Book Review: The leadership challenge – How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations

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The Leadership challenge-How to make extraordinary things happen in organization is the fifth edition after 25 years, when it was firstly published. In that period it was sold in more than 20 million copies and translated to 22 languages. The book has been considered to be one of the most trusted source on becoming a better leader and held the first position on list of must-read leadership books for years.


The authors, Jim Kouzes, Dean’s Executive Fellow of Leadership at Santa Clara University, and Barry Posner, Accolti Professor of Leadership and former Dean of Santa Clara University, have been working together for past 30 years in examining leadership topic. By now, they have wrote five books and developed highly recognized Leadership Practice Inventory (LDI), a 360-degree instrument assessing how frequently leaders engage in The Five Practices (the core leadership competencies that emerged from their analysis of thousands of Personal-Best Leadership Experience cases).

After I have read the book, I can say that it has become my personal bible in finding my leadership path. In below lines, I will try to explain why and what I find inspiring in it.

What I found the most interesting thing is the main idea of the book, that leaders are everywhere: it is not about who they are but what they do. They are exemplary leaders, and can be found in profit and nonprofit organizations, agriculture, banking, health care, education, government etc. Leaderships knows no age, race, gender, family, religious or cultural background.

In past 25 years Kouzes & Posner made in depth analysis around the world in order to understand what makes leader “at their best”, when making extraordinary things happen in organizations. Based on thorough and long analysis they developed The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, as follows:

  • Model the way
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encourage the Heart

These five practices are available to anyone who accepts the challenge to lead people and organizations to the level they have not been before, or in other words moving to extraordinary things happen in organizations.

In sum, leadership is everyone’s business. Leadership is not about title or position, power or wealth. It’s not about background, being a president or CEO. It is about relationships, credibility, and what you do, based on one thing: what you do should matter.

As Kouzes&Posner conclude:”The domain of leaders is future. The leader’s unique legacy is the creation of valued institutions that survive over time. The most significant contribution leaders make is not simply to today’s bottom line; it is to the long term development of people and institutions so they can adapt, change, prosper, and grow. We need more exemplary leaders, and we need them more than ever. We need leaders who can unite us and ignite us.”

I would strongly suggest to read the book if you are interested to become a better leader, and if you are ready to devote time and practice for development of leaderships skills and abilities, which can be learned.


By Maja Cakarun