The Leadership Challenge is probably the most significant body of research on leadership on the planet. Coauthored by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, it is considered as the Bible of the extreme leadership research world. Joining Steve Farber on the show today is none other than Jim Kouzes. A highly regarded leadership scholar and an experienced executive, Jim was the first guy that that talked about love as being the foundation of leadership. He expounds his idea of love, leadership, and credibility, and shares why he began bringing them to the forefront.
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Leadership, Love, And Credibility: An Intimate Conversation With Jim Kouzes
My guest is Jim Kouzes. I’m going to tell you a little bit about Jim. I’ll give you his bio, but I’m going to do a preamble to the bio. The word mentor is a word that gets tossed around a lot nowadays, and I’ve heard people use it in a lot of different contexts like, “So and so is my mentor. I read their books and they had a big impact on my life.” That’s great, but that’s not exactly what I would describe as a mentor. To me, being a mentor is something much more personal. I wrote about this in my book, Greater Than Yourself. Mentorship is a deeply personal interaction, not just a conveyance of knowledge through any medium, but as something that involves a deep relationship. Jim is the most significant mentor in my career. We first met at the Tom Peters Company, a place that I joined in 1994. For the uninitiated among you, Jim Kouzes, his claim to fame is that he’s the co-author with Barry Posner of The Leadership Challenge. This is not an exaggeration, nor is it a cliché, the Bible of the Extreme Leadership research world.
It is probably the most significant body of research on leadership on the planet that they’ve been conducting for many years. The Leadership Challenge, their flagship book is in its 6th edition. It’s sold over two and a half million copies. He’s a fellow at the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University. He’s a co-authored over a dozen books. He is the co-author as well of The Leadership Practices Inventory. I don’t know if is the most widely used assessment tool for leadership, but if it’s not, it’s pretty close. He’s gotten all kinds of accolades, one of the greatest leadership, advisors, coaches and educators on the planet. That is not an exaggeration. Jim and I met and in 1994 when Jim was serving as the president of Tom Peters Company. He was the guy that interviewed me and ultimately hired me to join the team there. That sent me off on a new trajectory in my career, which has been, needless to say and quite an understatement, an extraordinary series of events for me personally. Jim, it’s my great honor and pleasure to welcome you to the show.
Steve, thank you. Thanks for that gracious introduction. I am honored to have been your mentor and now you are mine. One of the things I’m trying to learn more about, although we will talk a lot about how this all got started is love and leadership. We wrote about that many years ago, but it’s become more salient, more important, more significant. You’re the guy who had the guts to write the book, Love Is Just Damn Good Business. You are now the expert that I need to learn from.
Thank you. That’s nice of you to say. Although we all know that being an expert goes way beyond publishing a book and a subject. It doesn’t automatically qualify one, unfortunately. I want to delve into this subject of love. I want to give a personal historical context. I have a little stack of books and I pull these off my shelf. I’ve moved a couple of times once in the last years. Since my days at the Tom Peters Company and these books that followed me everywhere. I’m going to give you a little tour. I’ll describe it. The first edition of your book with Barry Posner is called Credibility.
This book came out around 1993, which was around a year before I joined the Tom Peters Company. When I was in the early stages of talking with you and the team, this was the book that I read first. I still have my original Post-It notes with all of the high highlighted margins and notes as I was originally becoming your student. Before I joined the company, our mutual friend, Jenny Nichols, who is the one that introduced me to you, gave me a copy of this book that you had signed for me. Here’s what it said, “Steve, with great respect and admiration for your talent and best wishes for your future,” which followed shortly by joining you at the company.
Thank you for those best wishes and also the incredible leg up. The next book that I want to share with you is an edition of The Leadership Challenge. This particular edition came out in right around the time that I joined the company, it’s 1995 edition. Right at the time when this book came out, after having been at the company for a year, you had asked me to join the executive team as vice president of training. I want to read your comment, “Steve, congratulations on being the “best damn trainer” I’ve ever seen” I think you were quoting Tom Peters.
“You are number one in my book, and you’re about to become the number one training industry executive. I’m honored to be on your team. Stay in love Jim, September 1995.” I know this show is beginning to sound like this is all about my journey. Your influence on my journey is so significant that I want to indulge me for another couple of minutes because the next book is a book that came after I had left the company. It was then my last year or so at the company. He came out in 1999. It’s a book that, whose ideas have deeply influenced my perspective on love and business.
