The Leadership Challenge

Summary Written by Amy Bontrager
"Leadership is not about who you are; it’s about what you do. "

- The Leadership Challenge, page 15

The Big Idea

Challenge the Process

"If you have not endured the most difficult, you cannot become the most successful"- The Leadership Challenge, page 157

I appreciate the reward, like anyone else when they have been able to develop a solution to a challenge. This part of the text was a great reminder why leaders should not become complacent. The important take away is, not to deny challenges and only work towards what comes easy. Taking on challenges can equate to a new product or process that just might become your best leadership moment. Challenges can take you as a leader and the organization to places that have not been reached. It can create situations where the organization and its leadership are not ordinary but extraordinary. Is that not what we all want, to leave our mark and be viewed as extraordinary?

Insight #1

Make Something Happen

"Treat today as if it were your first day. Ask yourself, ‘If I were just starting this job, what would I do differently?’ Then do those things immediately. This is how you’ll continuously uncover needed improvements."- The Leadership Challenge, page 164

Do you get caught up in the daily task that you forget to look around and ask why do I do what I do? Exemplary leaders are going to ask this routinely, not just every five years when building a marketing plan. A great habit to get into is to enlist department heads to evaluate processes and policies. Then have them conclude if the current operation is effective. This creates a team effort as well as opportunities for leader moments to be made. Encouraging innovative thinking among department heads can create opportunities for not only the organization to be more effective, but to grow. If outdated policies and procedures continued it could make your organization stagnate. Exemplary leaders do not find comfort in the status quo. Get in the habit of not being routine.

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Insight #2

Challenge with Purpose

"As long as you believe what you’re doing is meaningful you can cut through fear and exhaustion and take the next step."- The Leadership Challenge, page 171

Strong leaders are not going to challenge just because they want to stress people out. They are going to challenge with meaning, great passion, and because they want people to work with purpose. Have you ever worked for a boss that just liked making people nervous? These are not what we would call exemplary leaders. People are going to be more motivated to complete a project if they believe in it and have a personal buy in. People will keep going in challenging times because they believe in what they are doing. It’s not about the paycheck. As a leader it should be a priority to ensure your team understands the bigger picture and what purpose they fulfill. With a feeling of purpose your team can do great things.

Whether you are a CEO of a large company or just starting out with a small team, The Leadership Challenge is an exceptional text to keep in reach. The book is filled with brilliant insight into leadership development. Kouzes and Posner have produced a great tool that is applicable to any organization big or small. I think it gives leaders a message of hope in leading their company into the future. You might also want to check out The Leadership Challenge apps. The app provides quick references to each of the five practices. The app also provides exercises to apply the leadership practices to your organization. You can even get inspirational daily quotes. Overall, it’s an engaging book and you can’t help but feel inspired after reading it.

Read the book

Get The Leadership Challenge on Amazon.

Barry Z. Posner

Barry Posner is the Accolti Professor of Leadership at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University (located in the heart of Silicon Valley), where he served for 12 years as Dean of the School. Barry, along with his co-author Jim Kouzes, received the American Society for Training and Development’s highest award for their Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance. Named as one of the nation’s top management and leadership educators by the International Management Council and recognized as one of the Top 50 leadership coaches in America, and ranked among the 10 Most Influential HR thinkers in the world by HR magazine.

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