During decades of work in this field I’ve seen many new approaches burst on the scene only to fade away. I have dozens of studies in my database library showing the high failure rates of these “hot” programs. What’s most important when dealing with change and turbulence is not to be on the leading edge of thought or fashion, or spouting buzzwords and jargon that will be outdated within a few months.
The key to effectiveness is implementing what works. And what works is the tried, true and proven. But even that only works if you put it into action.
Now Jim Kouzes and Barry Poszner, two leaders in the field of leadership development, have “sifted through the reams of data that had piled up over three decades and isolated those nuggets that were soundly supported by the numbers.” The result is their new book,
The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know. Their goal in writing this book was “to record those enduring leadership truths that we learned over the years. We also wanted to make certain that the lessons we included in The Truth About Leadership withstood not only the test of time but also the scrutiny of statistics…this is a collection of the real thing— no fads, no myths, no trendy responses — just truths that endure.”
If you visit the Amazon page for The Truth About Leadership you can watch a two and half minute video with both authors explaining some of the book’s core concepts. Nothing faddy or full of jargon and buzzwords. Jim and Barry outline powerful truths into the enduring qualities and skills of strong leaders.
Further down that page is a Q & A section with the authors. Here’s part of their explanation for the origins of this book:
“Shortly before we began writing this book, we had the chance to share the platform at an association meeting with renowned author and leadership educator Ken Blanchard. In responding to an audience question, one of us was saying, ‘I don’t know what you call something that’s been the same for twenty-five years, but. . .,’ and Ken interrupted with, ‘I’d call it the truth!’
It was a moment of clarity. It reinforced our sense that some things about leadership just don’t change that much over time, if at all, and that those things need to be understood for what they are—the truth.”
The authors’ research led them to ten enduring “truths” about leadership. Each one forms a chapter:
1. You make a difference
2. Credibility is the foundation of leadership
3. Values drive commitment
4. Focusing on the future sets leaders apart
5. You can’t do it alone
6. Trust rules
7. Challenge is the crucible for greatness
8. You either lead by example or you don’t lead at all
9. The best leaders are the best learners
10. Leadership is an affair of the heart
I’ll admit to lots of bias in enthusiastically supporting their search for what works rather than what’s new. And I am delighted to see their findings or Ten Truths align so strongly with my own work especially The Leader’s Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success.
What’s new in leadership is clearly the wrong question. It’s often motivated by a search for a quick and easy fix. The key to increasing effectiveness is asking – and practicing – what works.