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I had to read this for work, which must qualify as some kind of cruel and unusual punishment. Anyway:
The Leadership Challenge – A review in clichés and idioms.
The Leadership Challenge describes itself as an evidence-based primer on the near-universal qualities of excellent leaders. Its authors state that they have conducted years of research on leadership, and have distilled the data into what they have identified as the five practices of successful leaders.
Each of the five practices is then separated into its own section, in which the authors completely fail to clearly define it. Sleeping on this book and attempting to absorb it by osmosis might be a more effective way of digesting its contents.
The following is my interpretation of what the five practices of successful leaders are.
1. Model the behavior that you would like to elicit from your team. Clearly explaining what your values are is important, but talk is cheap. Walk the walk. Actions speak louder than words. Effective leaders expect more out of themselves than they do out of anyone else. Duh.
The authors suggest that the method by which you model the behavior that you would like to see is to first clarify internally what your own strongly held values and principles are, then to figure out how to express those values and principles in your own words, and then to identify and affirm the values you share across the organization. Finally, an aspiring leader must commit to executing on those values personally, in order to model the way for the team. Your time and attention should be spent on the things that you expect your team to find important.
2. Inspire a shared vision in your team with enthusiastic commitment to accomplishing goals. This category is pretty fuzzy, but it seems to suggest that an effective leader first sincerely believes in the pursuit of team goals and achievements, and second, utilizes his or her own enthusiasm to recruit team members into sharing that commitment. This category also involves ensuring that your team understands where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. “Vision” in this sense can be equated with “purpose.”
3. “Challenge the Process.” Again, this is a very fuzzy concept. I interpret it as saying that effective leaders ignore, cut through, and/or find some way to bypass red tape in order to achieve shared goals. As an umbrella concept, this includes fearlessly utilizing new processes, systems, or products, not being hidebound, and thinking outside of the box. Build a better mousetrap, light a candle rather than curse the darkness, etc.
4. Enable others to act. Effective leaders make sure that their team is able to perform to the best of their abilities, and delegate authority and discretion along with tasks. Effective leaders think of themselves as part of their team, rather than the commander of their team, and solicit team opinions and input. This includes giving serious consideration to team opinions and input, not just soliciting input for the sake of saying that you did it.
5. Encourage and appreciate team contributions and efforts. Please and thank you aren’t just for charm school. Who knew.
In addition to looking at the five practices of successful leaders, the authors also examine what “constituents” look for, expect from, and admire in their leaders. Personally, a snappy uniform always does it for me. But for others, in order to inspire people to willingly follow them, a leader must be (in order of importance): (1) honest, (2) forward-looking, (3) inspiring, and (4) competent. According to the book, these qualities can be further defined by one core concept, which is credibility.
1. In all of the research done by the authors, they have consistently found that “honesty” is the most important category. The reason for this is that the category of “honesty” has so many corollary qualities, such as ethics, trustworthiness, and integrity. The honesty of a leader also weighs heavily on a team’s view of its members. That is, following a leader perceived to be dishonest or untrustworthy tends to make a team lose respect not only for its leader but for the team members. Following a leader who is perceived to be trustworthy and honest makes the team feel better about themselves and about their job.
2. The “forward-looking” category mostly relates to a leader’s “sense of direction and concern for the future of the organization.” My sense of this category is that the more that a team feels as though their leader is actually part of the active guiding force in the organization, the better they feel about following that leader’s directions.
3. The “inspiring” category is related to a team’s sense of their leader’s commitment to and enthusiasm for team activities and goals. Teams are more likely to want to follow a leader who is sincerely enthusiastic about the work at hand, and who can positively convey a sense of the meaning and importance of that work to their team.
4. “Competence” is pretty self-explanatory, but generally, it’s difficult for a team to commit to following a leader who isn’t perceived to have the knowledge, experience or skills necessary to set and achieve team goals.
