The Leadership Challenge – How To Make Extraordinary Things Happen

The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner is considered to be the bible who wants to be a great leader. The book describes what it takes to become a great leader.

Why Leadership is everyone’s business?


“I don’t need leadership skills because I am not a manager.”

This is the general perception when it comes to leadership skills. Whenever we hear the word “Leadership”, the first thing comes to our mind is a person who is working in a corporate, trying to lead a group of people to meet targets. Although this stands true, however, it is not limited to corporate alone.

A leader is like a role model, someone who has followers. To understand what people think of leadership, Euromonitor International’s Global Youth surveyed 16000+ people from 15 different countries. According to the survey, 46% of people consider their parents as the role model. Business Leader, as a role model, comes on the third number with 23%. That makes leadership everyone’s business.

Just because you have been promoted to a managerial position, or you have become a parent, or you are the eldest person in the house, doesn’t make you a leader. You have to establish yourself as a credible person before asking others to follow you. Leadership has more to do with social influence, and less with authority or power.

Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders – MICEE Mode

  • Model the way 
  • Inspire a shared vision 
  • Challenge the process  
  • Enable others to act 
  • Encourage the heart

We can remember these traits using a story –

During the 17th century, a captain named Jack was famous for discovering hidden treasures. One day, when he was on a quest, a bomb cyclone hit his ship. He lost his entire crew and the ship. Somehow Jack survived and ended up on a small island. While he was on the food hunt, he found a treasure map. Jack starts dreaming about that treasure but he can’t do this alone.

Further down we will see how Jack can use MICEE model to find treasure.

Before Jack starts assembling his new crew, he needs to verify the legitimacy of the map and believe in that treasure is for real. Once Jack is convinced, he can start recruiting others to join his crew. Because Jack is an experienced captain who has a reputation for locating treasures, he was able to convince and recruit people in no time. His crew members are willing to risk lives because they believed Jack.

M – Model The Way

  • Walk The Talk – is the most important trait which a great leader possesses. Before a leader convince others to believe in something and act upon it, does he himself truly believe in it? Does his action align with thoughts? If Jack himself is not sure about the legitimacy of the map, he will have a hard time convincing others.
  • Clarify Values And Objective – A great leader has clear values and beliefs. All team member shares the common objective and is united by a common goal. In this case, it is the treasure. He sets examples by aligning actions with a shared goal, which he is doing by getting a new ship and recruiting the crew. A leader listens to his team’s feedback and speaks with good intent. During the journey, Jack will face a lot of challenges. He alone will not have a solution to every problem. He might need to take his crew help to find solutions. 

Top 3 Traits Which People Look For In Their Leader

  • Honesty – Why would you follow someone if you suspect that they were lying or trying to trick you? What would his crew do if they get to know that Jack lied to them about the treasure? Probably, his crew members will form a gang to kill Jack and overtake the ship, as we see in movies.
  • Competent – Does that person has the necessary skill set to lead the group? Think about it, if Jack would have been a farmer and he is trying to recruit a crew for the treasure hunt, then, he would have a hard time convincing others to join him.
  • Inspiring – Can he inspire others to dream about it? A team without inspiration can only achieve ordinary results and with the inspiration, they can achieve extraordinary things.

I – Inspire A Shared Vision

A great leader imagines the possibilities and finds a common purpose. The crew will follow his leader because all of them have a common purpose – to locate the treasure. Once they find the treasure, Jack and crew will divide the treasure between themselves. At least, this is what Jack initially claims.

C – Challenge The Process

A great Leader is always on the continuous lookout for new opportunities to do things in different ways. Ideas can be found at unexpected places and from anyone regardless of demographics, religion and politics. They keep experimenting with new ideas and taking the risk. For example – Treasure Map is a puzzle. There is no step by step instructions on how to obtain the treasure. On the journey, they might have to try new methods, challenge common stereotypes and myths. When the entire crew and captain stuck in a situation, sometimes, a person like a cook who is far below in the rank or a bird can offer a solution. A great leader keeps in ears and eyes open.

E – Enable Others To Act

Leaders are well aware of the fact that by working alone they can’t achieve what they are gunning for. A leader has to foster collaboration by building trust and strengthening others by developing competence. For example – Jack, alone can’t go on the quest to find the treasure. Jack will be needing a team of skilled people who are willing to work alongside to fulfill his goals using their competencies. He will be needing the help of people who can sail, cook food, help him in navigation etc. He will encourage his team to work in tough conditions and challenge the status quo.

E – Encourage The Heart

A leader recognizes the contributions of his team by showing appreciation for individual excellence. They celebrate small and big victories by creating a spirit of community.

If everything goes as planned and Jack uses MICEE mode that will be much easier for him to find the treasure.

As Robin Sharma says – “Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.”

Prabhjot Singh

Prabhjot Singh

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