Ask an Expert: March 2017

Ask an Expert

Q: What CEOs would you list as being prime examples of good leadership?

A: I think it’s important to say that there are many CEOs who exemplify good leadership. For example, Rachel Argaman, CEO of TFE Hotels in Australia, Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, or Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell Soup, are three examples that immediately come to mind. And in his book, Flashes of Thought, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum articulates many of the principles that we find in exemplary leaders everywhere. But it’s important to point out that leadership is set of skills and abilities that are learnable by anyone. In my and Barry Posner’s research, the vast majority of leaders are not CEOs and are more likely to be middle level managers or non-managers.

Throughout our work we tell stories of ordinary people who’ve gotten extraordinary things done. They are from all over the globe, from all age groups and walks of life. They represent a wide variety of organizations, public and private, government and NGOs, high-tech and low-tech, small and large, schools and professional services. Chances are you haven’t heard of most of them. They’re not public figures, famous people, or mega-stars. They’re people who might live next door or work in the next cubicle over.

We’ve focused on everyday leaders because leadership is not about position or title. It’s not about organizational power or authority. It’s not about celebrity or wealth. It’s not about the family you are born into. It’s not about being a CEO, president, general, or prime minister. And it’s definitely not about being a hero. Leadership is about relationships, about credibility, and about what you do. You don’t have to look up for leadership.

You don’t have to look out for leadership. You only have to look inward. You have the potential to lead others to places they have never been before.

Adapted from an interview with Jim Kouzes, What Makes a Good Leader? published in Gulf Business, the premier business monthly reaching leaders across the Middle East, including UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia.


Jim Kouzes is the Dean’s Executive Fellow of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University. Cited by The Wall Street Journal as one of the twelve best executive educators in the U.S., he was also winner of the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award by Trust Across America. Together with Barry Posner, he is author of The Leadership Challenge—soon to be published in its sixth edition—and over thirty other books and workbooks on leadership and leadership development, including the most recent Learning Leadership, which was selected by Strategy+Business as one of the 2016 Best Business Books of Year.

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