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Book:  The Leadership Challenge

Author:  James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Purchase:  PrinteBookAudiobook

Citation:  Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2017). The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations. Somerset: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. The number one characteristic of admired leaders is honesty. If people are to willingly follow someone they first want to be sure that the individual is worthy of their trust. (pg. 33)

  2. People expect their leaders to be excited, energetic, and positive about the future. A person who is enthusiastic and passionate about future possibilities conveys to others a stronger belief in the possibilities than someone who shows little or no emotion. (pg. 35)

  3. Managerial myth says that leaders shouldn’t get too close to their employees.  Let’s set this myth aside.  Employees who report having a friendly relationship with their manager are two-and-a-half times more satisfied with their job. (pg. 262)


Other Key Ideas:​

Leaders must uplift their employees spirits and give them hope if they're voluntarily going to engage and doing things that they have never done before. Enthusiasm and excitement are essential, and they signal the leader’s personal commitment to pursuing a dream. (pg. 36)

Credibility is when a leader does what they say they will do.  Employees will look for evidence that the commitments are kept. (pg. 43)

Good leaders put together a list of basic guiding principles and share those values with teammates.  They clearly state what values are held and what performance criteria is demanded. By sharing and explaining values, employees are better prepared to understand the reasoning behind actions and decisions. (pg. 48)

Becoming an exemplary leader requires you to fully comprehend the deeply held values -  the beliefs, standards, ethics, and ideals - that drive you. You have to freely and honestly choose the principles you will use to guide your decisions and actions. (pg. 48)

One leader has created a one-page “user manual” so that people can understand his values.  By opening himself up in this manner, you can get to know one another right from the start and avoid typical misunderstanding and conflicts. (pg. 50)

Values are your personal bottom line.  They influence every aspect of your life.  They serve as guides to action and set the parameters for the hundreds of decisions you make every day. (pg. 54)​

How you spend your time is the single clearest indicator of what's important to you. (pg. 75)

There is simply no way to get around the fact that you can't grow as a leader without getting feedback. (pg. 82)​​

A side benefit of making it easy for people to give you feedback is that you increase the likelihood that people will accept honest feedback from you. However, keep in mind that if you don't do anything with the feedback you receive, people will likely stop giving it to you. (pg. 84)

​Leadership requires you to spend considerable time reading, thinking, and talking about the long-term view, not only for your specific organization but also for the environments in which you’re operating.  (pg. 103)

The best leaders are great listeners.  They listen carefully to what other people have to say and how they feel.  Some leaders schedule regular check-ins with employees, which usually begin by asking many questions about how they are doing and actively listening. (pg. 109)

Leaders are an important source of that energy. People aren’t going to follow someone who’s only mildly enthusiastic about something.  People actively support those leaders who are wildly enthusiastic about it. (pg. 119)

Leading by wandering about, and asking questions, not only allows leaders to look outside of their experiences but also promotes external and internal dialogue about finding innovative opportunities. (pg. 159)

One of the reasons that people are often afraid to ask around for advice and input from others is because they perceive that doing so implies that they’re incompetent.  However, studies have shown that people perceive those who seek advice as more competent than those who do not seek advice. (pg. 164)

Transparently sharing of information makes employees feel powerful and when absent makes employees feel powerless. (pg. 237)

If you want people to give their all, to put their hearts into their work, you must also make certain that people know what they are supposed to be doing.  You need to clarify what expected outcomes look like and make sure that there are some consistent norms governing how the game is played and points are scored. (pg. 255)

Openness to feedback, especially negative feedback, is characteristic of the best learners.  How can you learn very much if you’re unwilling to find out more about how your actions are affective the behavior and performance of those around you? (pg. 258)

When giving negative feedback explain why you are giving the feedback. People are more open to criticism when they believe it’s intended to help them. (pg. 258)

There are few basic needs more important than to be noticed, recognized, and appreciated. (pg. 266)

People who practice gratitude, compared to those who do not, are healthier, more optimistic, more positive, and better able to cope with stress. (pg. 267)

Too many organizations operate as if social gatherings are a nuisance.  They aren’t. When social connections are strong and numerous, there’s more trust, reciprocity, information flow, collective action, and happiness. (pg. 273)

Being visible in day-to-day undertakings demonstrates you care, makes you more real, more genuine, more approachable, and more human.  (pg. 287)

You need to put celebrations on the calendar.  These scheduled events serve as opportunities to get people together so that you can show people how they are part of the larger vision. (pg. 290)

People aren’t quitting their companies as much as they are quitting the relationship with their manager. (pg. 299)

You must have a passion for learning in order to become the best leader you can be.  What truly differentiates the expert performers from the good performers is devotion to deliberate practice. It has to be done over and over again and that takes hours of repetition. (pg. 303)

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