Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters by John Maxwell. Center Street. 288 pages. 2015
John Maxwell has had a profound impact on my leadership journey over the past fifteen years, primarily through his books. I was also blessed to help bring him to our community nine years ago for a wonderful speaking engagement. This new book is about how to live a life of significance, moving from having good intentions to living a life of intentionality.
Maxwell writes that if we live each day with intentionality, we will live a life that matters and one that has significance. He encourages us to take action, and to move from an attitude of trying to one of doing. He wants us to tell our best story with our lives and to invite others to participate in our stories.
I’ve read all of Maxwell’s major books over the past fifteen years. This one is different in a few ways. Here, he tells more of his own life story, including telling us about those who have most helped him along his journey, starting with his parents. In this book, he also shares more of his faith than he does in most of his other books. He does this in a very respectful, non-proselyting manner. But he is absolutely clear that his faith is a huge part of his life and leadership.
Below are a few of the many takeaways that I had from the book:
- Make every day count.
- Align your thinking with your actions.
- Start small and believe big.
- Be a river, not a reservoir.
- Everyone has one thing that they are very good at (our strengths). Focus on your “one thing”.
- Find your “Why” (or your purpose). What is it that you cry, sing or dream about?
- Maxwell’s primary calling is to add value to others.
- Ask how you can help others on their road to significance.
- We need to move from success to significance.
- Will we serve ourselves or others?
- Jesus is Maxwell’s model for putting others first.
- Add value to others using your best gifts, skills and resources, intentionally and strategically.
- Find your sweet spot (your calling and strengths). What is it that you were made to do?
- Stay in your strengths zone as you get out of your comfort zone.
- Connect and partner with like-minded and like- valued people.
- We need to finish well in our lives and vocations.
- Use a sense of urgency to seize opportunities to take action (be intentional).
- Each day, think “What opportunities do you have to make a difference for others?”
Throughout the book, Maxwell shares stories from his life and the lives of others to illustrate his points. He demonstrates humility by sharing his own failures in life and what he has learned from them, hoping that we learn as well.
Maxwell recently spoke with members of the St. Louis Cardinals. See the pictures below of him with Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst, Manager Mike Matheny and others.
Learning from the Giants: Life and Leadership Lessons from the Bible by John C. Maxwell. FaithWords. 160 pages. 2014.
Maxwell states that everything he knows about leadership has come from Scripture. This book reminded me somewhat of Andy Andrews’ The Traveler’s Gift. Andrews had his character (David Ponder) go back in history to get wisdom from historical characters. Maxwell envisions a day in which he is mentored in his home by ten figures from the Old Testament. I thought it was a creative way to approach the book, which is a follow-up to his 2002 book Running with the Giants: What the Old Testament Heroes Want You to Know About Life and Leadership
The book includes the following information for each of the figures that Maxwell meets with throughout the day:
- Biographical information
- Life lessons
- Leadership lessons
- A prayer
- Study questions which makes it a good book to read and discuss with others
Like all of Maxwell’s books, this one is written in a very readable style and will be appropriate for readers of all levels of Bible knowledge. I highlighted a number of passages in this short book and would like to share some of them with you below.
ELIJAH ~ God Loves You on Your Bad Days
- “I have something important to tell you,” Elijah says as he fixes us with his eyes. “God loves you on your bad days.”
- But God was not disappointed in me. He never has been, nor will He ever be disappointed in you. Disappointment comes when reality falls short of our expectations. But nothing falls short of God’s expectations because He knows everything.
- When you feel desperate and you have nothing, look to God. He will care for you.”
- No matter what has happened in your life, return to God. He has not given up on you, and He never will. God is faithful to the end.
There are many leadership lessons we can learn from Elijah, but three stand out:
- Even God’s Best Leaders Are Human. We want to see these giants of the faith as superhuman, but they were not. Their gifts were greater than they were.
- Leaders Make the Greatest Impact When They Lead. Good leaders remain focused on what God has called them to do.
- God’s Desire for Discouraged Leaders Is for Them to Get Back into Leadership. We should continue to serve God in whatever way He asks. We’re not finished until He says so.
ELISHA ~ Give Your Best Wherever God Puts You
- When we are willing to put ourselves in God’s hands and do what He asks, giving our best, God uses us.
- But God often gives us the time we need to learn what we must to serve Him well, even if it’s not what we want. In the case of Elisha, serving Elijah helped him learn how to serve God.
- If you are willing to do small things in the service of God, and do them with excellence, God will give you opportunities to do bigger things for Him when you are ready.
