The Leadership Challenge

I've read a large number of books on leadership and management over the years. The Kouzes and Posner "The Leadership Challenge" does a good job of providing an easy to read overview which helps leaders in all levels of an organization learn and grow. It's important to note that this is not meant to be a "solutions for specific situations" handbook. Rather, it provides that core level of understanding to give you a foundation, so that as you progress and pick up other "how to" books you have that base support beneath you to keep you grounded in a healthy, productive direction.

There are many first person stories in here to illustrate their points. They are presented with a variety of individuals from different backgrounds and management levels. This is great - it means no matter where the reader is in their career, they can relate directly to at least some of the stories. Sometimes books are tempted to only interview CEOs of gigantic companies, which might be cool for status reasons, but it does little to help the majority of their readers with their actual issues. The Leadership Challenge makes the stories accessible to all.

The key practices laid out in this book are:
* model the way
* inspire a shared vision
* challenge the process
* enable others to act
* encourage the heart

If you sit down with a hefty challenge that leadership has faced in your company, and then compare the progress of the challenge against these five practices, you can see very powerful correlations between what went well and poorly and these practices. There are not just touchy-feely "nice to have" ideas. It is clearly demonstrable that working to build a common purpose with the team, celebrating the small victories as you move along a project, building a climate of trust between managers and employees, and recognizing employees when they do an outstanding job are critical to the short term and long term success of an organization. They can often spell the difference between success and failure on a project.

Well recommended not only for managers and leaders but also for any employee who wants to find more satisfaction in their job. There are many situations where someone who is not "technically" a leader still provides leadership and mentoring activities to his or her coworkers. This book can help anyone succeed and become more enthusiastic about their work and life.

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