Honestly, I’m pretty sure that the entire book can be distilled down to two concepts. The first is that if you’re in a leadership position, your own behavior has to be exemplary. Your team will only work as hard as they see you working. The second is that you have to know what your team is doing, and you have to support them in doing it. No one wants to work for a leader who they feel is working against them or who simply doesn’t care about what they’re doing. I don’t know why anyone needs a $25.00 book to explain this stuff. Being a human person who recognizes that others are also human persons should be sufficient.
Finally, the book addresses the question of whether any of this really matters. Unsurprisingly, the answer is yes. In terms of employee engagement, productivity, efficiency, and retention of top talent, excellent leadership makes an enormous impact. So, get on it folks.
Yet another book on leadership that doesn’t really define what leadership is - other than by a series of anecdotes related to people who are presumably successful leaders. The main problem here for me is that it is never clear that the remarkably positive stories being told reflect something other than the story the leaders might want other people to hear or to tell about themselves. As someone who quite likes to read fiction - even if I haven’t for far too long - the one thing such reading has taught me is that stories can be dangerous things. They can uncover the truth, highlight it, or they can do as much to hide the truth – they can be incredibly self-serving. And that isn’t always just because the person telling the story is nasty in some way. You see, a story demands a narrative arc and that requires a kind of directionality that is often only able to be understood after the event. And we like to shine the best of all possible lights upon ourselves. We don’t want to be remembered as fools or nasty. Rather, it is only after the event that we see what felt at the time like false starts were necessary learnings or incremental steps towards ultimate victory. So, when a book is basically a series of happy stories about success - well, I am left more than a little cold.
Central to this book is the idea that leadership is about change. Having worked in too many organisations where change was more or less randomly imposed - or rather, change was something that was about improving the CEOs CV and proving them a ‘change leader’ than being necessary to the organisation itself - I found this central vision particularly problematic. As soon as someone is convinced that one side of any tension is the only side worth worrying about (change, in this instance) then you just know that ‘consolidation’ is a trap about to come and bite them on the bum. But if success is something that is ultimately defined by where a leader leads you – then they have to lead you somewhere other than where you currently are – no matter how nice that current place is.
So much of this book was about how great leaders find ways to empower those they are leading. And this is something I also found particularly interesting. Not least because it implies very particular kinds of workplaces - workplaces where there is the opportunity for the majority of the workers to actively contribute to the overall success of the company in potentially innovative ways. Now, overwhelmingly, when this kind of ‘leadership as inspiration’ was discussed the people being inspired were mostly people at the top levels of the organisation – second-tier managers, that sort of thing. Only once that I can remember was a ‘lowest-level staff member’ mentioned as someone whose contribution needed to be recognised - and even then only in a patronising sense - you know, we all need to remember the important job the driver does… Yeah, of course. Though, how this person might contribute to the overall direction of the company wasn’t as clear.
The point is that our world is composed of essentially two types of employees. One sort of employee has a series of skills that are costly to reproduce and are not generally available. These employees are often treated remarkably well. Their opinions are highly regarded and they are constantly asked their opinions, the organisation finds as many ways as possible to make the jobs of these employees as pleasant an experience as it can. It offers multiple reward systems, high wages, stock options and god knows what else. The rarity of the skills these employees hold make such considerations essential - and these, I’ve found, are the types of employees who are mostly discussed in books on leadership like this one – that is, employees the company needs to keep and attract.
