Among the varied writings on the practices of leadership, my favorite is The Leadership Challenge, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. They outline the five practices of exemplary leadership. These are based on the notion that leadership is everyone’s ability; it is not about position instead it is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Model the Way. It is important that a leader models the behaviour that she expects of others. Always lead by example and in that way others are able to emulate and perform as per the expectations of the leader. A leader must clearly articulate her values and give voice to these values in a genuine and authentic manner.
Inspire a Shared Vision. A leader ought to engage in many conversations with others; determine what others believe in and how are these beliefs and values similar to the vision of the leader; devise ways of communicating the common vision in a manner that is genuine and authentic.
Challenge the Process. A leader is someone who experiments and takes risks and in so doing is able to be innovative in the performance of tasks. This involves being flexible and adaptable to change for the better. As one challenges the process, it is important to remember that mistakes will occur and that one must be encouraged to forge ahead until the experiment works—be it in a modified or new way.
Enable Others to Act. It is vital to create an environment of trust to enable others to act in a collaborative manner. Create teams that would create a sense of ownership of what they are doing and accomplishing for any given project. The more people that trust their leaders and each other, the more would be accomplished in a positive and productive manner.
Encourage the Heart. At crucial moments, leaders ought to boost morale when the project is going through a plateau and is not moving forward. The leader ought to be a beacon when necessary and lead the team to different or renewed ways of completing the project. Most importantly, celebrate the successes in ways that would be suitable for the people involved in the project.
All of these five practices indicate that leadership is a relationship.