The Leadership Challenge

The Leadership Challenge Model

Leadership is an observable set of skills and abilities. When our partners Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner first set out to discover what great leaders actually do when they are at their personal best, they collected thousands of stories from ordinary people—the experiences they recalled when asked to think of a peak leadership experience. Despite differences in culture, gender, country, age, and other variables, these “Personal Best” stories revealed similar patterns of behaviour. In fact, Jim & Barry discovered that when leaders are at their personal best there are five core practices common to all: they Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and last but certainly not least, they Encourage the Heart.

Three decades later, The Leadership Challenge® model continues to prove its effectiveness as a clear, evidence-based path to achieving the extraordinary—for individuals, teams, organisations, and communities. It turns the abstract concept of leadership into easy-to-grasp Practices and behaviours that can be taught and learned by anyone willing to step up and accept the challenge to lead. As measured and validated by the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI)—one of the most widely used leadership assessment instruments in the world—ongoing studies in Australia and New Zealand consistently confirm that The Five Practices and our assessment tools are positively related to both the effectiveness of leaders and the level of commitment, engagement, and satisfaction of those that follow. The 5 Practices of Exemplary leadership are:

Model the WayModel the Way

Leaders establish principles concerning the way people (direct reports, peers, colleagues, and customers alike) should be treated and the way goals should be pursued. They create standards for values and excellence and then set an example for others to follow. Because the prospect of complex change can overwhelm people and stifle action, they set interim goals so that people can achieve small wins as they work toward larger objectives. They unravel bureaucracy when it impedes action; they put up signposts when people are unsure of where to go or how to get there; and they create opportunities for victory.

Inspire a Shared VisionInspire a Shared Vision

Leaders passionately believe that they can make a difference. They envision the future in an authentic way, creating an ideal and unique image of what the organisation can become. Through their authenticity, story telling and passion, leaders enlist others in their dreams. They breathe life into their visions and get people to see exciting possibilities for their future. They link strategies to their vision and they create unprecedented levels alignment and efficiency in their teams and organisations.

255Challenge the Process

Leaders search for opportunities to change the status quo. They look for innovative ways to improve the organisation. In doing so, they experiment and take risks. And because leaders know that risk taking involves mistakes and failures, they accept the inevitable disappointments as learning opportunities and build learning cultures in their organisations where it truly is safe to stretch the boundaries of convention.

Enable Others to ActEnable Others to Act

Leaders foster collaboration and build spirited teams. They actively involve others. Leaders understand that mutual respect is what sustains extraordinary efforts; they strive to create an atmosphere of trust and human dignity. They strengthen, mentor and coach others making each person feel capable and truly empowered to excel and grow. They develop the next generation of leaders, they know they cannot do it alone. This is the difference between individual contributors and leaders.

Encourage the HeartEncourage the Heart

Accomplishing extraordinary things in organisations is hard work. To keep hope and determination alive, leaders recognize contributions that individuals make. In every winning team, the members need to share in the rewards of their efforts, so leaders celebrate accomplishments. They make people feel like heroes and they reward the right things, in the right way at the right time.