However, there are a whole class of other employees who are just as invariably never discussed in books like this - and they are the employees whose jobs face the neo-Taylorism of ‘scientific management’. Their jobs are standardised to the point where the employees themselves probably don’t even do all of any single job per se. And their jobs are measured to within an inch of their lives. The division of labour enacted upon these people makes much of what they do personally meaningless to the person doing the work and they have no say in the type, pace or quality of the work they do. Often this lack of voice is quite literal - and with the increasing casualisation of employment this is increasingly true - that is, often these employees are ‘on call’ (yet another ‘just in time’ resource the real employees of the organisation need to manage) and therefore are never available for workplace meetings – neither invited nor welcome. The fact that books like this never make any mention of such employees presumably implies that leading such people requires no skills at all. And this is probably true. The other uncomfortable fact here is that such jobs are on the increase – in fact, the precariousness of most current employment is precisely due to the increase in these ‘gig’ jobs. The course of history seems to be pointing toward either the elimination of most jobs through automation or the increasing automation of the jobs that remain so that they become endlessly mindless and deskilled. This is, after all, the path of Capitalism. That books on leadership make no mention of this makes them read more like moral myths that need to be learnt in theory and disregarded in practice.
It is now about a week since I read this book - and I’m struggling to remember any of the little stories here used to justify the 12 of this and the 5 principals of that. I come away from these books basically wanting to hear about Hitler - you know, a counter-example of leader. I want someone to tell me the negative side of leadership and, if it has a negative side, then how might an organisation (or society more generally) go about defending itself from that side of leadership. I also want to hear some discussion of why we need our workplace organisations to be quite so anti-democratic. Why is democracy such a good idea for a nation, but a terrible idea for a company? Are there any examples of democratic organisations that have been successful - oh, I don’t know - like cooperatives in the UK or even small family businesses called something like ‘I Quattro Fratelli’ or something, where there is no ‘leader’ as such, but rather a more democratic means of making key decisions. The primary assumption is always that what we need is a great leader - but as someone who has watched on in horror at US politics over the last few decades - a nation that has prided itself in laying entire nations to waste (think Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq…) a nation that spends more on its military than all other nations on the planet combined (I think that is right, but won’t even bother checking) and that is currently lead by a madman - then maybe it is time to question putting infinite power into the hands of one person.
And don’t get me wrong - Obama was better than the current loon, but only a little better. Before he was elected he spoke of disarming and reducing the US nuclear weapons arsenal. He went on to dedicate something like a trillion dollars to upgrading those very weapons. We really need to rethink ‘leadership’ in all its forms. It isn’t at all clear to me that we have much time left on this planet - our addiction to ‘leaving the big decisions’ to ‘leaders’ seems to be at least part of the problem we face and one that is leading us to our doom.
None of these problems are discussed in any way here - this is, instead, a book on the glories of leadership. It suffers from the simple mindedness you might expect from such a book.
Great Content, Numerous Personalities being Quoted, Very Apt Anecdotes, Easy to Understand Principles and Universal Application is how I would describe what the book ‘The Leadership Challenge’ is all about.
What is this book about?
PART 1 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 2 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 3 Inspire a Shard 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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.
Overall, A simple yet effective book that describes what Leadership is all about and will always remain a as a timeless piece of literature in the non-fiction genre.
Having gained insights into the complex interpersonal dynamics and best practices to cultivate great workplaces, I have been fascinated by the set of skills proposed by Kouzes and Posner (2007) on transformational leadership, which comprises the following five aspects: 1. Challenging the Process 2. Inspiring a Shared Vision 3. Enabling Others to Act 4. Modelling the Way 5. Encouraging the Heart The role of values in organizations is a highly researched topic by Kouzes and Posner (2007), whilst they indicate a positive relationship among transformational leadership and organizational values. Recommend this book to everyone who are curious about the sensemaking of values within their corporate environments in conjunction with the set of skills proposed by Kouzes and Posner.
A cliched and trite trudge. It is somewhat shocking that this book is in its 4th edition, and is mostly composed of common sense platitudes; being required to read this for grad school is some sort of punishment, surely. To be fair, some of the author's points about the dangers of micromanagement and engaging employees on a personal level are well-founded, but perhaps not a lesson that required 350 pages to convey.
