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How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

You can establish credibility in very straightforward ways. But getting it back once you lose it — that’s tough.

Editorial Rating



James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner use detailed research to show how leaders can achieve credibility. This book tells what caring leaders should do. If you are a leader, heed it. If you are managed - and not managing - don’t assume that your leaders care as much as those shown here. You will be ill-prepared for harsh reality. As a leader, you should know that the global marketplace has changed greatly. Now, shareholders jettison stocks if earnings fall below expectations. Executives slash U.S. jobs and export the remaining jobs to India and China. This is an age of multi-billion-dollar paychecks for chief executive officers, but psychological insecurity for workers. In this turmoil, it’s great to read what good leaders should do. The book is practical with a solid psychological grounding. Bottom line from these researchers are nice guys, writing for similarly nice guys. But not every leader is a nice guy. So trust, but verify. Or lead, and be nice.



A study of credibility involving 15,000 surveys worldwide and 400 case studies shows that workers want and will follow leaders who are "honest, forward-looking, inspiring and competent."

To change your company and community for the better, focus on comprehending the foundation of the "leadership-constituent relationship." As a leader, plunge in alongside your constituents, as exemplified by Gayle Hamilton, division manager of the Coast Division of the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Hamilton chose to retain her railroad trackside-office despite traffic and noise rather than moving to more comfortable and cushy corporate offices, which would have distanced her from her workers. She and her direct-reporting managers take the approach of helping their employees rather than being catered to by them. For instance, Hamilton and other managers gave their workers a "thank you" breakfast to celebrate their division’s success.

Be careful about using the words "boss and subordinate" routinely as that vocabulary will interfere with the process of building a more cooperative relationship rather than one based on rank and obedience. Envision a community that works productively...

About the Authors

James M. Kouzes is the chairman of the Tom Peters Group/Learning Systems. Barry Posner acts as dean of the Leavey School of Business and Administration at Santa Clara University. Both have presented leadership programs for such firms as Apple Computer, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Johnson & Johnson and Motorola. Their previous books include The Leadership Challenge, written in 1995. Credibility was written in 1993, and revised in 2003.

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