Ordinary Leaders – Extraordinary Leadership

Leadership Practices Inventory Assessment

One of the requirements for my post-grad program in organizational leadership was to take an inventory to evaluate my own leadership practices. The results were predictable for an ordinary leader; I scored pretty well in some areas and not as well in others. But in one category my scores tanked!

What do I do?

I’ll try harder, but odds are not so high that I’ll ever excel in this area when leading others. Is there any hope for those who are led by ordinary leaders to experience extraordinary leadership?

The Leadership Practices Inventory

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have developed an evaluative tool called The Leadership Practices Inventory. This Inventory is arguably the most trusted instrument available to evaluate exemplary leadership practices. It measures a leader’s behavior in five categories:

  1. challenging the process,
  2. inspiring a shared vision,
  3. enabling others to act,
  4. modeling the way, and
  5. encouraging the heart.

Encourage the Heart

The results of my Inventory were pretty predictable. My scores were acceptable in several categories. I could even brag about my ability to “challenge the process.” But the ugly one was “encouraging the heart.” According to Kouzes and Posner, excellent leaders “encourage the heart” by paying attention to the best efforts of others and celebrating their accomplishments. I’d like to claim this leadership characteristic, but the Inventory called me out. Moreover, when I discussed my Inventory with the team I was leading, they say, “Yep, that’s you.”

But that’s not the end of the story.

Limited Leadership Capacity

Most leaders have limited capacity; we do well in some aspects of leadership and are challenged in others. But it is likely that we lead individuals who excel in the categories where we come up short. This was the case for me. After confirming this weakness in my leadership, I approached the team and said, “I’m going to focus on improving my ‘encouraging the heart’ skills, but we all know that Jim is a natural in this area. Let’s look to Jim to help our team recognize our best efforts and celebrate our accomplishments.”

And it happened! Jim gladly assumed this natural role for him. And the team experienced a new level of excellence as leadership was shared among ordinary leaders.

Extraordinary leaders are rare, but extraordinary leadership is within reach for most of us – if we share it.

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