Really handy and relevant leadership book, but I disagree with the comment that this is a good read for everyone, regardless of where they are in their career. The content is solid, it brings in excellent and evidence-based points, but these are all things that the experienced leader will already be familiar with. I would argue with those reviewers who said that this book doesn't explain the concept of leadership - it does so simply and encouraging heart and sentiment, which reflects its message perfectly. It focuses on the sentiment, initiative and taking-the-people-with-you aspect of leadership, and it flat out says that you can demonstrate it regardless of position or placement.
The chapters are structured based on a set of principles: Model the way, Inspire a shared vision, Challenge the process, Enable others to act and Encourage the heart.
Style-wise, it relies on story-telling. I've read another book by these authors earlier in the year that is much more preachy without having any evidence to support it, but this is such a natural read, it's almost like talking to a friend about their experiences and taking what you need from them. It's easy to get into and it doesn't feel like you are reading something for work.
What pushed it over the line for me in this genuinely being a book I would recommend is that at the end it does bring reality to the surface: even following all of these principles won't automatically make you successful. Overindexing on some of them may bring you to operate in a silo, develop blind spots and not accept differentiating opinions. I appreciated that the end of the book is a warning, rather than a now you've made it, you're the expert type of thing.
I received more from this book then I could have hoped for. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote the original version of this book in 1987 but that shouldn't scare you because they are on their 5th edition of this book in which they add new case studies, more interviews with other leaders, and other updates. Every time I read a book like this I check the credibility of the authors and if you do your own research you'd know that these two are more then credible to write a book on leadership. Whenever I read a book of this kind I check to see if it's research based and not based purely on personal opinion. The book cites study, after study. Like frosting on the cake all of the ideas that they present from the studies and questionnaires are supported by stories of leaders around the globe. I immediately started using the material presented in this book in my workplace and definitely noticed a difference!
This is an excellent book on leadership, which Kouzes and Posner understand as a process that can be learned, not a matter of inherent traits. They list Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart. This book emphasizes the humility, vision, and personal involvement needed for leaders in creative, well-illustrated, and well-structured ways. While possessing a lot of substance, this book is also well-written and quite readable. I can recommend it to anyone involved in a leadership process in any way.
This is a good leadership book. I am tempted to give it a five after reading the last chapter, but the bulk of the book is four-star material. The last chapter is absolutely leadership gold? Intrigued? Pick it up and read it!
Leadership není o pracovní pozici nebo titulu. Není o rodině, ve které jste se narodili. Není o tom, že jste hrdina. Leadership je o budování vztahů, o důvěryhodnosti a o všem, co děláte. A vše, co vždy budete jako leader dělat, je založeno na klíčovém předpokladu: že vám na tom záleží.
This book isn't 5 stars because of its prose or its persuasion. It is a very mundanely delivered book. It gets 5 stars because it is so right. I think I read the 5th edition, by the way. It just nails core-leadership. It hits the 5 main attributes, it delivers two actions on each, it goes into what it means to be developed in each of the 5 areas, it has a couple 'regular' corporate leader examples, and then it moves onto the next area. It's just rock solid leadership exposition, made very practical, backed with lots and lots of qualitative evidence. I want to go through this with a fine tooth comb and just list it all out outline-style. Like, you know it is so spot-on classic leadership traits that you wish there was some extra sauce out there that really makes the leader. And while creativity adds the flair and sees the end goal, it really comes down to mastering the application of these five areas. Definitely need to get the workbook and get at this one.
من کتاب صوتی ش رو از نوار کرفتم و گوش کردم. صدای گوینده به شدت نامناسب برای خوانش چنین کتابی بود به طوریکه نمی تونستم موضوع رو دنبال کنم. تا جایی که تونستم با کتاب ارتباط برقرار کنم یک کتاب درباره رهبری با موضوعی تکراری بود.
The book is great in that it covers a lot of real-life examples of leadership exhibited in organizations of all sizes and industries all around the world. The principles in it are also key to success. I probably could have skimmed the whole book and gotten a similar level of output. Glad I learned that for future similar texts.
A strong entry full of excellent advice. I deeply agree with the approach of using stories as evidence of your company values being lived. That’s the technique I stumbled into as a maker and shaper of corporate cultures, and it works.
