Sunday, December 9, 2007

Quick Leadership Test - Are you a we or me leader?

A book that I have wanted to read since last spring was The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. More recently, I was reminded by the "Top Five Leadership Book" recommendations by fellow leadership blogger Ron Hurst at the MaterialLeadership blog. This was a book I had to read.

I connected with the book almost immediately in chapter one while reading about the "we" test for leadership.

Readers of this blog might sense that I like simple concepts. Simple concepts are ideas that resonate with a straightforward definition, a life hack, a list, or a quick test. I love to carry a few of these simple concepts in my pocket as a quick reference guide to good leadership. A simple concept inspires me and serves as a reminder that won't get lost in the complexity of everyday living.

Kouzes and Posner's "we" test for leadership is a perfect example of a simple concept.

In chapter one, Kouses and Posner introduce the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. The fourth practice cited by Kouzes and Posner is "Enable Other to Act." As they write,
Exemplary leaders enable others to act. They foster collaboration and build trust.
This is an idea that is perfectly consistent with the "Build Community" principle of Quiet Leadership. It was the "we test" that resonated with me. Here is their test:
Leadership is a team effort. After reviewing thousands of personal-best cases, we developed a simple test to detect whether someone is on the road to becoming a leader. That test is the frequency of the use of the word "we." In our interview with Alan Keith, for instance, he used the word "we" nearly three times more often then the word "I" in explaining his personal-best leadership experience.
It's a simple concept. "We" is the leadership pronoun.

The test is simple. When you review your work or provide a status report to your manager, are you using the leadership pronoun.

I had previously recognized the "we" concept in my June post that recognized former President Eisenhower as a quiet leader. Historian and author Stephen Ambrose stated,

Eisenhower never used the word "I". It was always "we," except one time when he wrote out the message that would be handed to the press in the event the landings failed. And there he used the personal vertical pronoun, it's my fault, I did it. Otherwise it was always "we".

Its a proven idea and a simple concept that resonates. Are you a "we or me" leader? We is the leadership pronoun.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.

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