"The Leadership Challenge is still popular and relevant after 25 years for a reason: it is a classic. No one provides more practical real-world advice than Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. This is the book on leadership that I recommend to all of my clients, and I think this is the greatest book on leadership ever written."
Marshall Goldsmith, bestselling author, MOJO and What Got You Here Won't Get You There
"This is perhaps the most comprehensive field guide ever written for leaders. It has been a key part of my personal journey as a leader for years."
Patrick Lencioni, president, The Table Group; bestselling author, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage
"Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have done it again! In this all-new fifth edition of The Leadership Challengethe bible for leaders everywherethey have taken their leadership ideas to new heights, befitting of the challenges leaders face in this global era."
Bill George, author, True North; former chairman and CEO, Medtronic, Inc.
"No book has ever chronicled the practices of true leadership better than The Leadership Challenge, and this updated edition deftly outlines how to be a phenomenal leader in the 21st century."
Chip Conley, founder, Joie de Vivre Hotels; author, PEAK and Emotional Equations
"Now in its fifth edition, The Leadership Challenge has stood the test of time for good reason: it's quite simply one of the best books you'll ever read on leadership."
Ken Blanchard, coauthor, The One Minute Manager® and Great Leaders Grow
"I read The Leadership Challenge as a new manager building Oracle University and was deeply affected by it. It shaped me as a leader and influenced my career. Reading the fifth edition twenty years later, I am struck by how its wisdom stands the test of time while also providing fresh, relevant insights for leading at your best and mobilizing others to achieve the extraordinary."
Liz Wiseman, author, Multipliers
"The Leadership Challenge remains one of the five best books I have ever read. Twenty-five years after its first publication, I still continually recommend it to others looking to improve as leaders."
John C. Maxwell, leadership expert; bestselling author, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
"Leaders get people moving. They energize and mobilize. They take people and organizations to places they have never been before. Leadership is not a fad, and the leadership challenge never goes away."from the Introduction
Visit www.leadershipchallenge.com to learn more.
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About the Author
James Kouzes is the Dean's Executive Fellow of Leadership, Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University, and lectures on leadership around the world to corporations, governments, and nonprofits.
Barry Posner is Accolti Professor of Leadership and former Dean (1997-2009) of the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University. An accomplished scholar, he also provides leadership workshops and seminars around the world.
Kouzes and Posner are the authors of Credibility, The Truth About Leadership, A Leader's Legacy, Encouraging the Heart, and The Student Leadership Challenge, among many other works. They also developed the highly acclaimed Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI).
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 8: Sharing Power And InformationShare information so your employees can see how to help- and they'll improve the business.
Coordinator of the Guiding Team
If citizens are to take responsibility for governing, says Sunne McPeak, they must first be empowered. As president and CEO of the Bay Area Economic Forum and a former member of the Contra Costa County (California) Board of Supervisors, McPeak takes great pride in the large number of her constituents who continue their participation in local government activities long after their direct involvement with her. McPeak knows that when coalitions of highly diverse interests (such as growers and environmentalists in the Coalition to Stop the Peripheral Canal, which she co-chaired) come together, it's impossible for them to reach consensus and forge commitment unless they're provided with the skills and knowledge needed to make good judgments. For McPeak, keeping people informed, developing personal relationships among the participants, involving people in important decisions, and acknowledging and giving credit for people's contributions are essential to any process for reinventing government.
We find that, like McPeak, exemplary leaders make other people feel strong. They enable others to take ownership of and responsibility for their group's success. Long before empowerment was written into the popular vocabulary, credible leaders knew that only when their constituents felt strong, capable, and efficacious could they ever hope to get extraordinary things done. Constituents who feel weak, incompetent, and insignificant consistently underperform, they want to flee the organization, and they're ripe for disenchantment, even revolution.
People who feel powerless, be they managers or individual contributors, tend to hoard whatever shreds of power they have. Powerless managers, for example, tend to adopt petty and dictatorial styles. Powerlessness creates organizational systems in which political skills are essential and "covering yourself " and "passing the buck" are the preferred modes of handling interdepartmental differences.
