It is imperative for any aspiring leader to note that leadership is a basically a relation process that occurs between and among organizational and group members pursuing common objectives and purposes. Effective leadership entails first knowing the nature of styles or traits most appropriate for each specific situations and/or organization. Kouzes and Posner’s approach to leadership is among the leadership models that have been highly significant in the light of contemporary leadership. In A Leaders Legacy, Kouzes and Posner argue that “exemplary leaders are interested more in other people’s success than their own” (Northouse, 2007). Thus the Kouzes-Posner model has a lot to offer in diverse leadership situations which are basically founded on the leader-follower relationships. The results of the Kouzes and Posner leadership challenge survey identified that influence is the key force leading to inspiration; one of the four characteristics admired in leaders to rank over 50%. Why the model is highly applicable in diverse leadership situations is because it addresses every leader’s challenge of making an organization become increasingly coherent and cohesive though empowerment.
The Leadership Challenge Survey
The Kouzes-Posner leadership model was developed through an over 15 years study covering close to 75 thousand participants in over six continents (Kouzes & Posner, 2002). The dual sought to identify a list of key leadership characteristics followers preferred most during their experience of following others, that is, the top seven leader-competencies they adore, admire and would follow willingly. This model has been preferred by most in modern organizations due to the extensive nature and scope of the study involved in its development, its representative of diverse organizations and situations. Additionally, the dual interviewed leaders to identify their character when functioning at their personal best. An important assumption was that they needed not interview key performers in excellent organizations to identify outstanding characteristics but rather concentrated on ordinary individuals to identify extra ordinary experiences and characteristics. The personal-best survey constituted 38 open-ended questions like; “who was the project’s initiator?” and “were there particular strategies and/or techniques applied to get other people into being part of the project?
Every survey would take out about 1-2 hrs of expression and reflection and by 1987, they were done with about 550 of the surveys. They also had administered 80 other short (2 pages) forms to mangers and conducted 42 detailed interviews (Ibid). The study involved senior and middle level managers in the public and private sectors, cover, church leaders, community leaders, government leaders, student leaders as well as many others serving in non-managerial capacities. They were focused on identifying a representation of bold and dynamic action through these cases. For instance, in one case, a firm’s sales volume expanded 5 fold and profits increased by 750% in a 6 years span while in another case, a particular organization influenced the enactment of a legislation aimed at protecting young victims of violence. Participants ranked the characteristics in order of their importance.
An evaluation of the personal-best findings led to the development of Kouzes and Posner leadership model based on five key practices of exemplary leadership: Enabling others to act; Challenging the process; Modeling the way; Encouraging the heart; and Inspiring a shared vision (Ibid). They found out that honesty, competency, forward looking, and inspiration characteristics ranked constantly beyond 50 percent as the most admired (table 1).
Applicability of the Model
The Kouzes-Posner model fits widely and significantly into diverse and modern organizational settings. This is because leading people in the context of contemporary leadership entails among other things the optimization of the opportunities provided by a transformational (which represents a strong emphasis on the leader-follower relationship outcome) approach of leading people as is espoused by this model. According to Waldman et al (cited in Yukl, 2002) any contemporary leadership task calls for the ability to maximize on the leader-outcome relationship dynamics while strengthening the potential of mediators such as self efficacy and trust. The Kouzes-Posner model provides a platform for such abilities. In modeling the way, a leader can create trust among his/her followers by setting the being the first and demonstrating what they need done. While following what their leaders consistently in the process of modeling the way, the followers develop trust in the leaders as they tend to believe in what hey see done than what they just hear. This model is thus very helpful especially in the context of leading change; where trust is paramount. Effective follower performance and trust in the leader are important outcomes of the successful leader. This is because trust establishes responsibility or obligations in the light of the leader to empower or enable their followers to perform, as espoused by the Kouzes-Posner practice that, effective leadership entails enabling others to act. Bass (1990) notes that transformational leadership as represented by this model is universal and hence the reason why the model is increasingly becoming popular in most organizations, as followers shift their focus to leaders who walk their talk: are credible and trustworthy (Kouzes Posenr1993)
This model has been shown thorough research to be consistently effective with regard to follower effectiveness and satisfaction, which is a key obligation in any leadership attempt. This is because when a leader applies the model, they are able to inspire a shared vision through influence as well as “encouraging the heart” thus unleashing the followers’ enthusiasm and consequently productivity. Most task situations rely on the passion exhibited by the followers which is in turn asserted by a leader who is able to apply the five practices described by the Kouzes-Posner model. In this regard, followers are motivated not by reward or fear but by the leaders ideas that get the attention of their imagination. This encompasses more so communicating ones vision in a manner that the followers regard it as their own. Kouzes-Posner model is focused more on the followers’ ability, and thus remains very significant in most of the situations demanding effective leadership. Bass (1990) argues that effective leadership situations are those based on a leader’s articulation of a shared vision, ability to intellectually stimulate followers, as well as demonstrating an individualized concern for the followers. The five key practices of the Kouzes-Posner model are in no doubt the foundation for this strategy.
