Most of what is currently known about leadership came to light in the last 100 years. There is no universally accepted definition of leadership. However, leadership can be seen as a process whereby an individual influences followers to achieve a common goal. Leadership principles are universal just like gravity is universal. With minor cultural variations, people all over the world desire similar behavior from their leaders.
In 1982, James Kouzes and Barry Posner set out on a global quest to find what leaders did when they were at their personal best. They interviewed thousands of leaders all over the world asking them a basic question, “What did you do when you were at your personal best as a leader?” They talked to men and women, young and old, representing just about every type of organization there is, at all levels, in all functions, from many different places around the world. The result was the best-selling evidence-based book The Leadership Challenge also nicknamed The Leadership Bible. The research continues on the Internet visited by 500,000 to 750,000 people every year.
They discovered that irrespective of culture, gender, age, and other variables when leaders are at their personal best there are five core practices common to all. They crystallized their conclusions as The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership:
- Model the Way,
- Inspire a Shared Vision,
- Challenge the Process,
- Enable Others to Act
- Encourage the Heart.
Their findings are similar to those found by another groundbreaking research project initiated in 1991 by Robert House. He worked with 170 research associates around the world to study the perceived characteristics of effective leaders across the globe. The now world famous project was named the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) research program. The research was done on all continents except Antarctica and it showed that transformational leadership is found in one form or another at all levels and in all cultures. It identified many cultural differences but also revealed four universal facilitators and three universal hindrances of leadership effectiveness.