Book Review

The Leadership Challenge

by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco, Calif., 2007, 389 pp. with index, $29.95 hardcover, $22.95 softcover

This fourth edition of The Leadership Challenge is as instructive and inspiring as the original 1987 edition. Building on over 25 years of research, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, leadership scholars and professors at the Leavey School of Business ar Santa Clara University, know that leadership can be learned and can happen anywhere at any time.

The books includes five practices of exemplary leadership — model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart — as well as 10 commitments and a set of laws of leadership. Though they may sound simple, the concepts are powerful, and the authors bring these practices alive with stories, descriptions and recommendations for action.

The authors say you can read the chapters in any order, however I have two suggestions: Start with the final chapter, and then page through the book. The final chapter will convince you that leadership is a high calling, and that you and those with whom you work are able to achieve extraordinary results benefiting everyone who comes in contact with your organization.

Next read the chapter headings and highlighted ideas in the margins, stopping at topics of particular interest. Note the continuous connection between employing effective behaviors and tending to the heart.

Take the time to think through the reflection and action recommendations of the authors at the end of each chapter. Thoughtfully working through your own specific challenges using their suggestions will sharpen your skills. You will learn, be reminded and be lifted up.

Reviewed by Rene Townsend, partner, Leadership Associates, and executive director, educational outreach, Price Charities, Mission Viejo, Calif.