Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

The Student Leadership Challenge

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

The Student Leadership Challenge

Article excerpt

The Student Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2008 178 pages ISBN: 978-0-470-17705-1

Reviewed by Clayton McPherson

The fundamental purpose of The Student Leadership Challenge is to assist students - whether in formal or official leadership positions or not - in furthering their abilities to lead others to get extraordinary things done. The theme of The Student Leadership Challenge is that exemplary leaders are not born, they're made, and the authors describe five practices for turning students into exemplary leaders.

Are you unhappy with the direction your organization is headed and with those who are leading it? Do you believe that you have a better idea? You can do something about it! You already have what it takes; to become the effective leader you've always dreamed of being, all you have to do is follow Kouzes and Posner's five simple practices.

I am sure you are thinking, "This sounds like one of those 'get-rich-quick' books and I'm not buying it." But before you write off this book as a waste of time, try to visualize yourself as a better, more active, more successful leader - and then read the book to find out how to get there.

The Student Leadership Challenge is an exceptionally well-researched guide to becoming an exemplary leader. The research is drawn from a broad base of participants, including college students, executives, and community leaders. The book links the experiences and hardships these individuals faced on their way to becoming leaders to the five practices all effective leaders share: model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart. Kouzes and Posner have condensed the experiences and advice of their subjects in a way that will help any individual discover the leader within.

The five practices of exemplary leadership are deconstructed in separate chapters that include anecdotes from people in the "real" world showing how each principle can be applied. I found this to be the most inspiring part of the book; the anecdotes in each chapter brought the topic to life for me. Incorporating stories or themes like Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech added depth and a sense of power, making the practical suggestions even more inspiring. Because the anecdotes come from a variety of sources, including students active in college government, fraternities, organizations, part-time jobs, and youth ministries, I was able to relate to the problems or concerns those students were able to overcome.

At the end of each chapter, the authors employ an introspective "review and practice" section consisting of questions and guides for the reader. This active-learning aspect of The Student Leadership Challenge was by far the most tangible aspect of the book. It allowed me to set down and evaluate my experiences, values, and skills. In doing so, with the authors' guidance and chapter lessons in mind, I was able to make an accurate and informed analysis of my current level of personal leadership. These worksheets are the backbone of this guide: by allowing me to actively participate in my own analysis, I became my own leadership coach.

If the worksheets are the backbone, the five practices for exemplary leaders are the heart of The Student Leadership Challenge. The first, modeling the way, describes how individuals within organizations must recognize the impact of their behavior on coworkers. Identifying values and modeling behavior to meet those values can inspire others and will provide the base for authentic, respectable leadership. …

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