When people are asked to name leaders, Martin Luther King is the most frequently mentioned exemplary leader, followed by John F. Kennedy, educator James Kouzes says. ``Clearly the identifying contexts are the civil rights movement and bringing freedom and justice to a group of people,'' he notes. For President Kennedy the context was either the Cuban missile crisis or the race in space. ``My heroes and heroines are the people we don't know,'' Mr. Kouzes says. ``They take jobs in the steel industry and turn around a losing steel operation.'' Included on his list:
Patricia Carrigan, the first woman to be made an assembly plant manager at the General Motors Corporation. She turned around the Lakewood, Ga., plant, which had a history of labor-management problems. Ms. Carrigan went on to the Bay City, Mich., plant two years after Lakewood turned around.
Maj. Gen. John Stanford, who's in charge of the military traffic management command in the United States Army. ``I admire him, not because he's a war hero, which he is, but because he showed me how somebody at that rank can be empathetic and concerned about the foxhole warrior, in very little ways that I didn't observe in many other corporate executives, ... and make those people feel special,'' Kouzes says.
Arlene Blum, who led the American Women's Himalayan Expedition, the first American climbing team to reach the top of Annapurna I, the world's 10th-highest mountain, in October 1978.
Don Bennett, the first amputee to climb Mt. Rainier. ``He did it on one leg and two crutches,'' Kouzes points out.
Phil Turner, who was the facilities manager when Kouzes met him, and now plant manager, at Raychem Corporation. ``He took a job that most people would consider mundane and helped people see the meaning in facilities upkeep,'' Kouzes notes.
Tom Melohn, who quit corporate America after 25 years and bought a small company, North American Tool and Die, in San Leandro, Calif., that was losing market share to Japan and whose quality wasn't very good. ``Within three years he'd made believers out of the blue-collar workers who worked there,'' Kouzes says.
``Leadership goes on every day in the smallest kinds of ways in every corporation by millions of people we never hear about,'' says Kouzes. ``Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca made a major contribution, but he wasn't the only one to turn Chrysler around. There are lots of other people who performed leadership tasks extraordinarily well.''