The third Practice of Exemplary Leadership from The Leadership Challenge is to challenge the process. Kouzes and Posner assert that “leaders search for opportunities to change the status quo. They look for innovative ways to improve the organization.” Within organizations, we often assume we have a “people problem” when what we really have is a “process problem.” Your organization might have fantastic people and terrible processes, which prevents your staff from achieving their full potential.
Strong leaders never accept the old excuse “that’s the way we’ve always done things around here.” They are constantly looking for a better process, a way to get the best from those they lead. Rather than accepting the status quo, good leaders challenge it with solutions that will improve attitudes, productivity, and results.
As part of challenging the process, the authors of The Leadership Challenge identify two commitments:
- Search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve.
- Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience.
Leaders don’t wait for others to bring them ideas or complain about existing process problems. They take initiative and seek information to improve processes. They start by improving themselves because good leaders work on themselves first and their people second. They recognize that learning is a lifelong process and that every person and process has areas that can be improved.
The best leaders create wins along the way because they recognize the role that small successes play in individual and organizational morale. They also understand that everyone makes mistakes from time to time; thus, they admit to their own failures and accept them as learning opportunities, and they graciously forgive the mistakes of others.
Challenge Questions for Today:
- Do you accept the status quo? When was the last time you challenged a process?
- Are you willing to take risks?
- Are you looking for innovative ways to improve yourself and/or your organization?
Check back with us next Friday where we will explore the fourth Practice of Exemplary Leadership, Enable Others to Act. Have a fabulous weekend! Spend some time reflecting on how you can be the leader you’re called to be.
Source: Kouzes, J.M. and Posner, B.Z. (2002). The leadership challenge. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.