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The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations Hardcover – July 31, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 272 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Featured Guest Review by Marshall Goldsmith

Marshall Goldsmith has been recognized by almost every major business publication as one of America's leading executive educators and coaches. He is the author or co-editor of more than 32 books, including the New York Times best sellers What Got You Here Won't Get You There and Mojo.

Marshall Goldsmith

Twenty-five years after the first edition was published, The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner is still my choice for the best research-based book ever written in the field of leadership. It is a classic, and I recommend it to all of my clients.

The Leadership Challenge is written for real leaders, who today face some of the toughest organizational challenges we've ever encountered. And, it provides practical, real-world advice based on Jim's and Barry's extensive global research that is indispensable for leaders at all levels.

I always refer leaders to this book, because although my Ph.D. is in Organizational Behavior, my undergraduate background is in mathematics. And, I respect people who gather real facts! In developing the Leadership Practices Inventory, which is possibly the world's most widely respected tool for 360° leadership feedback, Jim and Barry have thoroughly reviewed input from tens of thousands of respondents. They've then used this data to form sound conclusions about what works--and what doesn't work--in terms of leadership behavior.

The central theme of The Leadership Challenge is that leadership is for everyone. It can be learned, but, let's face it, it's not easy. The Leadership Challenge is based upon learnings from leaders at all levels--and shows how "regular people" can make a huge, positive difference in their organizations. It is written in a way that can help executives, mid-managers, first-line supervisors, project leaders--and even individual contributors--better understand how they can lead and immediately apply what they have learned in their work.

For example, Jim and Barry asked managers about their clarity around their personal values as well as around the values of their organizations. These managers were also asked about their level of commitment to the organization, their level of motivation and productivity, job satisfaction, and so on. To me, what they found is fascinating! Leaders with the highest levels of commitment are those who are clearest about their own personal values. Clarity about personal values was more prevalent in a positive workplace attitude and level of engagement than was clarity around organizational values. In doing the research for my recent book, Mojo, I found something similar to be true as well: People who find happiness and meaning at home are more likely to also find happiness and meaning at work.

Finally, for those of you reading this book now, I'd highly recommend that you put what you read here into practice. This book can help you lead in such a way that your organization will become a better place for you, your managers, employees, and colleagues-to-be. At the same time, if you implement what you learn here, you'll make a positive difference in not only your organization, but also in your own life and in the lives of those whom you lead.


'One of the most trusted sources on leadership techniques since its first publication 25 years ago. (European CEO, 1st August 2012) If you re forward-looking enough to be serious about yourself as a competent leader, you need this book (Supply Management, December 2012) .now in its fifth edition and rightly so. The book presents the issues of leadership in an easy-to-digest manner, debunking the myth that leadership is some entity that people have or don t have (Professional Manager, March 2013)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 5 edition (July 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470651725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470651728
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (272 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I admire the work that Kouzes and Posner have put into their five practices model and if someone asked me which books on leadership they should read, I would include "The Leadership Challenge". Nonetheless, it has some weaknesses in my view.

First, I feel it focuses so much on the inspirational side of leadership that it underplays the "sleeves-rolled-up" (getting the task done) reality of leadership in smaller firms. This feels like a big-company orientated book.

Second, it doesn't say much about how to develop leadership presence, even though the best leaders seem to have it. To me, great leadership is not just a matter of the right behaviours (which is what this book focuses on), it also depends on your presence. This, I feel, is a gap in the book.

Third, it might give some readers the impression that leaders must always be visionaries. It misses the point that a vision isn't always necessary, but a group purpose is. The purpose may be expressed as a vision, but then again it might not. It might instead be more pragmatic and short-term, especially if it's leadership of a rescue team we're talking about, not an international company.

Fourth, it says what you have to do (the five practices) to lead, but knowing what to do won't always enable someone to do it - especially if the behaviours aren't natural to them. Many leaders are stuck in old habits because of their psychology, but The Leadership Challenge doesn't address this.

Fifth, The Leadership Challenge, I feel, gives the impression that successful leaders have to be inspiring and lead from the front. But surely it is possible to put forth an inspiring idea without always being personally inspiring?
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Format: Hardcover
A great strength of this book is that it makes it very clear that it is designed for all people in leadership positions. The book came out of a research project, and the way the authors about it reveals a lot about its intent. Instead of interviewing top leaders in the business world, the authors interviewed ordinary leaders, but asked them about their peak leadership experiences. When were they at their best? The authors came up with these 5 cardinal rules of leadership:

1. Model the Way. Know your values, but also affirm the shared values of the group. Set the example by aligning actions with shared values.

2. Inspire a Shared Vision. Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.

3. Challenge the Process. Search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve. Constantly generate small wins and learn from experience.

4. Enable Others to Act. Foster collaboration. Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence.

5. Encourage the Heart. Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence. Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.

This is a book for the ordinary leader, who dreams of extraordinary things. The idea that comes through all the way is that leadership is not just about your position or your company's status. Being a leader is about "relationships, credibility, and what you do." Highly recommended for anyone in leadership positions -- maybe even especially those NOT at the top of the totem pole.

I really hope you found this review helpful.
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Format: Hardcover
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":


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.


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.


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.
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