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The Truth about Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know Hardcover – August 16, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A fresh look at what it means to lead from two of the biggest names in leadership

In these turbulent times, when the very foundations of organizations and societies are shaken, leaders need to move beyond pessimistic predictions, trendy fads, and simplistic solutions. They need to turn to what's real and what's proven. In their engaging, personal, and bold new book, Kouzes and Posner reveal ten time-tested truths that show what every leader must know, the questions they must be prepared to answer, and the real-world issues they will likely face.

  • Based on thirty years of research, more than one million responses to Kouzes and Posner's leadership assessment, and the questions people most want leaders to answer
  • Explores the fundamental, enduring truths of leadership that hold constant regardless of context or circumstance-leaders make a difference, credibility, values, trust, leading by example, heart, and more
  • Shows emerging leaders what they need to know to be effective; fans of The Leadership Challenge will find a dynamic new look at the real challenges leaders face today

Drawing from cases spanning three generations of leaders from around the world, this is a book leaders can use to do their real and necessary work-bringing about the essential changes that will renew organizations and communities.

Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner

Q: What is a leadership truth?
A: Shortly before we began writing this book, we had the chance to share the platform at an association meeting with renowned author and leadership educator Ken Blanchard. In responding to an audience question, one of us was saying, “I don’t know what you call something that’s been the same for twenty-five years, but. . .,” and Ken interrupted with, “I’d call it the truth!” It was a moment of clarity. It reinforced our sense that some things about leadership just don’t change that much over time, if at all, and that those things need to be understood for what they are—the truth. We wanted to record those enduring leadership truths that we learned over the years. We also wanted to make certain that the lessons we included in The Truth About Leadership withstood not only the test of time but also the scrutiny of statistics. So we sifted through the reams of data that had piled up over three decades and isolated those nuggets that were soundly supported by the numbers. This is a collection of the real thing—no fads, no myths, no trendy responses—just truths that endure.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give a new leader, or a young person entering the workforce?
A: Dream. Imagine. Think big. We need your creativity, enthusiasm, and idealism. The truth is that focusing on the future sets leaders apart. The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is the defining competence of leaders. It’s not something people expect from colleagues, but they definitely expect it from their leaders. You have to take a long-term perspective if you’re going to guide people to places they have never been before. And, as important as it is, inspiring a shared vision is the most difficult of all the leadership practices to master. You need to start now in developing the capacity to envision an ennobling and uplifting future.

We’d also tell them that you have to say yes to begin things. You have to say yes to your beliefs, you have to say yes to big dreams, you have to say yes to difficult challenges, you have to say yes to collaboration, you have to say yes to trust, you have to say yes to learning, you have to say yes to setting the example, and you have to say yes to your heart. So, here’s the big question: Are you ready to say yes to leadership?

Q: What would you say to a more seasoned leader?
A: Two things. First, the truth is that the best leaders are the best learners. Leaders are constant improvement fanatics, and learning is the master skill of leadership. We found in our research that those leaders who engaged more in learning, regardless of their style of learning, were more effective at leading regardless of their years of experience. Seasoned leaders have learned a lot, and they need to keep on learning and practicing every day of their lives. They also need to share their learning with all of the emerging leaders in their organizations.

Second, we’d remind them that the truth is you either lead by example or you don’t lead at all. Credibility is the foundation of leadership, and credibility is earned minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day when you do what you say you will do. We’ve seen far too many examples lately of seasoned leaders who seem to forget this very basic lesson. Keep in mind that your example is the most powerful teaching tool you have. To your direct reports, you are the most important and influential leader in your organization. Make sure you set the best possible example you can for those who’re looking to you for guidance. The legacy you leave is the life you lead.

Q: Of these ten truths, which resonates the most for you?
A: You can’t do it alone. No leader ever got anything extraordinary done without the talent and support of others. You need others and they need you. You’re all in this together. You have to be sensitive to the needs of others, listen, ask questions, develop others, provide support, and ask for help. We are reminded of this every day as we work on our books. We’re reminded of it not only by the leaders who share their stories with us, but also by the fact that we’ve been working collaboratively for nearly thirty years with each other and with our publishers. We could never have done what we’ve done without the caring support and involvement of so many other people. We are so grateful to be part of an extraordinary community.

Q: What can fans of The Leadership Challenge expect from this new work?
A: For those who have read our prior works, some of what we say may sound familiar, as we are building on the major lessons we’ve learned from over thirty years of research. But three things make this book different from our previous ones. First, this is a bolder book. We’re taking a stand that our research supports each and every claim. Second, it’s based on far more data than any of our other books were. Over the past few years we’ve been able to accumulate a lot more quantitative information and a lot more cases than for our other books. Third, it’s a more global and a more cross-generational book. The stories and examples we share come from around the world and encompass three generations of leaders. We know that you’ll be the judge, but if you’ve read our other works we still think you’ll find many new and useful insights among these enduring truths.


