A Leader’s Legacy: Book Critique

Subject: Leadership Styles
Pages: 5
Words: 1387
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: PhD

Leadership is a phenomenon that is actively discussed in relation to many spheres of social interactions, including business, education, and management. In their book A Leader’s Legacy, Kouzes and Posner discuss leadership in the context of a legacy that can be viewed as a person’s contribution. According to authors, this legacy can be presented in a form of the difference or change, support, or teaching (Kouzes and Posner 12). From this point, all leaders should act in order to help others realize their potential and make a difference in the world. The authors determine four concepts that are directly associated with the ideas of leadership and legacy that are significance, relationships, aspirations, and courage (Kouzes and Posner 20). The purpose of this paper is to discuss the main ideas formulated by Kouzes and Posner in relation to leadership and provide the critical evaluation of how these ideas are correlated with the existing approaches to discussing the change and how they can influence the personal vision of the problem.

It is important to mention that Kouzes and Posner’s book is divided into four parts in which significance, relationships, aspirations, and courage are discussed in detail. The book includes twenty-one essays that illustrate how leaders work to create their legacy while focusing on significance, change, relationships, emotions, differences, and courage in their work. In order to lead a reader, the authors also provide introductions to each section and explain their own understanding of the discussed concepts (Kouzes and Posner 23). The advantage of this book is in the fact that Kouzes and Posner not only develop the extensive theoretical framework for understanding leadership in the context of legacies, but they also provide the real-life examples to support their discussion of issues in order to accentuate the practical aspects of the questions. In order to analyze the authors’ position, it is important to focus on the detailed description of main ideas presented in the book.

While discussing the question of significance, Kouzes and Posner note that the root is in the leader’s responsibility. If a leader understands his or her responsibility to others, the actions will be socially significant. In its turn, the problem of relationships is discussed from the perspective that people should trust their leaders, and the guarantee of positive relationships is the mutual respect (Kouzes and Posner 46). In order to develop effective relationships, leaders need to demonstrate their personal features, not only professional capabilities. Therefore, the authors also argue that leaders should focus on their aspirations through the system of values they follow. In addition, leaders need to pay attention to their courage if they want to make a real difference (Kouzes and Posner 135). The ideas are developed in the book to support the vision that the secret of a good leader is in his or her legacy.

Leadership is often associated with the process of making a difference or promoting a change. It is possible to determine several strategies that are actively used by leaders in order to implement the change. They are the rational strategy accentuating the necessity of the change; the coercive strategy that creates conditions to adopt the change; and the adaptive strategy that is associated with helping people accept the new rules or behaviors (Cummings and Worley 132; Dewey 134). It is possible to state that Kouzes and Posner are more concentrated on supporting the adaptive strategy with the focus on the ideas presented in the book. The reason is that they accentuate the importance of sharing the vision and motivating people in order to accept the change through teaching them (Kouzes and Posner 29). According to Kotter and Cohen, the promotion of the vision and communication are important in order to make a difference in an organization (84). This idea is correlated with discussions provided by Kouzes and Posner.

The change strategies are based on the following steps: the provision of the diagnosis for the problem, the planning of the change, the building of the working team, the communication of the vision, the clarification of the change aspects, the implementation, and the evaluation of the results (Natrajan and Chattopadhyay 24; Santhidran, Chandran, and Borromeo 351). Kotter and Cohen note that when stakeholders are not empowered at all stages of the process, the risk of resistance to the change increases, and one more risk is associated with the “lack of clarification” and explanation of the change’s advantages (110). While referring to these ideas, it is possible to evaluate Kouzes and Posner’s vision of the problem. If a leader is focused on serving the followers’ needs, on the sacrifice, on winning the trust and respect, on the forward-looking approach, and on taking courageous actions, it is possible to gain the support of the public.

From this perspective, the idea of making the change is directly associated with Kouzes and Posner’s discussion of courage as an aspect of a legacy. Kotter and Cohen state that leaders need to provide the public with “clear messages” that can motivate people to become involved in the change process (86). According to Kouzes and Posner, leaders need to act courageously while initiating the change, and then, while promoting it (114). If a leader is afraid of proposing a change and organizing followers to support it, this leader has only a few possibilities to leave the significant legacy because the most important contribution is often associated with the radical and positive change. In this context, Kouzes and Posner discuss the problem of making the change from the point of the leader’s readiness to act as a change agent and apply those strategies that are most appropriate in the concrete situation.

However, in spite of the fact that the authors discuss many important visions of leadership in their book, it is possible to concentrate on the most critical ones. The first important idea to focus on is that leaders can accentuate significance as related to a legacy if they concentrate on teaching, serving, and providing support to their followers. This argument is reasonable because people are inclined to discuss the other people’s actions as significant when these actions are beneficial to them. People need the support, feedbacks, and teaching to achieve the success. The second main idea formulated by Kouzes and Posner is that leaders should also be regarded as followers (41). Each leader follows its own patterns and role models, and a good leader uses one’s experience to influence followers in the most appropriate manner. Thus, leaders should win the trust of their supporters while demonstrating their best qualities or sharing experiences. The third point to mention is the idea of courage in its association with the change. According to Kouzes and Posner, in order to make a difference and promote the change, leaders need to be courageous. Therefore, leaders should develop this quality in themselves in order to achieve high results.

The focus on these critical ideas allows for developing some questions to ask after reading Kouzes and Posner’s book: Why should leaders focus on serving and teaching others in order to leave their social legacy? Why should leaders concentrate on their personality in order to achieve good results in leading others? How can the leader’s courage be associated with the change? These questions are important to guide the analysis of views provided in the book.

While focusing on the personal vision of such concepts as leadership and change, as well as on Kouzes and Posner’s contribution to the discussion of these notions, it is possible to state that the authors’ logical descriptions are helpful to understand how the principle of the effective leadership works. Thus, referring to the ideas presented in the book, it is important to conclude that leaders can gain the respect of other people and manage the change when they are focused on interests of stakeholders, when they try to educate and support, when they ensure the mutual understanding and share values, and when they regard followers through the lenses of their own experience of being a follower and a person who has certain interests, values, and norms. From this point, a leader can achieve good results in managing the change when he or she works to support people in their adaptation to the difference and when the personal factor is taken into account, as well as the social and cultural ones.


Cummings, Thomas, and Christopher Worley. Organization Development and Change. New York: Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.

Dewey, Barbara. “In Transition: The Special Nature of Leadership Change.” Journal of Library Administration 52.1 (2012): 133-144. Print.

Kotter, John, and Dan Cohen. The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations. Chicago: Harvard Business Press, 2004. Print.

Kouzes, James, and Barry Posner. A Leader’s Legacy. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print.

Natrajan, Nidhi, and Tuhin Chattopadhyay. “Leading to the Success: Assessing the Impact of Leadership Skill of Project Managers on Success of a Software Project.” International Journal on Leadership 2.2 (2015): 22-34. Print.

Santhidran, Sinnappan, Val Chandran, and Junbo Borromeo. “Enabling Organizational Change-Leadership, Commitment to Change and the Mediating Role of Change Readiness.” Journal of Business Economics and Management 14.2 (2013): 348-363. Print.