APWA Book Review

The Leadership Challenge (3rd Ed.)
496 pp * 2003 * Jossey-Bass * ISBN 0-7879-6833-1 * James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

The Leadership Challenge is the leadership book that outshines them all, completely revised for today's business realities. Grounded in extensive research, it captures the continuing interest in leadership as a critical aspect of human organizations. Kouzes and Posner, the premier leadership experts working today, demonstrate how visionary leaders accomplish extraordinary things, and they address current challenges such as the new cynicism, the electronic global village, and the shift to team-oriented work relationships. With engaging stories and keen insights, they delve into the fundamental aspects of leadership to help readers keep pace with our ever-changing world. This new edition promises all-new examples as well as some of the tried and true classic stories. The authors also take this opportunity to underscore that not only is leadership everyone's business, but that it is a relationship—one of personal self-development and the development of those being led.

The Leadership Challenge is about how leaders mobilize others to want to get extraordinary things done in organizations. It's about the practices leaders use to transform values into actions, visions into realities, obstacles into innovations, separateness into solidarity, and risks into rewards. It's about leadership that creates the climate in which people turn challenging opportunities into remarkable successes.

Certainly there are no shortages of challenging opportunities today. In these extraordinary times, the challenges seem to be increasing—and through our responses, we have the potential to profoundly change the world in which we live and work.

The fundamental purpose of The Leadership Challenge is to assist people—managers and individual contributors alike—in furthering their abilities to lead others to get extraordinary things done. Whether you are in the private or public sector, an employee or a volunteer, on the front line or senior echelon, a student or a parent, this book was written to help you develop your capacity to guide others to places they have never been before.

While The Leadership Challenge will strengthen your abilities and uplift your spirits, the principles and practices described in it are based solidly in research. Thus, this book is not about being in a position (as if leadership was a place) but about having the courage and spirit to make a significant difference. It is about leadership and how ordinary people exercise it—and in the process become leaders.

Think of The Leadership Challenge as a field guide to take along your leadership journey. The authors describe what leaders do, explain the fundamental principles that support these leadership practices, provide actual case examples of real people who demonstrate each practice, and offer specific recommendations on what you can do to make these practices your own and to continue your development as a leader.

The publication is divided into thirteen chapters that focus on:

  • Chapter 1: The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership—the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are explored.
  • Chapter 2: Credibility is the Foundation of Leadership—the four qualities people believe are essential to exemplary leadership.
  • Chapter 3: Find Your Voice—finding one's voice is the necessary first step to becoming an exemplary leader.
  • Chapter 4: Set the Example—how leaders serve as role models for what constituents are expected to be and do, and how leaders set the example by their deeds and not just their words.
  • Chapter 5: Envision the Future—how leaders look beyond the horizon of present time and imagine how things could ideally be several years ahead.
  • Chapter 6: Enlist Other—show effective leaders are positive and expressive in communicating and are able to forge a shared agenda.
  • Chapter 7: Search for Opportunities—the real motivator as the meaningfulness of the challenge, not the material rewards of success.
  • Chapter 8: Experiment and Take Risks—leaders accept the mistakes that result from experimentation and make every effort to learn from them.
  • Chapter 9: Foster Collaboration—how leaders foster collaboration and build effective teams.
  • Chapter 10: Strengthen Others—how leaders create a climate in which it is possible for others to do their best. The authors describe what leaders do to enable others to be in charge of their own lives, and how leaders turn constituents into leaders.
  • Chapter 11: Recognize Contributions and Chapter 12: Celebrate the Values and Victories—how leaders sustain the commitment to achieve the extraordinary by recognizing individuals, building social support, and celebrating team successes.
  • Chapter 13: Leadership is Everyone's Business—leadership is a learnable set of practices, accessible to anyone.

Finally, for those who wish to know more about how the research was conducted, the Appendix describes a source of detailed information on the research methodology, statistical data, and highlights of validation studies by other scholars of the authors' leadership paradigm—all available on the web.

Within these thirteen chapters and Five Practices is woven a core theme. Whatever the time, whatever the circumstances, leadership is a relationship. Whether it's one-to-one or one-to-many, business as usual or challenges in extraordinary times, leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow.

For more information on purchasing this book and other American Public Works Association books, please visit the APWA Bookstore online at www.apwa.net/bookstore or call the Member Services Hotline at (800) 848-APWA, ext. 3560.