Kouzes and Posner Leadership Participation Inventory Model in Transformational Leadership

1. Introduction

Kouzes and Posner introduced the Leadership Participation Inventory model of Transformational leadership. They conducted their research on leadership over 20 years and concluded that leadership is more of behavior and practice rather than just a matter of personality as suggested by earlier leadership theories.  Leadership includes the skills and capabilities that are observable. In their research, Kouzes and Posner discovered the behavior pattern of different great leaders based on their best leadership experiences and found that irrespective of age, culture, and gender differences, the behavior pattern of these leaders was similar to their best leadership experiences.

According to this model, the best leadership practices guided leaders to achieve their best or in the accomplishment of extraordinary things. So the mandatory factors of transformational leadership are these practices and behavior of a leader.

2. History of Kouzes and Posner five practices of exemplary leadership model

A glimpse of Transformational Leadership:

The transformational leadership approach was introduced by James V. Downton in 1973 first, then expended by Macgregor Burns in 1978 and further Bernard M. Bass did additions to this in 1985. James Macgregor Burns had given the concept of Burns’s transformational leadership theory. He is also known as the father of Transformational theories.

This theory works on change factor both in people and social systems. It aimed at developing positive change in subordinates and their development as future leaders. This theory increases the motivation level, performance, and morale of subordinates. A leader can achieve above by doing strength, weakness analysis of subordinates, encouraging them to have a great sense of responsibility and accountability of their work by setting an example of self, etc.

Both Burn and Bass represented Transformational and Transactional leadership theory concepts and leadership models. A lot of research was further conducted by different researchers to refine the leadership concept and its effectiveness. Out of these, Kouzes and Posner introduced the concept of exemplary leadership in 1987 to emphasize on behavior aspect in leadership. According to them, leading a team by setting an example develops visibility or these leaders considered as visible models which ultimately increases accessibility and shows the values of a leader.

3. Assumptions

Kouzes and Posner leadership model is based on the below assumption:

  • Leaders can build leadership competence by setting a personal example to followers.

4. Broader perspective of the theory

After massive research of more than 20 years and by conducting different interviews and recording responses of great leaders and their experiences,  Kouzes and Posner defined different components or Inventory of Leadership which is known as Leadership Participation Inventory model.

Leadership Participation/Practices Inventory

Leadership Practices Inventory, also known as LPI, is an assessment tool that is designed from the characteristics of 5 different practices mentioned in the Exemplary Leadership model presented by Kouzes and Posner. It is also named as a 360-degree assessment tool that can be used as a survey tool by subordinates for specific leaders. This assessment is also useful to leaders as a self-assessment tool to understand different behavior patterns and tendencies that impact their leadership style.

Five key practices of Leadership Practices Inventory are:

1. Challenge the Process:

Leaders do experiments with new procedures and processes to facilitate change.  Creativity and innovation are the key characteristics of a good leader. Experimenting comes with certain risks and failures also. So a leader has to cope-up with these and to consider failures as learning. Whether leaders are willing or not to challenge the process or system reflects how much they are open to either create new ideas or welcome and support new ideas from others. Also, it shows their willingness to convert ideas into actions to generate new procedures, processes, and products, etc. Leaders look for more challenging work or assignments to observe their leadership skills and capabilities. They also believe in innovations for the betterment of their organizations.

Moreover, Transformational leaders are also willing to work beyond their comfort zone or groove. These are risk-takers and like doing experiments with new processes. They don’t believe in the blame game and accept their failures and mistakes as a learning opportunity. These leaders should prepare themselves for any mistakes or failures as learning comes from these to get success.

2. To inspire the Shared Vision:

Leaders make strategies for an organization by visualizing the future and inspiring subordinates to be part of it with a clear goal to achieve. Leaders make them believe that their actions are result-oriented and directive towards achieving some pre-defined purpose or objective.

This is an important practice for transformational leaders to bring and initiate the commitment of all people to achieve a common vision. There is a strong belief of transformational leaders behind this practice i.e. to build a difference by sharing a common vision and presenting the future ideal image of the organization that they seek to achieve. Leaders also share the same vision with subordinates in a positive manner and inspire them to work with their full zeal. Moreover, they keep subordinates motivating and exciting towards the common vision by their genuine, energetic approach and with symbols and positive language.

3. Enabling or allowing others to Act:

This includes creating an environment of trust and motivation for subordinates to urge their full support. This practice enables others to be part of the planning process by empowering them to make decisions. This also permits subordinates to fulfill their job duties with their full enthusiasm and potential.  Transformational leaders believe in creating a trustworthy atmosphere where everyone can demonstrate his/her capability. These leaders also create a sense of belongingness and responsibility in subordinates and take care of their interests and requirements.

4. Modeling the Way or acts as a role model:

Transformational leaders act as role-model by presenting themselves as others should be and act as expected others to perform. Modeling the way is defined as setting an example by leaders with their acts and values so that others can follow. These initiate excellence and then act as role-model for their followers to achieve the same excellence. For this, leaders require high-value standards and clear vision philosophy to measure organizations, principles to treat others, and a clear path to achieve goals or vision for organizational success. Transformational leaders also believe in synchronizing their words and actions to live by their values and to build a role model image in others.

