Leaders: How To Make Extraordinary Things Happen In Organizations

There is good reason why, The Leadership Challenge, book is now in its sixth addition. It expertly teaches you what to do as a leader to mobilize others to want to get extraordinary things done in your organization.

Revised to address current challenges, this sixth edition marks thirty years since the book was first published.

Embedded in The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are behaviors that can serve as the basis for becoming an exemplary leader. The authors, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, call these The Ten Commitments of Exemplary Leadership. Chapters in the book explain the conceptual principles that support each practice and prescribe specific recommendations on what you can do to make each practice and commitment your own.

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 

Kouzes and Posner explain that leaders who use these five practices more frequently than their counterparts:
  • Create higher-performing teams.
  • Generate increased sales and customer satisfaction levels.
  • Foster renewed loyalty and greater organizational commitment.
  • Enhance motivation and the willingness to work hard.
  • Reduce absenteeism and turnover.
  • Positively influence recruitment yields.

One of my favorite pieces of advice from the book are the six ways leaders can Challenge the Process. To do this successfully, you must search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and look outward for innovative ways to improve. This means you must:
  • Do something each day so that you are better than you were the day before.
  • Seek firsthand experiences outside your comfort zone and skill set.
  • Always be asking, “What’s new? What’s next? What’s better?” and not just for yourself, but also for those around you.
  • Find a significant purpose for addressing your challenging and most difficult assignments.
  • Ask questions, seek advice, and listen to diverse perspectives.
  • Be adventurous; don’t let routines become ruts.

I also appreciated learning more about the common phrases people use to describe how they know credibility in a leader when they see it:
  • “They practice what they preach.”
  • “They walk the talk.”
  • “Their actions are consistent with their words.”
  • “They put their money where their mouth is.”
  • “They follow through on their promises.”
  • “They do what they say they will do.”

Finally, and most interesting to me was the findings of what the majority of people want in a leader when it comes to following that leader willingly. The top four characteristic people want in a leader (based on the authors' findings over the past 30 years (1987 to 2017) are:
  1. Honest – Being worthy of being trusted.
  2. Competent – Having a good track record and ability to get things done, which both inspire confidence.
  3. Inspiring – Being excited, energetic, and positive about the future.
  4. Forward-looking – Having a sense of direction and a concern for the future of the organization.

These four rank consistently at the top across different countries in the world as well. And, more specifically, the four ranked in the same order in the U.S., Mexico, United Arab Emirates and Australia.

Those four beat out these leader qualities:
  • Broad-minded
  • Supportive
  • Ambitious
  • Loyal
  • Caring
  • Intelligent

Kouzes and Posner are the authors of Learning Leadership, Credibility, The Truth About Leadership, A Leader’s Legacy, Encouraging the Heart and The Student Leadership Challenge, among many other works.

Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.


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