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The Leadership Challenge

I just finished reading The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. I was not as into this book as I have for others, but much of the discussion is very valid.

Once again, to be a great leader, one must be self-reflective, understand and know your values, be the best example, be humble, and more. These are the recurrent themes in all the leadership books I have been reading.

Important thoughts from this book:

The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership

  1. Model the Way
    • Clarify values by finding your voice and affirming shared values p45
      • Find your voice
      • Affirm shared values
    • Set the example by aligning actions with shared values p75
      • Live the shared values
      • Teach others to model the values
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
    • Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities p104
      • Imagine the possibilities
      • Find a common purpose
    • Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations
      • Appeal to common ideals
      • Animate the vision
  3. Challenge the Process
    • Search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and looking outward for innovative ways to improve p159
      • Seize the initiative
      • Exercise outsight
    • Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience p189
      • Generate small wins
      • Learn from experience
  4. Enable Others to Act
    • Foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships p218
      • Create a climate of trust
      • Facilitate relationships
    • Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence p243
      • Enhance self-determination
      • Develop competence and confidence
  5. Encourage the Heart
    • Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence. p275
      • Expect the best
      • Personalize recognition
    • Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community p304
      • Create a spirit of community
      • Be personally involved


Here are some thoughtful quotes from the book:

For people to follow someone willingly, they want to see these in a leader:

- Honest

- Forward-looking

- Competent

- Inspiring

Credibility is the foundation of leadership. p37 - Do what you say you will do. p40

Personal values drive commitment. p55

Leaders build on agreement. p57

How you spend your time is the single clearest indicator of what's important to you. p76

Questions develop people. p82

Be intentional and purposeful about the questions you ask. p83

Leaders are dreamers. Leaders are idealists. Leaders are possibility thinkers. p105

When your life and career are on course and you understand your purpose, you feel full, satisfied, and ever so powerful. p131

...certainty and routine breed complacency. p159

To do your best as a leader, you have to seize the initiative to change the way things are. p162

Find ways for people to stretch themselves. Set the bar incrementally higher, but at a level at which people feel they can succeed. p169

Leaders make risk safe, as paradoxical as that might sound. p188

Small wins produce big results for a very simple reason: it's hard to argue with success. p197

Leaders significantly increase people's belief in their own ability to make a difference. p243

Leaders accept and act on the paradox of power: you become more powerful when you give your own power away. p244

People who are not confident about their power, regardless of their organizational position or place, tend to hoard whatever shreds of influence they have. p244

Fun isn't a luxury, even at work. p313

The truth is that the best leaders are the best learners. p335

Leadership is in the moment. p344




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