When constituents have very little power, those in positions of authority can easily get people to follow orders. Under such circumstances, authority figures often attribute other people's behavior, no matter how good it is, to their own orders rather than to constituents' abilities and motivations. Stanford University researcher Jeffrey Pfeffer has found that "if behavior occurs in the presence of a great deal of external pressureeither positive in the form of monetary inducements or negative in the form of threats and sanctions-people are likely to conclude that the external forces both caused the behavior and were, in fact, necessary to produce it."
The most insidious thing about external control is that it actually erodes the intrinsic motivation that a person might have for a task. In other words, even the constituents begin to assume that only outside forces will compel them to do anything. And yet intrinsic motivation is esential to getting extraordinary things done. When people do things because they're told to, not because they want to, they don't perform at their best. Thus reliance on external power and control-whether by the authorities or the members-over time diminishes the capacity of individuals and organizations to excel.
This phenomenon was cleverly documented in one experiment involving small workgroups. Employees in some workgroups were allowed to influence decisions about their work (were made powerful, in other words), while those in other workgroups were not (were made powerless). The managers of the powerless groups routinely complained that their employees weren't motivated to work hard. These managers saw their workers as unsuitable for promotion and downplayed their skills and talents, and they evaluated the work output of their employees less favorably than did the managers of powerful workgroups. In fact, the actual output of both groups was roughly equivalent; it was the lack of employee opportunity to exercise influence that caused the managers to see their groups as poor performers.
The opportunity to create a climate where people are involved and important is at the heart of strengthening others. To create this climate, leaders use power in service of others, not in service of their own private interests.
Power in Service of OthersTo get a better sense of how it feels to be powerless as well as enabled, try this exercise to clarify your own experiences: Take out a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. Label the left-hand column "Powerless Times" and the right-hand column "Powerful Times." Now think about work- related times when you felt powerless-weak, insignificant, like a pawn in someone else's chess game. Record the actions or situational conditions that contributed to your feelings of powerlessness. Once you've recorded a few examples of powerless times, turn your attention to those times you felt powerful-strong, efficacious, like the creator of your own experience.
Record the actions or conditions that contributed to your feelings of powerfulness.
Representative statements that we've received in response to this task in our workshops are shown in the list that follows. See how these compare to your own experiences:
Powerless Times Powerful Times
- I had no input into a hiring decision of someone who was to report directly to me. I didn't even get to speak to the candidate.
- I was able to make a large financial decision on my, own. I got to write a check for $200,000 without being questioned.
- I was asked to take on a project for which I didn't have the experience. I was told, "I know you'll be successful."
- People picked me apart while I was making a presentation, and the champion of the project didn't support me.
- I was told I couldn't ask questions because I lacked the appropriate educational level.
- After having received a memo that said, "Cut travel," I made my case about why it was necessary to travel for business reasons; and I was told to go ahead.
- They treated us like mushrooms. They fed us and kept us in the dark.
- I interviewed job candidates and then got no feedback on the results.
- I was five years old, and my dad said, "You'll make a great mechanic one day" He planted the seed. Now I'm an engineer.
- I worked extremely hard-long hours and late nights-on an urgent project, and then my manager took full credit for it.
- I wanted to put a new program into effect, but we'd reached the
- My suggestions, whether good or bad, were either not solicited or-worse-ignored.
- The project was reassigned without my knowledge or input.