“This book cuts through the clutter and reminds us of what really matters. The introduction alone is worth the price of the book.”
—PATRICK LENCIONI, president, The Table Group, and author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Getting Naked

“The leadership truths Kouzes and Posner lay out have not only endured the test of time but are even more relevant now in a world transformed by Twittering Millennials. Buy copies for yourself, your boss, and also for leaders of your organization.”
—CHARLENE LI, author of Open Leadership, and founder, Altimeter Group

The Truth About Leadership provides some of the best practical advice on leadership I’ve read in a long time. If you have not read Kouzes and Posner and you manage people, shame on you. Start here. If you have read their work and your workplace needs a shot in the arm, you’ll find this book a quick, engaging jewel that will help you become a more trusted, credible, and valued leader.”
—ADRIAN GOSTICK, author of The Carrot Principle

“I’ve always been a big proponent of simple truths. That’s why I love the new book from Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Truth About Leadership.  Jim and Barry spell out ten fundamental truths about leadership and every one of them is right on. If you want to do a fact check on your leadership expertise, read this book!”
—KEN BLANCHARD, coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and Leading at a Higher Level

“Regardless of your experience, age, generation, or life stage, The Truth About Leadership will remind you of the vital role leaders play in our lives, renew your interest in understanding what makes a leader great, and rekindle your desire to be an inspiring leader yourself.”
—LYNNE LANCASTER, coauthor of When Generations Collide and The M-Factor

“Elegant in its simplicity and powerful in its depth, The Truth About Leadership dazzles the reader with evidence-based knowledge and practical inspiration This is that one in a million book that serves to pull an entire field together for the reader. No matter how many books you’ve read on leadership, you will better understand each of them after reading this remarkable book.”  
—COLONEL TOM KOLDITZ, PhD, professor, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and author of In Extremis Leadership

“This is a book a leader should put on his or her nightstand and read a chapter a night to refresh on what is important from a leadership perspective.”
—STEPHEN ALMASSY, Global Vice Chair, OCA/Industry, Ernst & Young Global Limited


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (August 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470633549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470633540
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Thomas A. Kolditz on August 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Although I live and work in the leadership industry and am an author, I have to confess that I am not a huge fan of leadership books. They tend to be preachy without justification, and too many are written by thinkers who have never done, or doers that don't think. The Truth About Leadership is just the opposite, an evidence based, practical book written by highly experienced thought leaders, boiling down leadership to its essence. That's not to say it's just a "basic" leadership book or a primer--even those of us who have been leading for a while will benefit from reading it. It really is a brilliant little gem.
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Format: Hardcover
The Truth about Leadership adds to the cannon of examples and nuances that describe the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® and the foundation of effective leadership. In this text, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner adopt a casual voice and explore examples from several industries (including education) to make their messages accessible to leaders from all generations, levels of experience and industries. While many of the core messages in this text aren't entirely new teachings from these authors, myriad fresh examples and applications bring new life to their recommendations. After reading several of their other texts, participating in their workshop and utilizing their leadership assessment, I still took several lessons from this book.

I would suggest this text as a primer before reading The Leadership Challenge, 4th Edition or as a refresher for anyone who is familiar with The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® and wants to chart out new opportunities to improve his or her leadership practice. In my experience, one can't go wrong with a Kouzes & Posner text or tool-their books, instruments and workshops are well worth the investment of time, money, and effort.
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What two names are automatically associated with the word "leadership?" Answer: Kouzes and Posner. Their landmark works, The Leadership Challenge and Credibility stand head and shoulders above other leadership books. Their latest book, The Truth About Leadership continues to encourage principle-centered leadership.

Patrick Lencioni rightly says, "This book cuts through the clutter and reminds us of what really matters." Kouzes and Posner immerse their readers in to fundamental leadership truths:

Truth # 1: You make a difference

Truth # 2: Credibility is the foundation of leadership

Truth # 3: Values drive commitment

Truth # 4: Focusing on the future sets leaders apart

Truth # 5: You can't do it alone

Truth # 6: Trust rules

Truth # 7: Challenge is the crucible for greatness

Truth # 8: You will lead by example or you don't lead at all

Truth # 9: The best leaders are the best learners

Truth # 10: Leadership is an affair of the heart

Once again, the authors are quick to point out the necessity of credible leadership that empowers and inspires people. I cannot recommend this book high enough. However, my encouragement is to read Kounzes' and Posner's earlier works before tackling this one.

Highly recommended!
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Format: Hardcover
This latest book by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner is geared to emerging leaders but quite frankly, it can be used by anyone. True to the character of Jim and Barry, this book is full of rich poignant stories that get to the heart of the matter. Even seasoned leaders need a refresher on the truths of leadership. This book quickly gets into the ten truths about leadership that loyal followers of The Leadership Challenge will identify with. I won't give away these ten truths, but be assured that as you read these and check them off for yourself, you will find a couple that could use your attention.

In these times of economic uncertainty, slashed to bone budgets; leaders will gain a renewed perspective on how to lead during these times in order to retain attract great talent. The Truth About Leadership is a quick and easy read that leaves us with much to think about and easy to implement ideas. If you want to be a better leader, get to the truth!

Valarie Willis
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Authors Kouzes and Posner set their bar pretty high with their brilliant work in "Leadership Challenge", which should be on everyone's reading list. I was expecting something just as good with THE TRUTH ABOUT LEADERSHIP, and although the book is well written and I did learn from it, I was a little disappointed. I suppose it's that age-old story of the sequel rarely being as good as the original.

Here, the Santa Clara University professors detail the 10 "must haves" that every leader needs to know. Honestly, I found the presentation of these ten leadership truths to be a little weak. For example, Chapter 4 is "Focusing on the future sets leaders apart". It is 14 short pages telling us our leaders must have a clear set of goals in order for others to follow. There is a business example about how a Wal-Mart China controller's idea changed the way the company did things. It was interesting reading, but not exactly captivating reading and not something I wouuld ever refer back to.

Each chapter presents an idea, provides some data to back it up, gives a business or leadership example to support the idea, and throws in a few pull quotes. Beyond that, there just isn't much here.

The subtitle here is "The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know", and they are right about that. All leaders DO need to know what is in this book. The problems is, I think most leaders, the real ones anyway, already know this. I just didn't find much new here and thought the presentation could have been much stronger.

Whenever I pull "Leadership Challenge" off my bookshelf, I see margin notes and highlights on almost every page. Here, I made notes on maybe ten pages. But then, there are actually only 164 pages of actual text.
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