Kouzes and Posner's Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership

Eliza Smith, Savannah Samoszuk
  • Author
    Eliza Smith

    Eliza Smith has taught Economics in college for over two years. She has a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Finance from College of Charleston.

  • Instructor
    Savannah Samoszuk

    Savannah has over eight years of hotel management experience and holds a master's degree in leadership.

Discover Kouzes and Posner's leadership model. Explore the five practices of exemplary leadership with examples of each one. Learn how to model the way. Updated: 05/26/2022

Table of Contents


Kouzes & Posner's Leadership Model

A leader can be defined as a person who has followers. Good leaders must make decisions that significantly impact businesses, communities, and countries. How can one distinguish great leaders from poor leaders? Leaders such as Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Warren Buffet have led their companies to success through their excellent leadership qualities. Which qualities do these people have in common? Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner embarked on a research project on leadership in 1983 to answer this question and determine what others did to be the best leaders. The two interviewed top leaders and issued over 500 surveys. Finally, they compiled their findings in their book, The Leadership Challenge. The results showed that regardless of age, gender, culture, or other factors, leaders were at their personal best when they exhibited certain behaviors. Kouzes and Posner's leadership challenge discuss these behaviors in detail in a model known as the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. Kouzes and Posner's leadership model is widely recognized by researchers and applied in business.

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  • 1:51 Inspire a Shared Vision
  • 2:29 Challenge the Process
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Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership

In their research, Kouzes and Posner discovered that leaders who did extraordinary things had five behaviors in common. They developed a leadership assessment tool known as the Leadership Practices Inventory from those identified practices. Leaders can use this tool to evaluate themselves and understand how certain behaviors impact their leadership styles. The five practices of exemplary leadership are discussed in detail below.

1. Model the Way

Transformational leaders become role models by acting as they expect others to do. When leaders model the way, they set an example that other people can follow. Leaders need first to articulate their vision, principles, beliefs, morals, and standards to succeed in an organization. Rather than only giving speeches on values, they should use actions to show how serious they are regarding what they want others to do. An example of a model the way leadership is when a leader jumps in and shows a certain vision through actions. Transformational leaders use their daily actions to set examples and show commitment to the values they intend to relay.

In another example, Casey, a CEO of a successful company, learns that she can help her subordinates be more effective by giving weekly reports on their progress and activities. She starts by writing her weekly report, which she uses as an example to show the employees what she expects.

2. Inspire a Shared Vision

Successful leaders are able to motivate and inspire their followers. They make personal sacrifices and work for long hours to inspire others to do the same. They visualize the future and inspire followers to take part in achieving a set goal. Through this practice, transformational leaders make all people commit to achieving a common vision. Inspiring a shared vision is not meant to establish a leader's power. It is also not meant to help leaders gain many followers or spark interest and commitment. Instead, it keeps the followers always excited through positive language and an energetic approach.

If Casey wants to increase her company's profitability by more than double, she should start by engaging the employees in coming up with that vision. Unity of purpose is forged when leaders engage their followers in coming up with a vision. Rather than commanding commitment, she should inspire her subordinates through motivation and positive energy.

3. Challenge the Process

A leader looks for innovative ways to improve or change the organization by challenging the process. Rather than accepting the status quo, they challenge the process, question the norms, and take chances. They also persuade the subordinates to embrace the same practice in the process. They use what has already been achieved as a springboard to achieve even better results. These leaders are always ready to take the risks that come with experimenting. This means that they are also ready to make mistakes and learn from them. Rather than punishing people when they fail, they encourage them to try more. Transformational leaders are also prepared to accept their mistakes and not blame others.

For example, Casey learns that competition in the marketplace has become stiff due to competitors developing superior products. To cope with the competition, she starts creating ideas for new products. She also challenges others to develop better ideas, and once subordinates do, she is willing to support them. In addition, she allows them to experiment and make mistakes.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What five qualities must an effective leader have, according to Kouzes and Posner?

According to Kouzes and Posner, the five qualities of effective leaders include:

  1. Model the way
  2. Inspire a shared vision
  3. Challenge the process
  4. Enable others to act
  5. Encourage the heart

What does it mean to model the way in leadership?

Leaders can model the way by setting an example. This means that they should be willing to use actions to demonstrate what they expect from others. They should also use their actions to show commitment and relay certain values.

How do you demonstrate exemplary leadership?

For leaders to demonstrate exemplary leadership, they should set an example for others to follow. They should also focus on the future and make the subordinates participate in achieving the vision. Demonstrating great leadership also requires challenging the norms, being innovative, and encouraging others to be innovative.

Who devised the five practices of exemplary leadership?

Kouzes and Posner devised the practices after carrying out research to determine behaviors that are common among great leaders when they are at their personal best. They issued over 500 surveys and interviewed many top leaders during their research. Finally, they wrote their book titled "The Leadership Challenge," in which they described the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

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