grow and develop to the extent that we have people who can help us along the way.

Steve Rush: Very much so. So, what’s next for you then, Jim?

Jim Kouzes: Well, Barry and I are meeting on Monday to talk about the seventh edition to The Leadership Challenge and start to outline how it’s going to be different. And because of the pandemic, there are a number of new issues we’re going to tackle. And where are we going to gather the new stories and start taking a look at the data, particularly over the last year and see what else may have changed other than what we’ve already talked about, like around caring and support, for example, or diversity equity inclusion that we might want to address. So, it’s going to be a year-long project to look at the data and interview some more people, particularly during these last 18 months, what they’ve experienced and then do the writing. And sometime in 2023, we should have a new book out.

Steve Rush: Amazing. Amazing. And I should imagine, I already know the answer. I think to this question from when we last met, is there going to be a time we think, right. That’s enough, I’m retiring.

Jim Kouzes: I had 75/25 plan and the pandemic came along and helped me with that. When I turned 75, I was going to cut back to 25% of my time. And I revised that to be 80/20,

Steve Rush: At 80 you still anticipate working 80% of the time?

Jim Kouzes: Yeah. I keep pushing it out. So, but I am dialing it back a bit to, particularly on the business travel, our global travel is a bit tiring and my family, my son is engaged. He was supposed to get married, the pandemic happened, so he and his fiancé are still waiting for the time when people can gather in larger groups. So, we can have a big wedding and celebrate that. So, a lot of family things coming up and hopefully grandkids soon.

Steve Rush: Amazing.

Jim Kouzes: And so, other things are going to be happening in our lives. We know where we want to spend our time.

Steve Rush: Well, you’ve been a massive impact on my life, Jim, and you’ve been a massive impact on millions of people around the world. And now we have an extended family through The Leadership Hacker Podcast. It’s just left for me to say, I’m incredibly grateful for you taking some time out to be with us and part of our community. So, thanks for being on the show,

Jim Kouzes: Well Steve, thank you very much. You are most gracious and I’m delighted to have this opportunity to chat with you.

Steve Rush: Thank you very much, Jim.


Steve Rush: I genuinely want to say heartfelt thanks for taking time out of your day to listen in too. We do this in the service of helping others, and spreading the word of leadership. Without you listening in, there would be no show. So please subscribe now if you have not done so already. Share this podcast with your communities, network, and help us develop a community and a tribe of leadership hackers.

Finally, if you would like me to work with your senior team, your leadership community, keynote an event, or you would like to sponsor an episode. Please connect with us, by our social media. And you can do that by following and liking our pages on Twitter and Facebook our handler there @leadershiphacker. Instagram you can find us there @the_leadership_hacker and at YouTube, we are just Leadership Hacker, so that is me signing off. I am Steve Rush and I have been the leadership hacker.

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