We shared the platform with renowned leadership educator Ken Blanchard at an association meeting. In the middle of responding to an audience question one of us was saying, "I don't know what you call something that's been the same for twenty-five years, but...," and Ken interrupted, exclaiming, "I'd call it the truth."
It was a moment of clarity. We began to see that we shouldn't be shy about saying that some things about leadership just don't change that much over time, if at all, and that those things need to be understood for what they are—the truth.
While context changes, while global and personal circumstances change, the fundamentals of leadership do not. We thought it was just as important in these changing times to remind people of what endures as it was to talk about what has been disrupted.
We wanted to make certain that the lessons we included not only withstood the test of time but also withstood the scrutiny of statistics. So we sifted through the reams of data that had piled up over three decades and isolated those nuggets that were soundly supported by the numbers. This is a collection of the real thing—no fads, no myths, no trendy responses—just truths that endure.
This book reveals the most important things that we've learned since we began our collaboration. It's a collection of fundamental principles that inform and support the practices of leadership. These are lessons that were true thirty years ago, are true today, and we believe will be true thirty years from now. They speak to what the newest and youngest leaders need to appreciate and understand, and they speak just as meaningfully to the oldest leaders, who are perhaps re-purposing themselves as they transition from their lengthy careers to other pursuits in volunteer, community, or public sectors. Entrepreneurs need to appreciate what we have learned, just as do people leading established enterprises.
These lessons ring true on athletic fields and in the halls of government, and they make as much sense in the United States, China, Brazil, the European Union, India, or any other global address that you can imagine.
This isn't a "How To" or "Made Easy" or "For Dummies" approach to leadership—it is a book about fundamentals. And fundamentals are the necessary building blocks to greatness. You can't fast-track your way to excellence. Leadership is a demanding, noble discipline not to be entered into frivolously or casually. It requires an elevated sense of mastery. And, you can do it. It's a matter of technique, of skill, of practice. It's also a matter of desire and commitment.
There are enduring truths about leadership. You can gain mastery over the art and science of leadership by understanding them and attending to them in your workplace and everyday life.
Excerpted from The Truth About Leadership, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Jossey-Bass Publishers, August 2010