by V. S. Ravi Elangkoh

Team - group carrying a globeWe conclude the third part of our series on “The 10 Commitments of Exemplary Leadership”, as presented by world-renowned leadership researchers James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in their bestselling book, The Leadership Challenge. In the previous two parts, we learnt how the first six commitments can help leaders to model the way, inspire a shared vision, and challenge the process. In Part 3 here, let us consider how the final four commitments can enable others to act, and encourage the heart.

[Note: You may like to read or re-read Part 1 and/or Part 2.]

Practice 4: Enable others to act

Commitment 7:
Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust.

Commitment 8:
Strengthen others by sharing power and discretion.

It takes a team to make your unit/department/organization a success. Thus exemplary leaders are those who are able to marshal their people’s capabilities into effective action. Leaders achieve this by getting their team’s cooperation, which is gained through two-way trust.

I say “two-way trust” because it is not just a matter of them trusting you to be their leader. It is also a matter of you trusting them to do their jobs well and entrusting them with greater responsibilities.

Your willingness to assign your people greater responsibilities and power shows them that you trust and value their judgment and sense of discretion. As your people exercise their new-found boundaries of power and discretion, and get to flex their leadership muscles regularly, they develop greater leadership prowess, thus increasing your organization’s overall bench strength.

Practice 5: Encourage the heart

Commitment 9:
Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence.

Commitment 10:
Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.

One of the greatest failures of poor leaders is to deprive their people of credit when credit is due. Not only is it already discouraging for employees to be ignored when they have done well, it is even more demoralizing when someone else steals the credit, and especially so if it is the boss who is the one that unfairly takes the credit when he of all people should have known better. There is no faster way to disable your team from acting and getting results than to crush their morale like this!

Instead, show true appreciation for your people’s efforts and achievements, not through mere lip service but through genuine affirmative actions. True appreciation is not limited to awarding staff accolades during annual company dinners or having a celebration at the end of a project’s completion – that’s the easy part!

But beyond that, true appreciation also means having the political will to remove existing obstacles that impede employees’ success by making the right policy changes or organizational reforms. Doing so will show that the organization seriously cares and wants their people to succeed.

People become more passionate when they are touched on an emotional level; hence, their enthusiasm, commitment and performance at work will naturally stay at optimal levels. In this way, you keep your staff motivated, and that’s half the battle won!

[Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan]