The Leadership Challenge Continues

Kouzes, Jim

Jim Kouzes is a bestselling author, an award-winning speaker and, according to the Wall Street Journal, one of the twelve best executive educators in the United States.

Jim Kouzes has been thinking about leadership ever since he was one of only a dozen Eagle Scouts to be selected to serve in John F. Kennedy’s honor guard when Kennedy was inaugurated President of the United States. Kennedy’s inaugural call to action —“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” — inspired Jim to join the Peace Corps, and he taught school in Turkey for two years. That experience made Jim realize that he wanted a career that offered two things: the chance to teach and the opportunity to serve. It was in his first job back in the U.S. where Jim trained community action agency managers that he found his calling. Jim has devoted his life to leadership development ever since.

Currently Jim is Dean’s Executive Fellow of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, at Santa Clara University, and also lectures on leadership around the world to corporations, governments, and nonprofits. Jim Kouzes is the co-author with Barry Posner of The Leadership Challenge which now has over 2 million copies sold and is available in 22 languages.

Jim and Barry have some new ebooks: Great Leadership Creates Great Workplaces, Finding the Courage to Lead, and Student Leadership Challenge. Their latest book is Turning Adversity into Opportunity, and is coming out later this year in June.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Can you tell us a little bit about some of your ebooks maybe start with Great Leadership Creates Great Workplaces?

Jim Kouzes: I’d be delighted. We wrote that ebook really because we were interested in providing people with our evidence on engagement. We wanted to answer the questions of how leaders can inspire employees to higher levels of engagement that drive strong results across the board. So we drew on our over 30 years of research and data from over 2 million constituents around the world. That’s 2 million so that’s a pretty big database and it’s global–over 72 different countries. We looked at how the 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership, which is our model and our framework for leadership, impacted employee engagement. That ebook addresses that topic.

The second ebook we wrote recently was on courage; Finding the Courage to Lead. Very similar to the recent book that Cathy has written, it took a look at what leaders do when their values and a difficult, stressful situation come into contact with each other. What is it that leaders do to be courageous?

The third book, which hasn’t yet been published and is scheduled to come out in June is Turning Adversity into Opportunity. It builds on the courage ebook where we take a look at specific strategies for resilience, you might say, for how you take an adverse situation and turn it into an opportunity.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I know you have a couple of other books that you’d like to talk about.

Jim Kouzes: The other book that we recently came out with is the Student Leadership Challenge, the 2nd edition, a new and expanded edition. The model of leadership is the same; The 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership. But the case examples are all about student leaders and the book is used primarily in undergraduate classes and co-curricular activities at university level and a little bit at the high school level to help students gain an appreciation of their own power and strength as leaders and to learn some skills and competencies on how to improve their leadership practices in the kinds of activities in which they’re engaged; athletics, clubs, associations, fraternities, sororities, community activities at the high school and college level.

Dr. Relly Nadler: It sounds like some of your new book is around finding the courage to lead and then engagement with great leadership. What are some of the challenges around adversity and sometimes they call it “the whitewater” metaphor of rapids that we are in today for leaders to manage that much adversity?

Jim Kouzes: The “whitewater.” Not too long ago normal meant stable, right? Normal meant slow and steady; normal meant you could predict what is going to happen tomorrow based on what happened today or what happened yesterday. The world is very much different these days and we need to get used to that. There is no turning back and in today’s reality normal means adversity, normal means turbulence, normal means disruption, normal means chaos, it means expect the unexpected. You can’t predict tomorrow’s winners based upon today’s successes. Normal means improvisation, it means changing quickly according to the circumstances.

All of these kinds of changes in the nature of the climate and what we are doing—not that it didn’t exist in the past, it’s just become more compressed in time. Some people are able to handle those kinds of situations very adeptly, others are not. What we wanted to do was offer six strategies for how people can better lead in those kinds of circumstances.

Dr. Relly Nadler: We were talking about the new normal, which really is adversity. One of your new ebooks, Finding the Courage to Lead, and sounds like your newest one may also have an outgrowth of that, and then you just mentioned six strategies. I think our listeners would be interested in knowing those. What have you found that can help us and can help leaders with adversity?

Jim Kouzes: Six strategies, Relly, that we write about in this book are really an extension of one of the Practices primarily which we call Challenge the Process. The six strategies that we have identified that would help leaders to turn adversity into opportunity–all of us are leaders in our own environments in some way or another whether it’s family or community or school–and how we can all take an adverse circumstance and turn that into an opportunity. The six strategies are:

    1. Broaden the context to broaden the perspective.
    2. Deny the verdict.
    3. Fully commit to what is important.
    4. Take charge of change.
    5. Engage others.
    6. Show you care.


Learn more about the six strategies and how to implement them with Jim Kouzes along with turning adversity into opportunity. What are some of the biggest challenges today for leaders? Get tips and tools to tune-up your performance, listen to the complete recording above.


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