“At its core, leadership is about guiding people on journeys to places they’ve never been before,” said educators and leadership coaches Barry Z. Posner and James M. Kouzes in their book, Making Extraordinary Things Happen in Asia: Applying the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.
For 25 years, Posner and Kouzes have studied team dynamics and executive strategies through surveys and interviews with leaders worldwide. They have distilled their findings in five practices: modeling the way; inspiring a shared vision; challenging the processes; enabling others to act; and encouraging the heart.
“The process of leadership is universal,” they argued, “even though particular applications may be context-specific and appropriate.”
Posner, who in November 2014 spoke to Filipino businessmen at the invitation of the Asian Institute of Management, noted that data from the Philippines show that local leaders “who engage more in these practices result in greater engagement levels.”
Check yourself. Maybe it is time for a change, even if it means letting someone else take the lead. “These days, everybody in the organization should act as if they are a leader,” said Posner. “Every time you do something different—that’s a leadership opportunity.”
1. Set the standard.
It is not nationality, age, gender, education, social status, length of stay in the company, or position that makes workers more productive and happy; it is their leaders. Global respondents said that leadership (averaging 25% to 45%) influences why “people are excited, engaged, and are willing to put discretionary effort into their jobs.”
In Asia, leadership (36%) also weighs in over demographics (0.4%). “It’s not about who they are; it’s about how their leaders behave. No other single variable explains as much about why people engage in the workplace as how their leaders behave,” said Posner, who emphasized leadership by example. “Our actions are far more powerful than anything we say.”
2. Sell your vision.
“Get people to see what you see, and do it in a way that inspires people. Leaders are contagiously enthusiastic—they infect others with their enthusiasm. Every leader is selling something that they are excited about, and they believe it is important not just for themselves but for everybody,” said Posner.
3. Push limits.
“Personal best is always about doing things differently—organizations wherein they are trying to do something that they’ve never done before are the ones that are going to be more successful,” said Posner. “Instead of risking anything new, let’s play it safe by continuing our slow decline into obsolescence—I don’t know if this is the rallying cry in your organization, but it’s not a leadership cry.”
Top-performing teams give each other 5.6 positive comments for every criticism; medium-performing teams average two to one compliments; whereas low-performing teams just blame each other for hiccups, Posner said. Positive feedback helps. “One of the things that keeps people moving forward is the notion that they are making progress. And the highest-performing leaders are more open and caring, more positive, than our low-performing leaders,” he said.
5. Get personal.
Effective leaders pay attention to what matters to people. “When you truly know someone, you recognize them in a way that they personally value, because it’s relevant to what they care about. You need to spend time to get to know people well enough to know what makes a difference for them. And when you do it well, people are more engaged,” said Posner.
6. Listen and empower.
Leaders do not have to be smarter than everyone else, but they have to be cleverer at listening to the ideas around them and learning from the experience of others. “Innovation requires outsight, not just insight; you can see outside yourself,” said Posner.
By listening, you show trust, and this enables your people to feel capable enough to act on their own; the more you trust in others, the more they are likely to follow through on their promises. “Leadership is the ability to help others achieve their personal best—it wasn’t my personal best, it was our personal best. It wasn’t something I did, it’s what we did,” he added.
Johanna is a freelance writer who covers business and lifestyle. She is also the former associate editor of Entrepreneur Philippines magazine. Follow her on Twitter, @jo_poblete.
This article was originally published in the April 2015 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines magazine.