It’s a book called Encouraging the Heart. You used an example from one of my clients in this book and your inscription here says, “Steve, thank you for being what we write. Your personal example uplifts and inspires always stay in love, Jim.” This was a while, after that, I’d gone off on my own. I’d spread my wings and wrote my first couple of books and had written three books by this point and had established a bit of a name for myself in a body of work. This book came out. This was the next edition of Credibility that came out in 2011. You say, “Steve, thank you for your gracious and generous endorsement. You uplifted our spirits. Thanks for making us greater than ourselves. Love them and lead them.”
This is full circle because in this book I contributed an endorsement on the book cover. We go full circle from best wishes for your future writing at writing a damn blurb on my mentor’s book. That’s the arc of our journey Jim. I want you to know how significant your influence has been on me. You were the first guy that I had ever heard that talked about love as being the foundation of leadership. That’s what opened my eyes to it. That’s what essentially focused my lens. I began to look for that more intentionally and that led to my entire body of work, which all about that. I’d love to know your perspective on this idea of love and where you first got that spark, and why you began to bring it to the forefront.
Steve, thank you. You can keep on talking about me if you like. It’s joyful. It tells me how much I miss you and the opportunity to be with you and have this time to chat. This is a pleasure. I was reflecting on this because I knew we were going be talking about this topic of love and that is just damn good business. I was reflecting on the first time I heard someone talk about love and business. It wasn’t any of the people from our books. It was my early mentor in the field, a guy named Roger Harrison. I don’t know if I ever talked to you about him. Roger was an early mentor of mine. I met him about a year after I moved to California, he lived in Berkeley at the time. He was originally a professor and went on to found his own training company, Positive Power & Influence was his original body of work with Dave Burlew, who was a student of McClellan’s at Harvard.
That was the first opportunity I had to do a design learning experience in California back in 1972 at San Jose State University. Over the eight years or so that I was there, I worked with Roger. In a transition year, ‘79 to ’80, I went into business with Roger. Roger made a comment early on that always stuck with me. He said that “Love is made necessary by the fact that there’s no such thing as an independent life.” That stuck with me because in subtle ways that I wasn’t aware of consciously, but when we wrote our first book on leadership, Barry Posner and I, we talked about leadership as a relationship. Making that connection between Roger’s early influence on love is made necessary by the fact that there’s no such thing as an independent life.
For me, that arises from the recognition of that fundamental connectedness helps tie together the whole notion of leadership as a relationship. Why love is so important to leadership is because it’s a relationship that implies connectedness that leaders are not independent of followers, they are connected to followers. You can’t understand leadership without understanding that relationship between followers and leaders. Some of that comes through in the book Credibility, when we took a look more deeply at the foundation of leadership, which we wrote about in the second chapter of the first book, The Leadership Challenge, and then wrote an entire book on it. In writing that book is reflecting on one of the early interviews we did, which has ended up being the only story, which has survived all six editions and soon to be a seventh in 2022. Barry and I came from Major General John Stanford.
What year was that?The secret to success is staying in love. Click To Tweet
I interviewed John probably in ‘83 or ‘84. That’s when we started doing the research started in ‘82 or ‘83. In doing the interview with Major General John Stanford who was in Alameda, California, not far from where I live. He was the head of Mitnick Military Traffic Management Command. I sat down and interviewed him. His work had been recommended as someone to interview as an exemplary leader. “When we got to the very end of the interview, I asked him the closing question. I asked this to everyone. What lessons would pass on to others who want to learn how to lead? What’s the best way to develop yourself as a leader?” He said, “Whenever anyone asks me that question, I tell them I have the secret to success in life. The secret to success is stay in love.”
Stay in love gives you the feeling that you can ignite the people, see inside of the people. People who are in love have a greater desire to get more things done than other people. A person who is not in love doesn’t feel the kind of excitement and energy than anyone else does. Staying in love is the secret to success in life. I’m paraphrasing what John said, but that’s the essence of what he said. That message of staying in love was the first time I heard a general say love in a sense about leading. As I talked to more military people and exemplary leaders, I was stunned by how the best leaders used love frequently in conversations. Let me give you one other example, Irwin Federman, a former Chief Financial Officer and CEO of Monolithic Memories, and a partner of a US venture capital firm. He said, “You don’t love someone because of who they are. You love them because of how they make you feel.” He went on to talk about how we don’t often talk about leadership and love in business. He would say, “I contend, however, that all of the things being equal like someone, we will work harder and more effectively for people we love. We like them in direct proportion to how they make us feel.”
