page title icon Five Exemplary Leadership Practices: How To Be an Exemplary Leader

“Leadership is not about personality; it’s about behavior—an observable set of skills and abilities.”

What do effective leaders do when they’re at their personal best? Our guest today has done all the research, and he outlines five exemplary leadership practices that leaders display when they’re at their personal best:

  1. Model the way
  2. Inspire a shared vision
  3. Challenge the process
  4. Enable others to act
  5. Encourage the heart

In this episode, Jim Kouzes sheds light on the five exemplary leadership practices and how leaders can use them to overcome the most difficult challenges.

Jim Kouzes was born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he and his younger brother, Dick, enjoyed building tree forts, riding bikes, catching frogs and snakes, mowing lawns, delivering newspapers, and swimming at the local YMCA. As they got older Dick entered science fairs on his way to becoming a nuclear physicist, and Jim entered forensics competitions on a path to teaching and human resource development. 

Their parents both began their lives in the Midwest, but migrated to Washington, DC  to find jobs during the Great Depression. After WWII their dad spent his entire career as a dedicated U.S. Civil Servant, starting as a file clerk and eventually becoming Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor. Their mom actively volunteered for community, including the United Nations Association, and civil rights organizations. Her passion for world peace led her to invite over 50 foreign students to live in their family home for a year or more. The exposure to civil service, different cultures, and civil rights was an early awakening to the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Both brothers were Boy Scouts and earned the rank of Eagle, which later led to a pivotal moment in Jim’s life. On January 20, 1961 Jim was one of a dozen Eagle Scouts to serve in John F. Kennedy’s Honor Guard at his Presidential Inauguration. Kennedy’s words at that inauguration, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” inspired Jim to join the Peace Corps. His service in Turkey led him to change his aspiration from becoming an Ambassador to teaching others how to more effectively live and work together.

When Jim returned to the United States in 1969, he joined a consulting firm in Austin, Texas that worked with Community Action Agencies developing interpersonal skills. In 1972 he was recruited by the School of Social Work at San Jose State University to direct a grant project providing team-building interventions to local mental health agencies. There he met the Dean of the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University and was recruited to direct its Executive Development Center. The first person he met at the Leavey School was a young assistant professor, Barry Posner, and the two of them discovered they had common interests in corporate culture and leader behavior. Those common interests resulted a research project on Personal Best Leadership Experiences and their first book, The Leadership Challenge. Their 40-year research and writing collaboration continues to this day. Together they have produced over a dozen original and award-winning books and numerous designed learning experiences. 

Jim left Santa Clara University in 1988 to serve as President of TPG/Learning Systems and eventually became CEO and chairman of the Tom Peters Company where he served until 2000. Since then, Jim’s been traveling the globe speaking, coaching, and conducting evidence-based leadership development programs. He is the recipient of numerous honors including the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) 2009 Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance Award, and The Wall Street Journal has cited Jim as one of the twelve best executive educators in the U.S. 

Jim is married to Tae Kyung Kouzes, an organizational and industrial psychologist who specializes in executive assessment and coaching. They reside in the San Francisco Bay Area. His stepson, Nicholas Lopez, is a screenwriter and lives in the Los Angeles area.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @Jim_Kouzes get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow – Click to Tweet

“Leaders who follow through with their promises have more engaged employees, and those employees follow through themselves with their end user customers because of the behavior demonstrated by their leaders.” – Click to Tweet

“The more leaders engage in exemplary leadership behaviors, the more engaged employees will be; the more engaged employees are, the more likely it is that customers will be satisfied.” – Click to Tweet

“One hop at a time.” – Click to Tweet

“Leadership is not about just getting to the top of the mountain. You don’t fly to the top of any mountain. You do it one hop at a time.” – Click to Tweet

“You can’t do it alone.” – Click to Tweet

“Leadership is a team sport, and you are working with other people. It’s a relationship – it’s the quality of that relationship that’s going to determine the quality of your leadership.” – Click to Tweet

Advice for others

  1. You can’t do it alone.
  2. When interacting with other people, ask yourself one question: “What can I do in this interaction to make sure that that person feels more competent, more powerful, more efficacious, better about themselves after this interaction than they did before.”

Holding him back from being an even better leader

Adapting to the virtual requirement of remote leadership.

Best Leadership Advice

You can’t do it alone.

Recommended Reading

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations

Links and Resources

Leadership Challenge website: 

Jim’s Twitter: 

Jim’s LinkedIn: 

Fast Leader Show on YouTube: 

Fast Leader Show on Apple Podcast: 

Fast Leader Show on Facebook:  

Fast Leader Show on Twitter:  

Fast Leader Show on LinkedIn:  

Check out other episodes on effective leadership:

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