According to The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, there are five exemplary practices of leadership, which are outlined below:

These practices are recognized by leaders as important because they show that leadership, "is not about personality; it's about behavior" (Kouzes and Posner 15). Although there are many different types of people with different personalities, which result in the manifestation of a large range of diverse leadership styles, Kouzes and Posner predict that the five elements they set forth can help any person become a more effective leader. A leader may embody certain characteristics more than others, but there is not one exemplary practice that is better or best; they all have strengths to guide a group through the process known as leadership.

The first practice is Model the Way. To be an effective leader, it is important to be model the behavior you expect others to follow. An important aspect of modeling
Gandhi_studio_1931.jpg the way is clarifying values. This is imperative because in order to effectively lead a group, one must understand the foundation of his/her personal values, as well as the foundation of the group/organization's values. This idea is best communicated in The Leadership Challenge when it states that, "values influence every aspect of our lives: our moral judgments, our responses to others, our commitments t personal and organizational goals" (Kouzes and Posner 52). Without definitive values, there is a loss of self and in turn, a loss of the direction of the people an individual is attempting to lead. In addition, members who understand their personal and their group/organization's values are more highly commitment constituents than members who do not understand their personal and group/organizational values since this clarity results in an increase in motivation. Modeling the way also requires a leader to set the example. An example of a famous political and spiritual leader who set an example of personal behavior and nonviolence, and therefore, modeled the way, was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi never asked people to do something he was not willing to do himself. By setting an example, he modeled the way for the oppressed peoples of India and led them to independence (Wikipedia). Gandhi was an exemplary leader who led by example and brought about change. Modeling the way is an important aspect in the practice of true leadership because it creates a community of truth and honesty founded on defined values.

The second practice is Inspiring a Shared Vision. Important questions a leader must ask is, "where are we going?" and "is that where we want to go?" After asking these things, if the group is headed in a direction that is not right for the group, then a leader must inspire a vision for the group. To do this, a leader must first envision the future. by brainstorming other potential directions the group could go and other possibilities the group. could pursue. There is an African proverb that states, "For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today". This proverb is an important lesson for leaders who follow the exemplary practice of inspiring a shared vision because a leader cannot just expect their vision to happen. Inspiring a shared vision for a group requires action and a robust understanding of group dynamics. To bring about full commitment of a group to a shared a vision, a leader must enlist others by involving group members in planning, encouraging them to take action, a sharing visions as they are created along the way. If all members of a group are not all on the same page, chaos will result. Thi s will in turn cause the group to be less effective and possibly lose sight of its goals. It is important to understand that as a leader, what may be meaningful to you as an individual may not be the same as what is meaningful to the group. on the other hand, though, by sharing with others your personal visions, others may agree with you and group harmony may result.

The third practice is Challenge the Process. Challenging the Process is not just rebelling against the current process or organization structure of a group. This practice requires recognizing what works for a group and what does not. It requires seeking opportunities which will allow the group to grow and become more effective. When you search for new opportunities, it means you are admitting that change is good and is often needed. Many people in groups fear change and prefer systematic work; but in this environment, work becomes too routine and growth and improvement is difficult to bring about. And when this occurs, groups become less effective. Challenging the process puts leaders in tough positions where they might often feel alone in their attempts to try and explain/persuade why a change is needed to a group; but this can also be positive since it can lead to experimentation and the taking of risks. Without taking risks, change never occurs. There must be a willingness to sometimes make mistakes as long as these mistakes result from taking risks which could potentially greatly benefit a group's situation. In other worlds, when a leader challenges the process of a group or organization, mistakes are okay if the group learns from those mistakes and does not repeat the same mistakes again. Change is a step by step process and little changes add up over time. It is important to remember, Rome was not built in a day. An example of an organization that recognizes the importance of taking risk is the Church Resource Ministries, also known as CRM, which is an organization which empowers leaders in over thirty-five countries. CRM explains in their mission the problems that would exist as a result of a culture where there was no risk:

In a culture without risk:
  • There is a lack of freedom to innovate or pioneer what's new.
  • People live in fear of judgment, failure, or disapproval, rather than in confidence of support and encouragement.
  • The size of an organization's collective comfort zone actually decreases...we move further away from the edge.
  • Potential leaders are not discovered or appreciated...leadership cannot be developed without the freedom to lead.
  • There is a steady loss of leaders. Leaders want a place to serve that will allow them to lead, an opportunity to enlarge the tent, a place where they are trusted to use their gifts. Over time, organizational "leadership" positions are filled by those committed to the status quo.

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The fourth practice is Enable Others to Act. This aspect of the five exemplary practices focuses on attention to the group. A leader must seek out individuals and create roles for those individuals so that they can grow personally, as well as benefit the group. A group must work cohesively towards a common goal. A good way to make a group more effective to foster collaboration. For example, a leader may delegate certain tasks to all members of the group, even to those who may not hold formal, official leadership positions. By allowing each member to take ownership of a task, all constituents will be made to feel important. People enjoy doing their work when they feel their work is important to the group, and when you have members of a group who enjoy doing their work, they will be happier and more willing to collaborate with one another. Another important aspect of enabling others to act is creating an environment where leaders strengthens others. This requires enhancing others' self-determination and developing their competence and confidence (Kouzes & Posner 251). When members of a group are confident and feel like they have power, they will be more willing to work toward the common goal without complaint. People who feel inspired to take action are capable of accomplishing amazing goals. People develop a sense of flow which results in tasks they normally might not have been able to complete, becoming more and more simple. In psychology, this concept is called planting the golden seed. Leaders must plant this golden seed by empowering others and telling them they believe in them. When an individual knows someone believes in them, they become more willing to work toward achieving a goal.
The fifth practice is Encouraging the Heart. It was once said by Ralph Waldo Emerson 200px-RWEmerson2.jpgan American philosopher, poet, and leader of the Transcendentalist movement, that, "Great hearts steadily send forth the secret forces that incessantly draw great events". His quote speaks volumes about the fifth practice, encouraging the heart, because when a leader recognizes the contributions of others and celebrates the values and victories of a group, inconceivable events occur. When a leader personalizes recognition and draws attention to the successes of an individual in the group, that individual will continue to work hard and in turn, others will gain invaluable knowledge in this type of positive environment. When a leader creates a community where accomplishments are celebrated, people feel inspired to work hard. The heart is the biggest driving force in motivating a group. Sometimes as leaders we get too caught up in authority, deadlines, paperwork, process, etc., when really what we should be doing is working speaking with our hearts rather than our minds.

  • With five practices of leadership to discuss, and two commitments per practice, this leadership model might be seen as extremely thorough
  • The term "Social Change" sends a positive message before one ever even looks at the model itself
  • The survey that goes along with this book is a fun addition to the actual reading of the text
  • As an emergent leadership model, this is a great guide

  • With five practices of leadership to discuss, and two commitments per practice, this leadership model might be seen as trying to do too much in too little time and space
  • No diagram
  • Does not explicitly discuss the relationship between a group and those external to the group
  • As a book, there were almost too many personal stories affirming each concept - it is enjoyable to read about theories such as this being put into action, but some of the examples were redundant

Kouzes, James M. and Barry Z. Posner. The Leadership Challenge.