If a leader makes me feel valuable, makes me feel like I’m making a great contribution, then he’s equating that somehow to my reciprocated feeling is in that category of love because you’ve made me feel that way. Is that a para-paraphrase of what he’s saying?
If we think about this notion for a minute, we will like someone in direct proportion to how they make us feel. If leaders want people to feel energetic, optimistic, hopeful, encouraged, respected, then it would follow that we have to behave in those ways in order to elicit those kinds of feelings. If you don’t want people to feel that way, if you want them to feel angry, disillusioned, hopeless and raged, you can behave in other ways. Part of this then comes down to as a leader, how do you want other people to feel?
The skeptics might gather from what you’re saying is then my job as a leader is to make sure that I don’t upset anybody, that I don’t piss anybody off, that then everybody feels good all the time and we all walk around with goofy grins on our faces and all that. What do you say to the skeptic in that context?
First of all, I’d say what’s wrong with people walking around, feeling good all the time? What’s bad about that? Let’s argue the opposite. I want people to walk around glum, upset and because they’re upset, they piss off their customers.
Let me speak on behalf of the skeptic because that’s what we got to do. If I’m concerned about having everybody like me, then isn’t that going to affect my decision making in terms of what’s good for the business, because I do have to make unpopular decisions from time to time, which people may not like. That’s not going to inspire them to walk around with a big grin on their face. They’re going to be pissed. Should I avoid those kinds of things?
Let me answer a question with a question. Do you have kids?
Do you want your kids to like you?
Do they ever do things that upset you?
Not so much anymore.
I can think of times when our son is upset us. Does that mean I don’t want him to like me? Do I still want him to love me, even though I might get angry with him from time to time or upset with him from time to time? Can we not have these two feelings at the same time? We are human beings after all. If my dominant motivation is to want to have a good relationship with my constituents, direct reports, peers, and my boss. If I’m in a hierarchical organization, my customers wouldn’t I want to behave in ways then that makes them “like me” as a generic term for all those feelings we want customers to have about us.
If we want customers to like us, shop some more at our organization, buy our products and services, write good reviews on Yelp. Don’t we have to behave in ways that elicit those feelings? The same as with employees, if I say to myself, “I want my employees to like me. I want them to respond positively towards me. I want them to feel they respect me,” then I need to behave in ways that elicit those kinds of feelings. It’s not because I have a position. You like me because I’m the boss.
Which goes back to your research on credibility. You and Barry have found over and over again, all around the world is that credibility is the foundation of leadership. Without credibility, we’ve got nothing. When I put those two thoughts together as a leader, the more credibility I have in the eyes of the people on my team, the more I can use the tough love when necessary. It gives me the capital that I need to hold people accountable and all those things that we oftentimes tend to dismiss or we’re afraid of because we don’t want to rock the boat. It comes back down to the credibility that we have in the eyes of our constituents.
To give those who are not familiar with our work on credibility. What we found in our research was that when we asked people, “What do you look for and admire in leaders, someone whose direction he would willingly follow?” We initially asked that question as an open-ended question, we got about 150 different attributes. We narrowed that down to twenty with synonyms for each one and then we did a survey asking people to select seven of the twenty characteristics from ambitious all the way through a supportive and a bunch in between. The top four that people wanted from their leader, we reaffirm this and doing two separate surveys of two different populations. We found that the number one attribute is honest. People want leaders who are honest, have integrity and tell the truth.
Secondly, they want leaders who are competent. They know what they’re doing. They can get the job done. They want leaders who are inspiring, upbeat, optimistic, and they also want leaders who are forward-looking in the sense of having a vision of the future and a sense of direction. Those are the top four for leaders. The top three for people who are considered credible are honest, competent, and inspiring. Forward-looking ends up being the differentiator for leaders. Leaders need to be forward-looking. Whereas we asked the same set of questions of peers, you wouldn’t necessarily say, “I want a peer to be forward-looking.” You’d still want them to be competent and you’d want them to be honest, have integrity, tell the truth, but you wouldn’t necessarily need them to be forward-looking. After reviewing our research and comparing it to some classic research on what’s called the source of credibility in the academic literature, we found that the top two attributes, honest and competent were highly correlated with the top two for credibility, which is trustworthiness and competence.
