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EP7040 Brief05

Page history last edited by John E. Martin 11 years, 6 months ago



Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It

by James Kouzes and Barry Posner


"Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words;

Be careful of your words, for your words become your deeds;

Be careful of your deeds, for your deeds become your habits;

Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character;

Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny." (p. xv)


Chapter 3 - Discover Your Self


Kouzes and Posner assert that before you can lead others, you must first understand your own underlying meaning/intention. In knowing yourself, and acting in accordance to your meaning, you are able to create the sense of understanding and belief in the minds of others of who you are. This understanding, balanced by moral and ethical values is what creates your credibility. The sense in others that you are who you say you are, and that you are able to do what you say you can. The problem is that while we know ourselves in a broad sense, we rarely undertake the journey of self-discovery to think and act with intention.


To address this gap, Kouzes and Posner have identified three components critical to the illumination of self-discovery: 

  • Discover and live your credo - the words to say that illuminate your meaning
  • Identify and build your competencies - the skills you have that enable you to turn words into actions
  • Your confidence - the fortitude and impetus to follow through on your credo and to employ your competencies effectively 


Discover and Live Your Credo

A credo is, in effect, a personal mission statement. It is a concise rendering of your essence; a synthesis of your ethics and values. Kouzes and Posner recommend that we put our credo down in writing and engage in dialogue with peers whose opinion we value to check its veracity. The act of writing serves to codify and illustrate for us what we find most meaningful and while not always easy, serves as an important underpinning of our being.


Some of the exercises included:

  • Writing and telling your stories

  • Discovering your life themes

  • Assessing your values  


Once our credo is in a solid form, the authors suggest that we engage others to perform an external evaluation of our statement. This process allows us to hold up a mirror so that we can better see our true reflection and ensure that what we've written is indeed who we are and what we believe. It also serves to reinforce the necessity of listening, and for me was illustrated by the following quote:


"One way to recognize moral leaders and to guard against immoral ones is to observe if they engage in learning the true needs and values of their constituents. If they are  more intent on telling than on listening, it is likely that they are up to no good." (p. 67)


Identify and Build Your Competence 

A vision without the tools to create it is simply a dream. As Kouzes and Posner state, "Leaders must be aware of the degree to which they actually have the capabilities to do what they say." (p. 69) These capabilities, or compentencies, can be hard skills, such as technical knowledge or soft skills, such as negotiation or communication. And your credibility is informed by how you employ these competencies, whether you can "walk your talk."


Cultivating competencies is not an end, but rather a journey of discovery and lifelong learning. As demands and expectations evolve, we must constantly refine, pursue and sometimes prune our skills. It is an organic process, supported by the authors' assertion that "Your value as a leader and as an individual contributor is determined not only by your guiding beliefs, but also by your abilities to act on them. To strengthen credibility, you must continuously improve your existing abilities and learn new ones." (p. 74)


Some of the exercises designed to support your own development of competence include:    

  • Audit your ability to succeed - Performing a personal environmental scan to identify your current core competencies as well as those competencies you would need to acquire to achieve your goals.
  • Make a personal development plan  - Upon identifying your gaps, create a process by which to cultivate or enhance your competencies so as to best position yourself for success.
  • Evaluate experiences using the Experiential Learning Model from Pfeiffer and Company as a "debriefing guide":
    • Experience - Fully immerse yourself and "Be in the moment"
    • Publish - Take time to reflect upon your experience, it helps to write things down before the experience subsides
    • Process - Share your reflections with one another to identify "repeated patterns, common themes, and trends."
    • Generalize - What have we learned from these trends? How can we apply them, what can we infer?
    • Apply - Take what you've learned and act upon it. Test your generalizations and evaluate their validity


Cultivate and Nurture Your Self-Confidence

"...execution of a simple skill often depends on the situation." (p. 76)


Four mechanisms to enhance self-efficacy:

  • Mastery - "...comes from learning to overcome the setbacks the occur in the process." (p. 77)
  • Modeling - finding a mentor or someone already doing what you want to do and watching them
  • Support - "Try to structure the conditions for success by gradually raising the level of difficulty and by surrounding yourself with supportive individuals." (p. 78)
  • Reinterpreting Stress - Become self-aware and self-responsive to your state


Achieving Optimal Performance

  • Set Goals
  • Become immersed in the activity
  • Pay attention to what is happening
  • Learn to enjoy the immediate experience


How To

  • Observe master models
  • Seek mastery experiences
  • Ask for support
  • Sum it up - write a statement of personal purpose using the 6 P's
    • Proficiency - skill possessed at a level of mastery
    • Product - the activity we perform using that proficiency
    • People - those whom we wish to serve or be with
    • Place - the setting where we enjoy exercising our talents
    • Purpose - the benefit or result of exercising that talent
    • Principles - the values which guide our actions


"...the value of his 'client relationships was not to be measured by the number of clients, nor by their prestige, but by how deep the relationship was.'" (p. 73)


Reading Notes

Introduction -

People get committed because it matters to them. (p. xiv)

If people don't believe in the messenger, they won't believe the message.


The Four Fundamentals (p. xv-xviii)

Fundamental 1 - Leadership is about character development

Fundamental 2 - Individuals act, organizations create cultures - we must take personal responsibility because actions have consequences and we must answer for our actions. Culture is the organizational equivalent of personal character.

Fundamental 3 - Our system is based on trust.

Fundamental 4 - Leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue. Leadership is COMMUNICATION


Change starts with a "credit check" - Do my constituents believe in me and in my ability to lead this effort. (p xxiii)


A manager has learned the metaphors,

A good manager uses the metaphors,

A leader CHANGES the metaphors. (p. 5)


Community rather than hierarchy. (p. 6)


Build equity, foster trust (pp. 22-24)


"You don't love someone because of who they are; you love them for how they make you FEEL. (p. 30)


"A value is an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence." (p. 60) 



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