Wednesday, April 2, 2008

To Lead Clients, You Need To Understand Leadership

When we talked about followership last week, I did my best to define it because followership isn't exactly a household phrase. Providing a definition of sorts helped advance the discussion about its relevance to client service excellence.

By contrast, leadership is a common term. Everyone knows what a leader is, right? They're the people at the head of the table, at the front of the line, or the ones with the titles followed by initials who make hefty salaries.

On second thought, maybe we should give more consideration to the meaning of leadership and what makes a great leader. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote a wonderful book called The Leadership Challenge. They talk about leadership in terms of uniting your constituents around a common cause and connecting with them as human beings. They identify 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership: Model The Way; Inspire A Shared Vision; Challenge The Process; Enable Others To Act; and Encourage The Heart. In another terrific book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, Jim defines a "Level 5 Leader" as someone with a perfect combination of humility and will. You may be surprised to learn that true Level 5 Leaders aren't usually the celebrity CEOs.

Obviously, there are countless leaders and scholars from whom we can learn about leadership. I'm simply suggesting that if we aim to achieve "Level 5" Client Service, we should avail ourselves of those lessons. Understanding the challenges of leadership is fundamental to any professional services practitioner.

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