The Leadership challenge

Length: 1 to 2 days

Group size – 6 to 25


We are often asked to create a session specifically linked to a study program a group of Leaders is already engaged in – Coveys’ “Speed of Trust” or Kounze and Posner’s “Leadership Challenge”.  The premise of this program is:

When leaders are at their personal best there are five core practices common to all: they Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and last but certainly not least, they Encourage the Heart.

The Director of a mid sized Social Services organization loved Kounze and Posner’s book “The Leadership Challenge” and had her staff going through an online training program.  She found that people appreciated the ideas and understood the theory but after six months was not seeing a lot of impact on behaviour.  She told me that her leaders like the ideas and in many cases thought they were acting on them but she felt that something was missing.  She had heard about our program and wondered if bringing the group together for a day might help.

On line learning can be great for picking up concepts and theories but without support from a mentor or the opportunity to practice what you have learned often those concepts may only be applied sporadically.

We set up an day with four experiences and then debriefed each based on the Five practices.  In one exercise participants were asked to lead a horse – not the way you typically do (pulling on a rope) but by looking at your destination  instead of your horse (Vision), stepping forward (Model the way), waiting for the horse (enable others), motivating by raising your energy (encourage the heart) and then leading the horse through obstacles, some of which were other participants with their horses (challenge the process).  Simple things led to interesting discussions.  Leaders who moved forward before their horse was ready were “telling” instead of “asking” – how did that impact their ability to enable others?  Leaders who came back to pet the horse if it did not move forward instantly were not modelling the way.  Leaders who lost track of their destination did not have a shared vision.  Leaders who forgot to read the body language of their horse were not encouraging the Heart.

Everyone found that what had looked simple in the demonstration was a lot more complicated when you were dealing with the reality of trying to remember the steps, adjust them to your horse (each had different responses) and deal with the challenge of a new skill.

These were exactly the same reasons the leaders were having trouble applying the concepts of “The Leadership Challenge”.  Whether on line or in a class room it’s difficult to make the transfer.

We planned (and held) a follow up session where participants could do some problem solving on how to apply the Five Practices and the discussion was very rich.  What surprised the client was that even before that session she noticed a significant change in how her leaders were applying the Leadership Challenge.