A great, great book...very practical advice...I thoroughly enjoyed it...Dr. Pozner was one of my professors at SCU Graduate Business School...I advise this book for all my colleagues, especially my friends in Sri Lanka...read it...noodle on what is revealed...look around...look inside...you will know in your hearts who are the leaders! Enjoy!
A shotgun approach leadership book which gave me a lot of “I need to be doing that” moments.
Some of those moments: 1) owning a clear vision. 2)Showing my credibility to lead. (I have a tendency to downplay myself, and I think that can be a negative in leadership). 3)Celebrate the wins and tell stories.
Leadership books motivate me to do and be more, but for some reason this comes with a negative side of me seeing how I haven’t been doing or been enough. That’s why I avoid them. But, I believe I can remind myself that leadership is learned and something you practice, and as long as I am growing and moving forward that is good enough.
While I enjoyed the book, it was a lot to take in and had more stories than practical steps.
2022 Review: My company has embraced the Leadership Challenge as the model for how our leadership team should act, so I decided to get the updated 6th edition and re-listen. In November of 2022, my company brought in the Author (Posner) to do a talk outlining their 20ish years of research.
My 2015 comments aside (they still stand), I found that I have naturally been leading this way without actively knowing it. The 5 practices (Model the Way, Share the vision, Challenge the Process, Enable others to act, and encourage from the heart are all principles that simply come naturally to me.
Modeling the way you need to clarify your values and set the example. One thing that was taught to me by my father (a 40+ year railroad supervisor/manager) was to never ask anyone to do something you wouldn't do yourself. I've carried that close to the vest my whole life.
Sharing the vision is something that I've struggled with in past, but have really found my voice over the last couple years. As I work to engage my company in a lean transformation, I have a clear vision for the future and how we will get there. I've worked hard to not only engage those I directly lead, but to encourage those that I am being asked to indirectly lead.
Challenging the process is at the heart of my passion as a Continuous Improvement Professional. I'm constantly looking for opportunities to improve and use experimentation as the primary method for learning.
Enabling others to act by fostering collaboration and strengthening others. One of the best books I've read on how to do this is John Maxwell's Good Leaders Ask Great Questions. This is probably my biggest challenge as it's so easy to "give answers". I have learned by asking questions you move from do to coach and really enable others fully.
Encourage the heart by recognizing contributions and celebrating values and victories. I am still learning on this. I was a student of primarily Baby Boomer generation, I'm a member of the GenX, and I'm finding myself for the first time leading and managing Millenials and younger. Each "class" of person has different values and sees victories differently. I know a great deal about Boomers and GenX, but I really am learning what the next generations truly value so I can learn how to celebrate them properly.
Again a good book, a bit dry at times, and some of the examples they use are a little "sterile", but a must-read (perhaps find an abridged version) for any leader or anyone who aspires to be in leadership.
2015 Review: Some books have nuggets of wisdom...Leadership Challenge has the entire mine.
The only reason this is getting 4 stars from me not 5 stars is due to the Audible version. It was read well the problem was that it felt like the authors were reading a text book. It was missing that...something...that kept my focus.
I am going to put this on my re-read list but next time I will read it. My guess is the score will go from 4 to 5.
Great ideas and insights from within the book: Clarify values Good exercise – write a tribute to yourself: 1. What do you stand for? 2. What do you believe in? 3. What are you discontent about? 4. What brings you suffering? 5. What makes you weep and wail? 6. What makes you jump for joy? 7. What are you passionate about? 8. What keeps you awake at night? 9. What’s grabbed hold and won’t let go? 10. What do you want for your life? 11. What is it you really care about?
Write your credo. “This I believe.”
Share the above among those on the team.
Daily show someone you care. Make a call. Send a note. Show interest.
Ask purposeful questions. Example: What should you be asking if integrity is your focus? Trust? Quality? Innovation? Growth? Personal responsibility?
