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The Leadership Challenge – review


Title: The Leadership Challenge - Third Edition
Authors: James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Publisher: John Wiley
ISBN: 0 7879 5678 3
Price: £20.95

Buy this from the TrainingZONE - Blackwells bookshop.

This book claims to be “The Most Trusted Source of Becoming a Better Leader”, but does it meet that claim or is it just hyperbole for a book attempting to stand out from the crowd?

The Leadership Challenge provides insight into the ‘five practices’ of leadership namely: model the way; inspire a shared vision; challenge the process; enable others to act; encourage the heart. These practices are then further broken down to produce the ten commitments of leadership:

  • find your voice by clarifying your personal values
  • set the example by aligning actions with shared values
  • envision the future by imaging exiting and enabling possibilities
  • enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations
  • search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow and improve
  • experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from mistakes
  • foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust
  • strengthen others by sharing power and discretion
  • recognise contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence
  • celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.
  • As leadership books go the explanations, case studies and examples are well presented and if you value the impact of a book on your shelf the size and boldly coloured hardback cover of this book will be a winner.

    But, as I read on, it hit me - all books on leadership seem to have the same fundamental ideas contained within them. Many of the commitments reminded me of other leadership tips traits or lifestyles, Kotter’s eight stage process for leading change, for example, espouses developing a vision, generating short-term wins and anchoring new approaches by acknowledging the contribution of individuals.

    I found myself humming lines from The Smiths: “reissued, repackaged… buy both and feel deceived”. I must stress that this feeling wasn’t the fault of this book. This is a good book on leadership and if you have never read one before, it is recommended. If you have read one or more books on leadership before perhaps it is time to start putting those leadership skills and values into practice rather than collecting yet another re-write of the same story.

    Matthew Simkin
    Strategic Project Developer


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