The third one is what’s called dynamism in the source credibility literature correlates very strongly with inspiring, being upbeat and energetic. We concluded from that, that credibility is what people look for most in a leader. If they don’t consider you credible, then you haven’t built the foundation in which you can do everything else. Credibility is the foundation of leadership. If people don’t believe in the messenger, they won’t believe the message. A lot of these behaviors are about sustaining and earning on a daily basis of personal credibility as a leader.
If anywhere, does love fit into that equation?
In the equation of credibility, credibility is the foundation on which you build everything. The first things I have to do as a leader is I have to demonstrate that I’m credible. In one phrase, which you wrote about on LinkedIn piece you wrote, you talked about how credibility is the foundation. Behaviorally credibility is putting your money where your mouth is, walk the talk, practice what you preach or Do What You Say You Will Do, DWYSYWD. Behaviorally, you have to demonstrate to other people that you will follow through on your commitments, you will put your money where your mouth is, and that you will act on what your values and beliefs are. With the foundation of credibility, acting within integrity on the values and beliefs that you espouse, you can then add all the other leadership behaviors. It’s the foundation. It doesn’t directly relate to love but it allows you to have the opportunity to express all these other kinds of behaviors and emotions.
When I put that together, what I hear is if credibility is the foundation, that’s the bottom line necessity for a leader to have with his or her constituents. If you have credibility and no love in the equation, you still have a foundation on which to build. If there’s love in the equation, but there’s no credibility, that love can’t endure over time. “I go to work for you. I love you. I feel great but over time I see that you don’t do what you say you’re going to do. You’re not being honest. You’re not following through. I could still love you.” It’s that distinction that I hear a lot of saying, “I love him or her as a person, but I would never work with them again.” The quality of that love changes if the credibility disappears. I want to go through a second to your original inspiration for this, back to John Stanford, because it’s really interesting that it came from an army major general. It came from the military, which is stereotypically not where we would go as source material for love, because of the stereotypes involved. You paraphrased this quote, I looked it up because I have the leadership challenge.
I’m going to read that quote back to you. I have a couple of questions for you. You asked him what advice would you pass on? He said, “The secret to success is to stay in love. Staying in love gives you the fire to ignite other people, to see inside other people, to have a greater desire, to get things done than other people. A person who is not in love doesn’t feel the kind of excitement that helps them to get ahead, to lead others, and to achieve. I don’t know any other fire, any other thing in life that is more exhilarating and is more positive of feeling than love is.” These are beautiful words.
I read that quote more times than I can remember to people, to our clients back in the day at the Tom Peters Company at the end of the Leadership Challenge Workshop. It was a final word of inspiration, which is what you often do at the end of your workshops and your keynotes. It’s a way to send people out. What that did for me is ask the question, “Should that be the final note on this whole thing? Should that be the key in which we all play?” I find it interesting that your original inspiration for the practice that you guys call encouraging the heart came from a military guy. I’d just love to know your thoughts on that. What bearing does this love thing have in an organization that we typically think of is command and control, top and down, following orders?
I’ve asked many military people about this. I’ve read them that quote and I’ve asked them for their thoughts about it. The most insightful response came from a retired colonel in the military says, “Jim it’s very simple. That’s because we have to be willing to die for our country and die for the people next to us on the battlefield. If you don’t love them, why would you want to die for them?” Particularly a field officers who are out there fighting. What they’re fighting for at the moment they’re fighting is for the person next to them in the foxhole. They’ll risk their lives and get out of that foxhole to rescue someone who’s been shot, who has been injured and pull them back. It’s never left behind philosophy. It emanates from that life and death scenario. You think about the people that you love and you would probably say that I would put my life on the line for those people.
That’s the most extreme example. I also hear the word love quite often from people in healthcare. It’s not in the same way, during the pandemic, those working with COVID-19 patients are putting their lives on the line on a daily basis. Other frontline workers, people who put out fires in California, as we’re experiencing, or people who patrol the streets and help maintain peace and security are putting their lives on the line on a daily basis. The closer you are to that sense of life and death, the more that feeling is true for you.People want leaders who are honest, have integrity, tell the truth, and competent. Click To Tweet
It’s hard to replicate that kind of feeling in business, but it’s an aspiration because if people know that you as their leader are willing to have their back, willing to support them in their times of need, willing to go the extra mile for them, then that’s a demonstration of love and they would be more willing to do the same for you. When we see this kind of expression somewhat in the pandemic, and we’ve seen it in other difficult times, the Great Recession and other times a business crisis where senior executives will take pay cuts or no salary at all in order to continue to employ people in the business. That kind of demonstration of caring for others that is in a sense of demonstration of love.