Kouzes-Posner Model in Project Management
Organizations are increasingly making use of projects as a strategy and tool for driving the effective attainment of common objectives and purpose. The Kouzes-Posner model is particularly an effective strategy to facilitate successful project management (PM). Project management methodologies are widely applied due to their potential in enabling firms to gain an upper hand among competitors. Unfortunately, a number of such projects have not been able to attain the expected outcomes and research has identified that this is largely as result of ineffective leadership practices employed by project leaders or mangers. The Kouzes–Posner Leadership Practices Inventory (LPM) is vital in determining how effectively leaders use the five leadership practices in PM (Kouzes & Posner, 2002). The applicability of this model in the project environment revolves around the ability of a leader to employ the five practices for the sake of a project’s effective outcome. Applying the Kouzes-Posner model enables project managers to challenge the process, whereby leaders get the encouragement to establish an environment that enables them and the followers to challenge the existing standards and boundaries while tackling risks and exploring of innovative solutions. Moreover, by inspiring shared vision, leaders are motivated to envision passionately while communicating a future that is easily embraced and believed by the followers and here a projects success.
In the project management situation, a leader is consequently motivated as he/she enables his/her followers to act and thus they are in a position to accept diverse points of views while creating an environment that gives the followers the freedom to freely accomplish their personal and organizational objectives according to their knowledge and skill level. Using this model, leaders can enhance their impact by establishing clear expectations as they model the way. The Kouzes-Posner model enables leaders to establish and pursue a sense of collective purpose by taking advantage of the correlation between reward and performance (Kouzes & Posner, 2002). This model applies to most leadership situations as it facilitates the fostering of collaboration which improves performance significantly through promoting a sense of mutuality in long-term leader-follower relationships. Moreover, the Kouzes-Posner model creates an environment for reciprocity; which serves as a core process in facilitating cooperation in day-to-day decisions and hence coherence and cohesiveness in team working is enhanced. Today’s leadership requires that one focus on clarity as regards to personal values as a foundation for shared values. Contemporary leadership entails facilitating commitment while recognizing contributions by followers. The Kouzes-Posner model enables leaders to effectively recognize followers in a move to improving their accomplishment and in the end promoting consistent organization and personal progress.
The Kouzes-Posner model enables leaders to find their places in the event of modern management situations which rely greatly on high order leader-follower motivation which is based on service and support rather than on the conventional control and command. Management theory is rapidly transforming from the tradition notion of control of resources: materials, time and people. Such is the basis for collegial leadership which is increasingly becoming an effective approach to leading PM. According to Kouzes and Posner (2002), collegial leadership is founded on mutual relationship, consensus and trust guiding the relationships between leaders and followers. In this regard, the Kouzes-Posner model is widely applicable as it fosters a strong understanding of job expectations while also fostering teamwork which focuses on a consensus in shared values.
With the advent of small to medium enterprises in many parts of the world, there is a need for a leadership model that is developed from the ordinary experiences such as the Kouzes-Posner model which was is “not just about the private reserve of few charismatic individuals but rather an ordinary people’s process as they focus on optimizing their best as well as that of their followers” (Northouse, 2007), that is, liberating the capacity for leadership in all people so as to have extraordinary things done. This is especially important in the small to medium organizations. This is because such organization’s leadership philosophy is rapidly moving from the concept of power as an entitlement to leadership to a philosophy where leaders engage in power sharing with their followers to flatten hierarchies essential for successful PM.
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Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2002). The leadership challenge (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA:
Northouse, G. P. (2007). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE
Yukl, G. (2002). Leadership in organizations (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
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