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The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Jossey-Bass, 4th Edition, 416 pages, $14.93

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There is no shortage of books describing the qualities and practices of good leaders. What sets The Leadership Challenge apart is that it has been around for over two decades and withstood the test of time. This 4th edition has new information and also serves as a refresher for anyone in a leadership capacity. Kouzes and Posner believe that while managers focus on short term gains, true leaders challenge and inspire people to achieve greatness. They examine the art and science of leadership in an entertaining and analytical way that will speak to any leader facing challenges in the workplace.

The Leadership Challenge explores five leadership practices and then describes two commitments leaders must apply to realize them. The practices are:

  1. Challenge the Process
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
  3. Enable Others to Act
  4. Model the Way to the Desired Objectives
  5. Encourage the Heart of Everyone Involved

One hallmark of good leaders is that they know how to share their power. Kouzes and Posner address this in the section on "Enabling Others to Act." Encouraging collaboration and giving every member of a team meaningful responsibilities spurs workers to grow and challenge themselves and others. Especially relevant is creating a climate of trust in today's workplace where technology makes workers more wary and territorial. According to the authors, empowering workers means not only giving them a voice, but factoring in their feedback.

The Leadership Challenge functions as a field guide for leaders looking to get back in touch with employees on a grass roots level. Kouzes and Posner characterize leadership as a performing art, and always put their focus squarely on people instead of on more nebulous concepts of "management" or "the organization." This edition covers more of the issues technology poses while retaining the core leadership principles based on extensive research and analysis. Anyone who wants to improve their leadership skills and that of their management team will find a thorough roadmap populated with case studies, stories, and wisdom.

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