I heard you say more than once that you were not a fan of military metaphors in a business context. It was in the context of talking about competition. We’re going to be our competition to death. We’re going to isolate them. We’re going to blow them up. That stuck with me. Ever since I first heard you say that I’ve been very careful about equating business with war because the stakes are very different. The vast majority of us, unless as you say, the first responders are on the front line and COVID or something similar. It’s not literally life or death. There are still risks. There are still high stakes oftentimes, but there’s a place where the metaphor breaks down, yet there’s some value in there that says, “Our team, I’m willing to put myself at risk to sacrifice something of myself or potentially my career in order to help a colleague.” That’s the parallel that I can think.
You asked why a military officer, the story from John Stanford. My reflection on that is, that it comes from that very extreme situation faced by people in a battle that they face life and death. You also see that kind of thing in healthcare people. Teachers also frequently talk about love. Loving their students, loving their subject, loving teaching. It’s not life and death in the same way, but you have young lives in your care. The more you demonstrate to those young lives that you truly care about them, their wellbeing, their livelihoods, their satisfaction, their ability to do well in their lives, the more those students are going to be responsive to you.
If we had that frame as a way of looking at the work that we do, here are individuals who have limited resources who are coming to our organization, spending those limited resources on our products and services. That is an act of grace. That is an act of love, a feeling like, “I’m giving something that it’s hard-earned for me to you in return for something that I hope will serve me well.” The more I understand that dynamic in business and the more I act accordingly that I understand you’re making a small sacrifice here for our organization’s benefit. I want to recognize that, I want to honor that come from a core sense of love.
Your and Barry’s research came out primarily out of the business world, at least in the beginning. Your research has not American research, it’s international. I’d love to get your advice on this. I have been decidedly apolitical in all of my community. I don’t talk politics, I never have. We’re in a very contentious, polarized time, but there’s always been some vestige of that. It’s not that I don’t have opinions. I’ve got some strong opinions. If I talk politics in a specific sort of a way, then I limit my ability to help and inspire a good chunk of the population, no matter which way I come down. The way I justified is I can help people by doing my work and helping them to interpret in the context of their businesses. At the same time, here we are in an election year. It’s entirely up to you how specific you want to get, but do these same principles, same characteristics around credibility, for example, do they apply in a political arena in the same way that they apply to the people that I directly work with day-to-day? Is there a difference?
There is a difference, yet the fundamentals apply and we’re experiencing that in the election cycle. Here’s the dilemma that every voter faces. That is, it ends up being a binary choice. When it comes down to a binary choice, you may excuse, ignore, hold your nose or whatever you choose to do when you vote and say, “Because I only have this choice, there are other criteria I’m going to use to make the choice.” Those come down to some fundamental values and beliefs about things that are important to me, whether it’s taxes, a women’s right to choose, or issues of security. Whatever the choice might be, or whether it’s about racial justice, whatever values that dominate your list of what’s important to you or have more salient for you, then they might for an employee in an organization.
In an organization where the choice of who the leader is not necessarily made by the constituent. It’s made by a board of directors in a business setting particularly at the very top of organizations. That board of directors doesn’t have the same criteria that they have to use. We’ll take a vote of employees and see where the chips lie. They can say, “I look at the behavior of this person and I say to myself, there’s been a lot of turnover at the top. That’s costing us a lot of money and building a really bad reputation. We’ve got half of our customers are pissed off at us. We’re losing money. We’re losing customers.
We, the board of directors going to make that decision on different criteria.” There will be some values-based decision making, but there will also be some more practical, pragmatic decisions that have to do with outcome measures. An outcome measures not just in the sense of profitability, but in the sense of how the public is responding to the organization. Fundamentals are still there. When you go into the voting booth, you have to make a decision, but oftentimes when it’s a binary choice and it’s not just about that person but about a set of fundamental values and beliefs about governance, there is some different criteria people are using to make decisions.
To state the obvious, I don’t have the opportunity to vote for my leader in a business. It’s not classic democracy the way our greater society runs. From the leadership perspective in a business. It seems to me, I need to act as though people are voting for me because it’s one thing to command, control and demand. It’s another thing to have people engage because they’re committed because they want to.
