Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership

James Kouzes and Barry Posner have been researching leadership for some thirty-seven years together. They wrote about their original research when they co-wrote The Leadership Challenge, which was first published in 1987. The Leadership Challenge has passed the test of time and is in its sixth edition. Their newest collaboration is entitled Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership: How to Make a Difference Regardless of Your Title, Role, or Authority.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Kouzes and Posner certainly have credibility. Millions have read their groundbreaking book, but more importantly, their work is backed by research. Much of this research surrounds the psychometric properties found in their 30-item survey tool, called the Leadership Practices Inventory. Their research goes beyond just quantitative data. They are fond of asking people to describe their Personal-Best Leadership Experience. These experiences turn the raw data into compelling stories.

5 Fundamental Leadership Practices

James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s research has consistently found that great leaders employ five fundamental practices to their craft. Good leaders:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Enable Others to Act, and
  • Encourage the Heart

Leadership Can Come From Any Level

So what is different about this new book? The main difference is the intended audience of this book, which is everyday people. Kouzes and Posner believe, as do I, that leadership can come from any level within an organization. On page two of the book, they explain that, “Titles are granted, but being a leader is something that you earn, and you earn it not by your place in the organization but by how you behave.” They have crafted this book with inspirational stories about ordinary people, with practical how-to tips for the emerging leader.

Each of the five chapters related to the fundamental leadership practices starts with a story. These stories are about individuals who did not possess any lofty titles within their organizations. The stories are of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, highlighting the principles and practices of leadership. While there are leadership examples in the stories, the chapters also go more in-depth. They dive into the practical application of the principles so that readers get the full scope of each theory.

Become Your Best Self

The seventh, and final, chapter of this relatively short and easy to digest book resonated with me the most. The headings of this chapter included: Leadership Matters, Leadership Can Be Learned, How People Learn to Lead, and Become Your Best Self. To me, the most impactful of these headings is the last one. The authors write about the personal changes that happen when you think about yourself as a leader. Kouzes and Posner say that leadership changes how you:

  • Present yourself
  • See the future
  • Respond to challenges
  • Relate to others, and
  • Show others appreciation

I would like to add that it also changes how others perceive you, and how they respond to you.

Read Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership

I highly recommend this book to young people who have not yet even considered their position in the world. Indeed, everyone can learn to lead. As Kouzes and Posner state, there are three learning styles: Experience, Examples, and Education. Read Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership as part of that education.