Leadership challenge 5 th edition

Leadership Challenge (5th Edition: 2012; 1st Edition: 1987)

Authors: James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Reviewer:  Bob Moore

Leadership challenge 5 th editionThis fifth edition of the 25-year-old book, which has sold more than two million copies in over 20 languages, has been updated to reflect changes in the modern workplace. I noticed a subtle example of what was to come by the change in the subtitle from the original edition, “How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations” to “How to Make Things Happen in Organizations.”

This edition contains over 100 new case studies and anecdotes as well as more business examples than the original. While the book includes leadership models, case research, anecdotal comments from key players, and relevant additional models and research, it avoids simply becoming another academic work filled with references. Actually, I found the stories to be very engaging, and I plan to include some of its most noteworthy quotes.

In both editions of The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner present the five practices and ten commitments for effective leadership. Their leadership model has stood the test of time. While the context has changed over the years, the content of leadership remains the same. The Leadership Challenge is about how leaders mobilize others to want to get extraordinary things done in organizations.

In the original work the authors sought to answer the question, “How did effective leadership actually behave at their personal best?” In the fifth edition, they stated that when making things happen in organizations, leaders engage in what they call:

The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership

Leaders . . .

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

Embedded in The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are behaviors that can serve as the basis for learning to lead. The following are what Kouzes and Posner call The Ten Commitments of Leadership which serve as a template for explaining, understanding, appreciating, and leaning how leaders get extraordinary things done in organizations.

The Ten Commandments of Leadership

  1. Find your voice by clarifying your personal values.
  2. Set the example by aligning actions with shared values.
  3. Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling activities.
  4. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.
  5. Search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow and improve.
  6. Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from mistakes.
  7. Foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust.
  8. Strengthen others by sharing power and discretion.
  9. Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence.
  10. Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.


Leadership can be learned.  It’s an observable pattern of practices and behaviors (as identified above) and a definable set of skills and abilities. And any skill can be learned, honed, and enhanced, given the motivation and desire, along with practice, feedback and coaching. However, the authors state that not everyone wants to learn it, and not all those who learn about leadership master it. No matter how good you are, you have to always want to get better. The truth is that the best leaders are the best learners.

Reviewer’s Comment

We are living in an age of cynicism towards corporate leaders and politicians. A vacuum has been created by the lack of positive role models who foster collaboration, demonstrate the value of a common purpose and acknowledge personal and community victories.

One of my recent reviews of a book vigorously attacked many leadership authorities and attempted to expose the myths they found among many business leaders. In my opinion, some may have been justified, but most did not. This prompted me to search for what I believe can be a solid, authoritative, and practical study. I believe The Five Practices found in The Leadership Challenge can be that model.

I encourage you to add this updated classic to your leadership library and to apply the practical frameworks and models to help you to become the most effective leader you can be.

About the Authors

Jim Kouzes, executive fellow of leadership at Santa Clara University and chairman and chief executive of TPG Learning Systems, and Barry Posner, former dean and professor of leadership at Santa Clara University, are frequent keynote speakers at leadership conferences and also run a series of leadership development programs. They have become a globally trusted source of leadership material – some have even called The Leadership Challenge the ‘Leadership Bible’.

Click here to order The Leadership Challenge from Amazon: Current price: $18.20 (416 pages Hardcover)

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