That’s precisely the question we asked when we asked people about credibility. We asked, what do you look for and admire in a leader? Someone who’s direction you would willingly follow. It’s that word willingly that’s important in that responses people gave. I would willingly follow somebody who’s honest, competent, forward-looking, and inspiring as my top criteria. If the person doesn’t have those qualities, I’m less likely to want to follow them. I may have to follow them but I may not want to. I ratchet back my engagement in the organization.
When you think about how we measure success in organizations or effectiveness in organizations, we’re not only looking at outcome measures like profitability, sales, performance measures. We’re also looking at engagement and people and leaders are being assessed around engagement. When we have low engagement, we know people put less effort. They’re more likely to turn over. They are not likely to say good things about us when we’re not around. Engagement will be lower. The foundation still holds, but we also have to look at the context when we’re taking a look at political leadership versus organizational leadership. That’s not in a political context.
As we begin to bring this in for a landing, the model that is emerged from your research gave rise to the five practices of exemplary leaders. Blazoned in my brain is the order in which you used to talk about it. In no particular order, modeling the way, encouraging the heart, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process and enabling others to act. One of those, as we’ve already mentioned is this idea of encouraging the heart, which is most directly related to love being just damn good business and just damn good leadership. For the sake of context for our readers, what your research has shown is that all five of those practices are important.
You need to have all of them if you’re going to be an effective leader. The focus on encouraging the heart is a place that, that’s where I chose my focus, particularly by being overt with an intentional around love as a practice. You refer to these as not the five theories, not the five ideas, but the five practices, which means they are behavioral. If we focus on encouraging the heart, as you send us off back into the real world, what are some of the activities, behaviors, things we could do to more effectively cultivate love in our teams, companies, and communities?
Encouraging the heart does have the word love in it in the sense that it has the word cor, which is heart. It’s a redundant phrase, encourage the heart when you’re giving heart to heart. We are putting our hearts into our business and the business in our hearts and the people that we serve and the people who also work with us to serve those customers and clients. When we’re encouraging the heart, essentially, we’re doing two things. First of all, recognizing individuals for their contributions. We are also then celebrating as a team. It’s both an individual one-on-one, as well as a team activity where we’re getting together and celebrating in various ways. I’m going to read you something that gives the essence of how one right after they read this and they want to recognize someone can put this into practice.
This comes from a woman named Rachel Argaman who is the CEO of TFE Hotels in Australia and New Zealand. Every year, she gives out to those individuals who have reached a certain level in the organization of performance bonuses. She does about 400 of these a year. For four days, she sits down and writes individual notes to people. This is one of those notes. It says, “Dear Ben, what an inspirational piece of advice you gave me when you recommended that outstanding hotel manager to the L&D management role. Your grasp to this job with both hands immediately owning the space and taking full responsibility for it. Your inimitable style care, loyalty to TFE and love for leadership shine through all that you do, a thousand thank you, Rachel.” That is a handwritten note. What do you notice about that note when you hear it?
It was very specific.
One of the things when you’re encouraging the heart, it’s not all general, “Thanks, Steve for the great interview.” You go into specifics and to a bit more detail. “Thanks for that specific question, it touched me. You drilled down to the heart of the matter when you ask that.” Something a bit more specific than just a generic contribution. Because it was specific, what did she have to do?
She had to know that it was happening. She had to notice and she had to pay attention.
She tells this story back to him about the L&D role. She’s communicating to him and I’m communicating to others and telling the story about this is something specific to Ben. Telling a story about someone in an organization is another way to help other people see a couple of things. One, “Ben really excelled and needs to be recognized, need some applause from all of us, but also, here’s a standard for you to live up to.” The implication is, “Ben did this, you can too.” You have a standard that you’re displaying through this note as well about what your expectations are of individuals. You’ve personalized it to Ben, not just send him flowers and a box of candy or whatever it is that you might send. Those are great, too. I highly encouraged us to do that, but it’s the personalization that makes this outstanding as a way of recognition. Those are some of the keys.
I would add another element to that too. It’s a concrete, tangible thing. The note itself. I’m confident that Ben didn’t take that note, read it and go, “That’s cool,” and then toss it in the trash.