- I couldn't get answers to my questions.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Getting Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations
1 When Leaders Are at Their Best
The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership –– Leadership Is a Relationship –– Putting It All Together: Credibility Is the Foundation
Practice 1: MODEL THE WAY
2 Clarify Values
Find Your Voice –– Affirm Shared Values
3 Set the Example
Live the Shared Values –– Teach Others to Model the Values
Practice 2: INSPIRE A SHARED VISION
4 Envision the Future
Imagine the Possibilities –– Find a Common Purpose
5 Enlist Others
Appeal to Common Ideals –– Animate the Vision
Practice 3: CHALLENGE THE PROCESS
6 Search for Opportunities
Seize the Initiative –– Exercise Outsight
7 Experiment and Take Risks
Generate Small Wins –– Learn from Experience
Practice 4: ENABLE OTHERS TO ACT
8 Foster Collaboration
Create a Climate of Trust –– Facilitate Relationships
9 Strengthen Others
Enhance Self-Determination –– Develop Competence and Confidence
Practice 5: ENCOURAGE THE HEART
10 Recognize Contributions
Expect the Best –– Personalize Recognition
11 Celebrate the Values and Victories
Create a Spirit of Community –– Be Personally Involved
12 Leadership Is Everyone's Business
About the Authors
Challenge Is the Opportunity for Greatness
Take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Think of a few well-known historical figures you consider exemplary leaders. Think about the men and women who you believe have led organizations, communities, states, nations, or the world to greatness. Write their names in the left-hand column. In the right-hand column opposite each name, record the events, circumstances, or historical contexts with which you identify each of these individuals.
Now review the list. Cover the names, and look only at the right-hand column listing the events, circumstances, or contexts. Is there any pattern in these leadership situations? What do they have in common?
We predict that your list will consist of leaders you identify with the creation of new institutions, the resolution of serious crises, the winning of wars, the organization of revolutionary movements, protests for improving social conditions, political change, innovation, or some other social transformation.
The following are a few examples of the historical leaders people have mentioned when we've asked this question. See if you don't agree with the observation.
Historical Leaders: Situation or Context
- Susan B. Anthony -- Women's rights
- Mahatma Gandhi -- National independence
- Abraham Lincoln -- Civil War
- Florence Kelly -- Fought for child labor laws
- Martin Luther King Jr. -- Civil rights
- Nelson Mandela -- National liberation movement
- Rosa Parks -- Civil rights
- Mother Teresa -- Served the poorest of the poor
When times are stable and secure, we’re not severely tested. We may perform well, we may get promoted, we may even achieve fame and fortune. But certainty and routine breed complacency. In times of calm, we don’t take the opportunity to burrow inside and discover the true gifts buried down deep. In contrast, personal, business, and social hardships have a way of making us come face-to-face with who we really are and what we’re capable of becoming. Only challenge produces the opportunity for greatness. And given the daunting challenges we face today, the potential for greatness is monumental.
You may also notice something else about this list. The leaders we admire are also the ones who have the courage of their convictions. Not only do they have a clear set of principles and a vision which guides them, they also stand up for those beliefs during times of intense challenge and radical change. Of course, that's one of the reasons we admire them, but it's also a highly significant leadership lesson. It's only when are beliefs are tested in the trials of adversity that we know whether a leader has the "right stuff."
Skeptics might say that this is true only for those few great leaders who've made their mark on history, and it can't be true for those less famous. Absolutely not so. When my coauthor, Barry Posner, and I analyzed the initial set of personal-best cases in our leadership research, we discovered exactly the same thing. The challenges faced by the leaders we studied may have been less grand, but even so the situations they chose to discuss were about major change that had a significant impact on their organizations. This remains true today: regardless of function, field, economic sector, organizational level, or national boundary, the leaders in our study talk about times when they lead adventures into new territory. They tell us how they turned around losing operations, started up new plants, installed untested procedures, or greatly improved the results of poorly performing units. And these weren’t 10, 25, or even 50 percent improvements in products and processes; in many cases, the magnitude of changes was in the hundreds of percent. The personal-best leadership cases were about firsts, about radical departures from the past, about doing things that had never been done before, about going to places not yet discovered.
What’s significant about the emphasis on innovation in our leadership cases is that we don’t ask people to tell us about change; we ask them to tell us about personal-best leadership experiences. They can discuss any leadership experience they choose: past or present, unofficial or official; in any functional area; in any community, voluntary, religious, health care, educational, public-sector, or private-sector organization. Our respondents elected to talk about times of change, not time of stability and the status quo. Their stories underscore the fact that leadership demands changing the business-as-usual environment.
