One of the prides of my library is my copy of The Leadership Challenge: How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, which I bought back in 1987. It’s a 1st edition. That’s a picture of it on the left.
Tom Peters wrote the foreword. My first underlinings are in the preface, and there are so many little post-it tabs stuck in the sides that it looks like a yellow forest. Each of those tabs represents one or more underlinings of a key idea.
The Leadership Challenge is truly a business book classic. But as amazing as this book is, and as much value as I’ve gotten from it, it’s not the book I go to today when I’m looking for a comprehensive overview of how leaders work in organizations. For that, I go to the 6th edition of this same book. The 6th edition is a different book from the 1st edition, and it’s a better book. It’s the result of what the authors have learned along the way. Here’s the way they put it.
“With each new edition, we get clearer about the leadership actions that make a difference. We reiterate what’s still important, discard what’s not, and add what’s new. We contemporize the framework and freshen up the language and point of view so that the book is highly relevant to current circumstances and conditions. And, we are more authoritatively prescriptive about the best practices of leaders. The more we research and write about leadership, the more confident we become that leadership is within the grasp of everyone. The opportunities for leadership are boundless and boundaryless.”
Most business book classics are written once, and then stay pretty much the same forever. They’re classics because they continue to deliver value. The Leadership Challenge: How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner is different because the authors have taken the time, made the commitment, and done the work to make each edition better than the last. If there’s a 7th edition, I’ll buy it.