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Q: I’m wondering how The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® model so nicely ended up with six behaviors for each Practice? Was it by design or purely coincidental?

A: The best answer at this point in time is historical symmetry and psychometric factors.

The initial research indicated a number of behaviors associated with each leadership practice. Think about the fact that when small groups report out key leadership behaviors, there is always more than one behavior that can be associated with each Practice. When Jim Kouzes and I developed the initial LPI® assessment, we tested out lots of behavioral statements and used the empirical results to determine which statement could be deleted (e.g., it was redundant, it didn't load on a single leadership practice, it didn't explain much variation in outcome measures).

Originally some factors (Practices) had more statements associated with them than others and we determined that each Practice should have the same number of statements. It is also a well-established statistical finding that the reliability of a scale increases with the number of statements (data points) associated with it. In some cases, the Practices with less than six statements did not have as much "reliability" as those with six statements, and seven statements didn't sufficiently increase the reliability. (Reliability, in this case, refers to the correlation between the items within a scale/Practice).

Perfect editorial symmetry would have resulted in two essentials for each leadership Practice with three LPI statements associated with each. But that has never been the case. We do attempt, as much as possible, to align the LPI statements with the text of The Leadership Challenge but, again, this is not an exact match.

When we periodically test out new LPI statements, they typically are first derived from our latest research and thinking as reflected in the most current edition of The Leadership Challenge. We obtain additional suggestions from The Leadership Challenge Community, Global Training Partners, key customers, and others. For instance, we tested out nearly 50 new statements over a two-year period with nearly 200,000 respondents in order to eventually produce the four revised statements and four new statements in the most current edition of the LPI.

Barry Posner, Ph.D., is the Accolti Endowed Professor of Leadership at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, where he served as Dean for 12 years. Together with Jim Kouzes, he is author of over 30 books and workbooks on leadership and leadership development, including the just-released Stop Selling & Start Leading (with additional co-author Deb Calvert), fully-revised and updated sixth edition of the international bestseller, The Leadership Challenge, and Learning Leadership, selected by Strategy+Business as one of the 2016 Best Business Books of Year.

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