Whether we're reflecting on historical leaders or reviewing personal best leadership experiences, the study of leadership is the study of how men and women guide us through adversity, uncertainty, hardship, disruption, transformation, transition, recovery, new beginnings, and other significant challenges. It's also the study of how men and women, in times of constancy and complacency, actively seek to disturb the status quo and awaken to new possibilities.
In recent years the phrase "change leadership" has been popping up more and more frequently, perhaps in recognition of the role leaders play in turbulent times. While we understand the currency of the phrase, we think "change leadership" is redundant. Based on our evidence, change is what leadership is all about. What else would you call it -- "keep-things-the-same leadership"? There's just leadership, and then there's something else.
You need only look in the dictionary to understand the meaning. The word lead, at its root, means “go, travel, guide.” Leadership has about it a kinesthetic feel, a real sense of movement. Leadership is about going places, about travel and adventure, about stepping out into unknown territory. Leaders are pioneers. They begin the quest for a new order. They venture into unexplored territory and guide us to new and unfamiliar destinations. Leaders “go first.” They actively search for opportunities to change, grow, innovate, and improve.
Stuff happens in organizations and in our lives. Sometimes we choose it; sometimes it chooses us. It's unavoidable. People who become leaders don’t always seek the challenges they face. Challenges also seek leaders. Opportunities to challenge the process and introduce change open the door to doing one’s best. Challenge is the motivating environment for excellence. Challenging opportunities often bring forth skills and abilities that people don’t know they have. Given opportunity and support, ordinary men and women can get extraordinary things done in organizations. It's not so important whether you find the challenges or they find you. What is important are the choices you make when stuff happens. The question is, When opportunity knocks are you prepared to answer the door? James M. Kouzes
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a very in-depth book that challenges leaders to mobilize their people to get extraordinary things done in their organizations. The content is very digestible, intuitive, and compelling. It is called "The Leadership Challenge" for a reason: the chapters offer anecdotes and activities that challenge you to become the best leader you can be. They are quite good. Something as simple as, "Write Your Credo"--where it challenges you to write your own guiding principles as a leader--proved to be a valuable exercise for me. I like leadership books that offer intuitive content and at the same time teach me to apply what I'm reading. Another book I recommend that does this incredibly well is Leadership 2.0. But I digress, here's a summary of what's in "The Leadership Challenge": PART I. WHAT LEADERS DO AND WHAT CONSTITUENTS EXPECT 1. The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership: 1) Model the way 2) Inspire a shared vision 3) Challenge the process 4) Enable others to act 5) Encourage the heart 2. Credibility Is The Foundation of Leadership: For people to follow someone willingly, the majority of constituents believe the leader must be honest, forward-looking, inspiring, and competent. PART II. MODEL THE WAY 3. Clarify Values: Find your voice and affirm shared values. 4. Set the Example: Personify the shared values and teach others to model these values. PART III. INSPIRE A SHARED VISION 5. Envision the Future: Imagine the possibilities and find a common purpose. 6. Enlist Others: Appeal to common ideals and animate the vision. Part IV. CHALLENGE THE PROCESS 7. Search For Opportunities: Seize the initiative and exercise outsight. 8. Experiment and Take Risks: Generate small wins and learn from experience. Part V. ENABLE OTHERS TO ACT 9. Foster Collaboration: Create a climate of trust and facilitate relationships. 10. Strengthen Others: Enhance self-determination and develop competence and confidence. PART VI. ENCOURAGE THE HEART 11. Recognize Contributions: Expect the best and Personalize recognition. 12. Celebrate the Values and Victories: Create a spirit of community and Be personally involved. Part VII. LEADERSHIP FOR EVERYONE 13. Leadership Is Everyone's Business - You are the most important leader in your organization. - Leadership is learned. - Leaders make a difference. - First lead yourself. - Moral leadership calls us to high purposes. - Humility is the antidote to hubris. - Leadership is in the moment. - The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love: staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with those who honor the organization by using its products and services.
This book provides clear ideas about the qualities that make an effective leader. Plenty of real life examples support and illustrate each quality. Worth reading.