The Leadership Challenge

Posted November 27, 2012 in Leadership, What We're Reading

The Leadership ChallengeThe Leadership Challenge  by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Reviewed by: Glain Roberts-McCabe

The Premise: First published in 1987, The Leadership Challenge is a comprehensive roadmap that takes the reader through a journey of self-insight to application. Written by Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University profs, the book combines stories and strategies backed up by global research. Built around 5 practices that the authors term “exemplary leadership”, the book explores each one in a good degree of depth and bookends the core with opening and closing chapters that really serve as a “challenge” for every leader to “step up” and be counted. The five key practices are: Model the way (align your values to your actions and set an example); Inspire a shared vision (imagine possibilities, rally people around a shared vision/future); Challenge the process (take initiative, experiment and take risks); Enable others to act (foster collaboration and develop others); and, Encourage the heart (recognize others and celebrate successes). An easy read, ripe with examples and providing a balance between practical application and a shot of inspiration, this book offers something for leaders at every level.

The Bottom Line: Full disclosure, we modelled much of our approach for our leadership programs at The Executive Roundtable around the Kouzes-Posner model, so we’re fans. What I enjoy about this book is the way it breaks down the behaviours of great leadership into chunks. It’s very easy to jump around in this book and dive into the parts that are the most relevant to you. The material in here is solid and, if you actually put the suggestions into action consistently, I have no doubt that you’ll up your leadership impact. The key words in that previous sentence are you and consistently. My suggestion for anyone out there trying to be a better leader is this: pick one thing and do it well. Once you’ve got that behaviour nailed, add another one.The Leadership Challenge will provide you with lots of good places to start. If I had one criticism about this book, it would be that it doesn’t go quite deep enough into helping you action plan “how” to change these behaviours. The self-reflection exercises at the end of each chapter could be much stronger.

Roundtable Rating: A highly recommended read for anyone looking to up their leadership impact.

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