5. Encouraging or motivating the Heart:

The motivated and encouraged team always performs better. Transformational leaders set high standards for their team including themselves and to achieve the organizational goals and these standards, team members require motivation and encouragement. Leaders boost the morale of team members by motivation means i.e. rewards and recognition systems for their performance. Being role models, leaders celebrate individual and team achievements. It increases a sense of belonging, better performance of team members.

5. Practical implications of the theory with the example

There are lots of examples of Transformational leaders in history who showed exceptional leadership skills to transform a large part of society. One great example of this is Nelson Mandela as he was a great transformational leader who fulfilled the needs of his followers and society. Nelson Mandela is well known as the first black President of South Africa. He had a clear vision of equality and willingness to do extreme to achieve his objectives. He created an exceptional example of leadership with his non-violence fight for civil rights in his country South Africa. He was a man of his words and peace. He is known as a President of South Africa and also more famous for his many leadership qualities that made him a successful and great leader.


He could satisfy all five practices of Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Practices Inventory model of Transformational leadership.

Below is the demonstration of his leadership skills on these five practices:

1. Modeling the way:

Nelson Mandela had set a true example by exhibiting leadership practice i.e. ‘Modeling the way’ by using a Non-violence approach against his fight for human rights and by raising his voice for equal rights for all. During his non-violence resistance, he was arrested but still, he stayed on his beliefs for equality and freedom from the racism of the whole society even on grounds of imprisonment. By keeping a non-African person in his security staff, Mandela showed an example of equality to his whole staff. This act of implementing equality within his staff also expresses that he fulfills the leadership practice of ‘Modeling the way’.

2. Challenge the process:

Nelson Mandela also demonstrated the practice ‘challenge the process’. He challenged people and their leadership who were not using their power for mankind i.e. white community. Being imprisoned and his leadership style showed his strong willingness and readiness to work on anything to achieve his vision of freedom which many black people of his country and the world also dreamed.

He also meets ‘Challenge the process’ as he was the first-ever black (in terms of racism) president and leader of the country South Africa which states that he not only challenged the process that time of white people to be part as leaders of dominant positions of country but also he became part of the system as a leader and had put forward the interest of a big part of community of his country.

3. Inspiring a shared vision:

Nelson Mandela was also found a fit on leadership trait or practice i.e. ‘Inspire a shared vision’. He had to convince everyone on the same vision with a similar mindset and way to the successful execution of his vision for re-establishment of Africa by making a country free from racism. For this, he was supposed to inspire people by demonstrating his impressive leadership, strong dedication, and humble behavior. Mandela also inspired a clear vision by clearing that his ultimate goal is equality and integration.

4. Enabling others to act:

Nelson Mandela also found well in ‘Enabling others to act’. Despite being in power as President, he never demonstrated it for selfish motives. He is a true example of humble behavior and selfless image. This way he allowed and inspired others to be a leader. Mandela always supported his team members in their decisions and let everyone knew their contribution to his leadership. He ensured to treat his team members as a family that enables him to motivate others to respond positively.

5. Encouraging or motivating the heart:

By inspiring others for a common vision and connecting with them by mixing in them, Nelson Mandela showed a perfect example of ‘Encourage the Heart’. His qualities like down to earth attitude, courage, dedication, recognizing and appreciating the efforts of others as a leader made him successful and an influential leader.

6. Criticism of the theory

There are different points on which Leadership Participation Inventory model can be criticized like:

  • The Leadership Participation Inventory model covers only a few aspects of leadership and doesn’t cover aspects like a leader’s specific behaviors, the response of team, etc. Other factors like emotions and situational factors have not been considered.
  • The original resource access is missing in the model that creates doubt in the authenticity of the model.

7. Significance

Following advantages are there of Kouzes and Posner Transformational leadership model:

  • The factors of this model are in the form of a checklist by which it is easy to assess a leader’s rapport with his/her team. Despite being subjective, these are better factors to identify organizational issues.
  • This leadership practices inventory can be beneficial for the development of leaders by making effective programs.

8. Limitations or Disadvantages

Limitations of the model are:

  • The testing of the Leadership Practices Inventory model in adverse situations is a bit difficult due to the issue of subjectivity.
  • Universal acceptance of the model is not possible due to the subjectivity of traits.
  • There is an ambiguity due to its names like “Leadership Participation inventory”, “leadership Practices Inventory”. This creates a question mark in its uniformity.
  • This model may not be suitable or work for all leaders as the 5 leadership practices are more suitable for outgoing leaders.

9. Conclusions

To initiate and achieve change for betterment in organizations, leaders practice the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. These practices are common for all leaders and related to behavioral aspects rather than the personality trait of leaders. These practices are open for all those leaders who want to bring positive and extraordinary changes in their organization and their followers by their leadership ability using these practices.

These practices have been tested on assessment tools and act as an operating system for leaders in the era of Transformational leadership practices in organizations.


  1. Girma Tegegn
  2. Lizelle E. Villanueva, PhD

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