Critical incidents – best opportunities for teachable moments. Excellent behavior – reward it if you want it repeated.
Do personal audits • Your daily routines • Your calendar • Agendas at meetings • How you deal with critical incidents • Make the results public
Start each meeting with a story about something someone did to demonstrate a cherished value.
Ask people what they are proud of, what brings them to work every day. Recognize that those answers define a vision for the team to grow.
Promote trust. Do the following: • Disclose information about who you are and what you believe. • Admit mistakes. • Acknowledge need for personal improvement. • Ask for feedback. • Listen attentively. • Invite interested parties to important meetings. • Share information that is useful to others. • Openly acknowledge contributions of others. • Show you are willing to change your mind. • Avoid negative talk about others. • Say “we can trust them” and mean it.
Host monthly meetings – coaching conversations occur there: Six key questions (you tell me what you see/I tell you what I see): • Where are we going? • Where are you going? • What are you doing well? • What suggestions for improvement do you have for yourself? • How can I help you? • What suggestions do you have for me?
If strengthening credibility is your goal, then there is no better task than speaking to every person whom you oversee for five minutes each week. For me that is probably about two hours per week.
Once a month, give a team member award that is voted on in a meeting. The award winner gets a date to . . . .
This framework for understanding leadership is by far the simplest, fully comprehensive approach I have come across.
While most leadership tactics and thought schools have value, even the most valuable is not likely to allow for remembering all 21 or more leadership traits. True, each of these 5 leadership behavior categories is broken down into two other and then six other behavior types in the LPI survey, but the understanding surrounding the 5 core value behaviors remains constant.
The book is supported by nearly 40 years of research, including more than 2.5 million LPI respondents. Research is cited constantly in terms that are readily applicable to applicable behaviors, though I admit the sheer quantity of numbers became confusing to me. I feel that this book is very credible in its sources and in its cross-cultural, cross-organizational, and cross-generational validity.
Despite all of this, I do not believe that this (or any) book on leadership is of much value alone. The topics considered for leadership focus on changing our behaviors. If not started, applied, modified, continued, re-directed, and observed by someone who can provide experienced feedback, behaviors are simply nice ideas. Leadership must be lived or it cannot exist. Some sort of mentoring system, small group training, or even an accountability partner is required to evolve the head knowledge provided here into a meaningful and substantial leadership lifestyle. Leaders are doers. After completing this book as part of my own leadership training experience, I am upgrading this statement to: Leaders are Livers. Read on!
When I posted the review on Warren Bennis' "On Leadership", I mentioned that books I had started since I had started Bennis' text had caused me to re-think whether or not I found Bennis' text informative. "The Leadership Challenge" was the book that spurred the re-thinking.
Pretty good insight as to how to become a better leader. Lots of good stories and examples. Many of the tricks they offer are easy to implement - being a better leader is as simple as choosing to be a better leader. This book is built on the fact that leadership can be taught. Its success is built on the fact that anyone can accomplish the extraordinary.
My only caution with the text is that it contains too many lists. It starts with the "five practices of exemplary leadership", then offers two ways to achieve each of the five practices, three activities that you can take to accomplish the two ways to achieve the five practices, and so on. While all of the advice is resonant, it is virtually impossible to remember all the lists.
I had to read this as part of a group project (for a class in the nonprofit management certificate program).
While I think this book provides some great ideas and insight for leaders, I think it could be shorter. It's a little repetitive and redundant at times. I don't think it provided me with much information that I hadn't heard before--though some of the examples were nice illustrations.
Honestly, I've just read half of it--and will only read one more chapter (the chapter I'm responsible for presenting to the class). My awesome group members will take care of their chapters and I'll get the key points from them instead of reading 150 pages. This book does not motivate me enough to want to read it all for myself.
I guess this would be a great/useful read for anyone who hasn't been enrolled in a leadership program for five months or has recently started a career in a management/executive position.