Making a tangible is a way that it sustains itself over time. This is just an illustration of how even posthumously people encourage our hearts. In Truckee, California, where my wife, Tae and I go periodically to see mountains. There is a building in downtown Truckee, a small town at the foot of North Lake Tahoe. On this building which is an old train station, there is a wooden sign and the wooden sign is nailed to the side of the building and it reads, “This building is dedicated to the memory of Ignatius, Joseph Firpo.” He was a shop owner turns out in Truckee, California. It says, “What we have done for ourselves dies with us. What we have done for others remains and is immortal.” As we think about how we want to be remembered by other people.
What’s important for us to remember just like Rachel’s note is that we’re remembered not for the things that we did for ourselves, not for our bank accounts, not for our homes and cars, but for what we do for others. That’s how we are remembered. Remembered in the stories that people tell about us. It’s important that we all think about the legacy we want to leave behind and how we want to be remembered by others. Do we want to be remembered as someone who was a loving person, not just someone who achieved a lot? If we do, then how will we behave accordingly? The framework I like to tell people to use in thinking about legacy and thinking about how you personally want to remember, your hardest encouraged in perpetuity is to ask yourself about four things. First, what are the lessons you hope people will say they learned from you?
What are the ideals that you stood for? What are the feelings that people had when they are around you or were around you? What would you want them to say is the evidence that you made a difference that you had an impact? Something tangible. The acronym for that is LIFE: Lessons, Ideals, Feelings, and Evidence. Back to credibility coming full cycle. The legacy you leave is the life you lead, or the lessons that you teach, the ideals you stand for, the feelings people have. They talk about when I was around this person, I felt this way and the evidence that you did something that made a difference. We think about how we want to be remembered. How we want our hearts to be encouraged in our own lives. That’s a useful framework for us to aspire to.
It was beautiful and it goes right back to how the things that we do that make people feel a certain way. That’s a more specific framework around that very thing. Coming from you, it’s a very simple and elegant framework that has so many applications to it. One last thing before we sign off, I had a bit of a flashback as I’ve had a few of those in this conversation. the very first time you and I ever spoke, and what it reminded me of was what you were just saying about the power of story. I remember sitting in a conference room at 555 Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto. You and I were sitting in a conference room in the office of one of the offices of the Tom Peters Company. You’re interviewing me.
It was the first time we ever had a long conversation. You said to me, “What we do here, Steve, we are storytellers. Our job is to tell the right stories that give the right examples.” That went so deep in me that I have never forgotten it. One of my greatest joys in life is, having the platform and the ability to tell a great story, because of all the lessons in that and all the lessons that I’ve learned from you over the years. Thank you for that.
Thank you. You’re a great student because you tell great stories. Your books are an example of that, but when you’re in front of an audience and I’ve observed this many times, that’s what lights people up. Thank you for that.
Thank you, Jim. Thank you everybody for reading. Until next time, please remember to do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.
- Jim Kouzes
- Greater Than Yourself
- The Leadership Challenge
- The Leadership Practices Inventory
- Love Is Just Damn Good Business
- Encouraging the Heart
About Jim Kouzes
Jim Kouzes is the coauthor with Barry Posner of the award-winning and best-selling book, The Leadership Challenge, with over 2.5 million copies in print. He’s also the Dean’s Executive Fellow of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University.
The sixth edition of The Leadership Challenge was released in 2017 and is available in 22 languages. It was selected by FastCompany as one of the 2012 Best Business Books of the Year, was on the 2013 Wall Street Journal bestseller list, an Amazon Editor’s Pick in 2007, and the winner of the 1995-96 Critics’ Choice Award. It has been named one of the 100 best business books of all time by 800-CEO-READ. Jim and Barry have coauthored over thirty other publications including Learning Leadership, The Truth About Leadership, A Leader’s Legacy, Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, Encouraging the Heart, The Leadership Challenge Workbook, and the Encouraging the Heart Workbook.
Jim and Barry also developed the highly acclaimed Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI), a 360-degree leadership assessment questionnaire, and it is the top-selling off-the-shelf leadership assessment instrument in the world.
Jim was again named in 2017 as one of the top 30 Global Gurus in Leadership, is the 2010 recipient of the Thought Leadership Award from the Instructional Systems Association, and for 4 years in a row named to HR Magazines Most Influential International Thinkers. In 2006 he was presented with the Golden Gavel by Toastmasters International. Jim and Barry are the recipients of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) 2009 Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance Award.
Not only is Jim a highly regarded leadership scholar, The Wall Street Journal cited Jim as one of the twelve best executive educators in the U.S.
Specialties: Leadership assessment and coaching, leadership skills development, keynote presentations, research and writing