Organization & Leadership Consulting

What Does a Leader Actually Do, Anyway?

Leadership Development. Team Development. Organizational Development. 

Those are the things that effective leaders do, ideally in that order. Research validates the order. In reality, most of it occurs in a cyclical manner that appears simultaneous and in some ways is. For an organization to develop well, it needs effective teams and groups. For teams and groups to develop well, they need effective leadership.

The central question driving this train of thought is — What does effective leadership, done well over time, look like? The answer is reasonably simple. Simple is not necessarily easy. 

TurningWest consultants use a framework developed by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. It is clearly explained and illustrated in their book, The Leadership Challenge, now in its seventh edition. Several members of our team agree that almost everything written or taught on leadership falls within one or more of their Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership

At the core, what credible, passionate leaders do is represented within these Five Practices. Along with their Ten Commitments, they are:

Model the Way

  • Clarify values by finding their voice and affirming shared values.
  • Set the example by aligning actions with shared values.

Inspire a Shared Vision

  • Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities.
  • Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.

Challenge the Process

  • Search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and looking outward for innovative ways to improve.
  • Experiment and take risks by consistently generating small wins and learning from experience.

Enable Others to Act

  • Foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships.
  • Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence.

Encourage the Heart

  • Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence.
  • Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.

There are two reasons we recommend to our clients that they use this framework in their work with us and as they implement their own in-house leadership development processes. 

  1. We’ve read hundreds of books and articles on leadership and agree that all of them are essentially different ways of illustrating and equipping people to understand and live out one or more of the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. As a framework, they provide an easily remembered set of common languages.
  1. The findings and interpretations within the book and related resources are validated by over 30 years of research across thousands of organizations worldwide. These are universal principles.

Leadership Development is a process. Leadership training is a series of events. Those events can be folded into a process but events alone are mere data points. It is what leaders do with those data points, in the context of relationships, that makes the difference. The authors go one step further in simplifying what leaders do. They summarize their research by stating:

“Leadership is about relationships. 

Leadership is not an affair of the head. 

Leadership is an affair of the heart.”


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