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Leadership Participation Inventory - James Kouze and Barry Posner

Technical Details

Name: Leadership Participation Inventory
Author: James Kouze and Barry Posner
Classification: Transformational Theories
Year: 1987


  • The inventory is intuitively obvious.
  • Specific factors are listed in a checklist form that organizers can use to assess a group's affinity. to a leader. While they are subjective, they are better than nothing and can help in a focus on organizational problems.
  • The inventory can be used to build programs to develop leaders.
  • The model can be adapted, where not all factors are necessary to develop a leader.


  • There is no quantification of terms and each trait is so subjective that there is not universal agreement on which each means. The context-free aspect of the inventory items creates problems in one's ability to use them as assessment instruments.
  • Because of the subjectivity of the terms, it is difficult to test the Leadership Participation Inventory model uniformly in diverse situations.
  • There are different names for the model, thus, this presents a challenge in assessing its uniform perception. At least two names exist: "Leadership Participation Inventory" and "Leadership Practices Inventory"
  • Does the theory account for the difference between leadership and management? Management focuses more on instrumentalism and leadership is a relationship.


A survey was developed and published by James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book, The Leadership Challenge (Jossey Bass Publishers, 2002), that asked persons what characteristics of a leader they admire and would cause them to follow. From this came the Leadership Participation Inventory. In somewhat of a jocular sense, it follows the Boy Scout's list of traits befitting a model scout and is a list, major components of which many person could present without much thought. Kouzes and Posner discuss five characteristics they deem essential for successful leadership. Role model, inspiration, facing adversity, getting others to act, and generating enthusiasm to act.


The five characteristics for successful leadership

A good leader turns observers into doers.

  1. Role Model: A leader needs to be an exemplar, initiating action and presenting her or himself as a paradigm case of what a person should be and how actions should be performed.
  2. Inspiration: The others need to feel that they should follow; they need to be inspired but with a goal. They need to see that there is a desired endpoint to their actions. Leaders may intellectualize a situation but they have to be able to stand firm in the face of adversity.
  3. Facing Adversity: She or he cannot be deterred or wither. Courage is a hallmark of good leadership. That is a main feature that others see in a good leader. Often a leader will have to be creative, and it is this creation that sets a person off from the humdrum of those who follow.
  4. Empowerment: Getting others to act! Conveying a sense of empowerment to the others
  5. Generates Enthusiasm: A vital component of leadership not only getting others to act, but they need to act with passion.


As with all theories, the Leadership Participation Inventory is only a model that selects some aspects of leadership. There are certain aspects that are absent for Kousen and Posner's model, in particular: specific behaviors of leaders, group response, and quantification of the characteristics. The latter is essential in crating usable research instruments to test the efficacy of the theory across various environments. The inventory is a rational directive and one must consider non rational factors, such as emotions and environmental contingencies.

Another consideration is the very nature of leadership, itself. In the simplest situation of two individuals, leadership begins when one person is differentiated from the other by his or her prescribing activities or that the other does. In a broader sense, one person defers to another, thus establishing a hierarchy. The more persons involved and defer accordingly, the greater power the leader has. However, what if there is no deference? One has anarchy, and it has been argued that in a perfectly rationale society, there would be no hierarchy, where leadership is dispersed equally. How does a Leadership Participation Inventory model operate then? This question applies to all models, in fact.

One also must look closely at Kouzes and Posner's mode of presentation. While there appears to be a great deal of research behind the theory, it is difficult to find access to original sources; they are all proprietary. There does not appear to be a great deal of peer review of the theory. Furthurmore, the presentations are very commercialized, not unlike those of popular self-help books. Does this commercialization degrade the theory? This is not to say that the theory has not been instrumental in developing fine leaders, but one should be critically thoughtful and be willing to accept that there may be limitations to the popularization, being aware that fad may have their utility but may not sustain critical analysis.

Future of theory

In as much as there is a change of a word vis a vis "Leadership Participation Inventory" and "Leadership Practices Inventory" there needs to be an exploration concerning the rational. "Participation" conveys a different sense than "Practices". The first is oriented more towards assessing the following of people and the latter is more towards what to do about people following. What implications does this have for describing the theory of Kouzes and Posner in the first place and then one should assess how it is interpreted and applied in terms of the rationale for emphasizing participation as opposed to practicing.

There should be a comparison of the inventory of Kouzes and Posner with other leadership assessment and group participation studies, such as those discussed in Factors Which Influence Leadership Participation in Agricultural Organizations by Dr. Hannah S. Carter and Dr. Rick D. Rudd. An issue is the survey instruments themselves. One must do a cross-comparison not only regarding the instruments themselves but the content of the inventory of factors bonding persons to a leader.

The "Leadership Participation Inventory" is only a model and should be compared to other leadership models to assess what has been omitted or duplicated. Additionally, one should compare the rationale and philosophy underpinning that rationale across this and all other models.

Want to expand on the discussion?

We encourage you to expand on the discussion, add to the critique or even share your vision with regards to the future applications of the theory.

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