When I look back at the people who had the most impact on my life, whether they knew it or not, they were leaders.

They were testifying.

They stood for something.

At the end of the day, it’s all about leadership. Whether you’re a teacher, CEO, pastor, politician, or parent, it all comes down to leadership.

How do you become a leader, followers want to follow?

I spent several years seeking the elusive answer.

I read numerous books, signed up for newsletters galore, watched videos, etc.

I decided to become a facilitator for The Leadership Challenge (TLC), based on the book by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. (This year is the 25th anniversary.)

The major reason I chose TLC was because the model is based on research.

TLC is not Jim and Barry’s opinions on the subject.

They’ve analyzed and documented thousands of ordinary people who became extraordinary leaders. TLC is case study driven.

Over the last 30 years, The Leadership Challenge™ book has sold 2 million copies and translated into twelve languages. More than 350 doctoral dissertations and academic research projects have been based on the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership™ model.

The five practices are:

1 – Model the Way

As the leader, you need to know who you are. What are your values?

Too many of us walk around trying to be something that we’re not.

The leader embraces authenticity. To do this, they must find their voice. Leaders must set an example of what’s expected and align actions with shared values of the organization.

2 – Inspire a Shared Vision

Once the team believes the messenger, they’re ready to believe the message.

The leader must envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities.

They also must collaborate and enlist others by appealing to shared aspirations. To accomplish the organizational goals, the leader needs buy in from everyone on the team.

3 – Challenge the Process

Leaders don’t believe in the status quo.

They’re constantly looking for innovative ways to improve.

The best leaders know they don’t have all the answers. They look to others including customers, constituents, partners, and even the competition for innovative ways to improve.

They take risks and celebrate the failures and wins along the way.

4 – Enable Others To Act

Extraordinary leadership is built on collaborating with others, building trust, and facilitating relationships.

Leaders bring out the “A” game in every single person. To do this, they put their people in position to win. They get the team the resources they need to get their jobs done.

5 – Encourage The Heart

The best leaders give kudos to everyone else in the organization.

They’re humble and vulnerable.

They give thanks openly, privately, and anonymously.

The best leaders know it’s not about them. It’s about the individuals that make it happen.

Instead of always being in the limelight, the best leaders put others on stage and shine the spotlight on the individual while applauding in the wings.

As I read TLC, I said to myself, “How hard can this be? It’s all common sense.”After many years of coaching and observing leaders, I can tell you, being a leader is a huge challenge.

Some companies, the ones I prefer doing business with, are proactive. They see leadership development as an investment with both a hard and soft ROI.

Most companies however, wait until they’re at the end of their rope to send high potentials to leadership training.

This expense, in their eyes, will fix it all like an “I Dream of Jeannie” episode. It doesn’t work that way! You just don’t send your people to a leadership workshop and expect them to instantly transform your organization.

The secret to becoming a leader followers want to follow, is to practice these principles, day in and day out.


What’s your thought on the model? Which one of the five practices stands out more so than the others?

I encourage you to comment below.

Photo courtesy of David Spinks.


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