Read By James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner text version

The Leadership Challenge

By James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner Published by Jossey-Bass (1995) There are more books written on leadership than any other topic in business. Most describe behaviors that leaders display leaving the reader wondering if they have those traits and if not how to attain them. As a result most leadership books miss the mark on providing insights and practical actions that the reader can take.The Leadership Challenge is different in both respects. The most appealing aspect of the book is that it is data based with research over an eleven-year period involving ten thousand leaders and fifty thousand constituents. The authors asked participants to describe situations where leadership was exhibited. They developed sets of characteristics and had participants rank them as to their importance. From the data emerged five key leadership practices in order of use: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Enabling Others to Act Challenging the Process Modeling the Way Encouraging the Heart Inspiring a Shared Vision

For each practice Kouzes and Posner describe a set of actions that leaders tend to take. They are well supported by research from over 400 sources. Each section introduces to the reader a rich array of concepts and strategies for making improvements in their leadership style based on every day situations. The authors also provide two workbooks--Leadership Practices Inventory that allows an individual to rate their own performance in each of the

five leadership practice areas and Leadership Challenge Planner to lay out plans for improvement . Listed below are some of the important concepts covered in the book: Fostering Collaboration--the authors provide research and data to suggest that collaboration does improve performance. They state that in any long-term relationship there must be a sense of mutuality. Reciprocity is mentioned as a key process to building cooperation in daily decisions because it demonstrated a willingness to be cooperative and an unwillingness to be taken advantage of. Both aspects are important. A set of collaboration audit questions is provided for the reader to study their own interactions with others. Developing Personal Conviction--A fundamental question that a leader must is "What do I believe in?" Their research shows that while there is much rhetoric about having shared values across an organization having clarity about one's own personal values may be more important. Developing Commitment among Employees--While many organizations measure employee satisfaction, the authors make the point that there is a difference between the degree of satisfaction and degree of commitment. By focusing on achievement of small wins the leader promotes consistent progress and over time builds commitment. Recognizing Contributions--When nonmanagers are polled regarding the skills their managers need in order to be more effective, the item of top of the list is the ability to recognize and acknowledge the contributions of others. Essentials involved in providing effective recognition include building self-confidence through high expectations, connecting performance and rewards, using a variety of rewards, and being positive and hopeful. Finally, this is a book about getting extraordinary things done in organizations. Leadership is everyone's business not just those in charge of the organization. There are many opportunities in day to day interactions with others to practice some of the behaviors mentioned in the book. With consistent application and thought, one can develop beliefs and values that drive further leadership development opportunities. For me, a good book is one that I read and re-read. As I mark key passages I notice that they are different everytime. It is as if I tell myself, "How could I have missed that before?" When this happens, I know that this is worth reading and re-reading again. The Leadership Challenge fits these criteria. I hope you enjoy the book as well.


By James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

3 pages

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