- We should never allow the size of our thinking to limit the size of our vision. Our God is way too big for that.
- What you do doesn’t determine whether your work is sacred. How and why you do it does.”
- What impresses God is our faithfulness to the purpose He gives us. He was just as pleased with me when I was plowing or serving as He was when I was preaching. When you work with excellence and the right motives, God is pleased.”
- “If God has not given you a vision, don’t wait around for one. Serve another leader to whom God has given a vision. Be faithful and effective in that.
There are so many lessons we can learn from Elisha:
- To Receive God’s Mantle of Leadership, You Must Desire It. If you desire to lead for God’s glory, fuel your passion and pursue God’s calling with all your heart.
- To Receive God’s Mantle of Leadership, You Must Be Willing to Wait for It. God’s purpose works only with God’s timing. We usually want what God has for us right now. But our desire to lead for God is really only as great as our willingness to wait on Him. Be patient.
- To Receive God’s Mantle of Leadership, You Must Stick with It
Serving God through leadership is a marathon, not a sprint. The greater your calling, the greater the temptations and potential distractions that will come to prevent you from fulfilling it. We need to persevere. It’s the only way we will be able to finish well, as Elisha did.
JOB ~ God Sees the Big Picture
- Sometimes the best thing you can do when friends are suffering is simply sit on the ash heap and weep with them.
- The Bible says that people look at the outside, but God looks at the inside. That is what God did with Job. He saw the big picture because he could see Job on the inside, not just the outside.
- “Being Bigger on the Inside Than on the Outside Means That Your Character Is Greater Than Your Reputation”
- “If you would be great in God’s eyes, grow within, not without. Make strong character your greatest goal. It is the only thing you can keep in the darkest of times.”
- “Being Bigger on the Inside Than on the Outside Means That Your Attitude Is Better Than Your Circumstances”
- “Few people have a good attitude when things are going badly for them. Those few who choose every day to think right even when things are not going right do so even when they don’t feel like it. They choose to believe. They choose to rely on God instead of themselves. And those choices make them bigger on the inside.”
- “Being Bigger on the Inside Than on the Outside Means That Your Faith in God Is Stronger Than Your Vision”
- “God gave me more than I ever hoped or imagined, making me bigger and better on the outside, all because my desire was to be better on the inside. If you want God’s best for you, make that your goal.”
Yet the lessons I think we can learn from him are not in the nuts and bolts of leadership. The lessons come from the inside, from his character:
- Good Leaders Don’t Allow Their Emotions to Dictate Their Decisions. Like all good leaders, he did what was right, and then hoped to feel good about it later. He didn’t do what felt good and hope it turned out right. When life and leadership get hard, we need to follow Job’s example.
- Good Leaders Know Outside Reputation Should Never Be Greater Than Inside Character
- Good Leaders Realize That Victory Does Not Come Quickly or Easily
JACOB ~ Let God Have Control of Your Life
- I think we all have problems like Jacob’s. We don’t want to let go of control and let God have it.
- Like Jacob we resist God. And often it takes crisis in our lives to get us to change. That was certainly the case for Jacob. He went through a process to become dependent on God. I think that for us to experience the same growth, we need to experience a similar pattern: Mother Teresa said, “You will never know God is all you need until He is all you have.” God knows that when we run out of options, we are finally ready to turn to Him. We often see such circumstances as a crisis. God sees them as an opportunity to help us.
- That is the way God works. If we want to gain His favor, we must be willing to lose ourselves. We must lose our life to save it.
- We don’t need to be fixed to come to God. We need to be broken. When we stop striving and start listening, when we slow down enough for God to get our attention, then He can help us. He can put us back together again. He can help us to become who He created us to be.
- We cannot be of much use to God until we are broken. We must be humble before God and let Him take control of our lives.
- “The ultimate goal in life is to find your purpose and then lose yourself in living it. In a sense, you lose yourself twice. First you lose your old self—the prideful, willful one—by letting God have control of your life. Then you lose yourself in devotion to fulfilling that purpose. That’s where the true fulfillment comes in life. You understand why God put you here, what your gifts are, how you can best serve Him. You know your why.
What can we learn from Jacob’s journey?
- Lordship Precedes Godly Leadership. We cannot be what God intends us to be and at the same time hold on to who we think we should be. That was Jacob’s mistake for too long.
- Being in Control Limits Our Leadership. God takes complete responsibility for the life that is given completely to Him.
DEBORAH ~ God Specializes in the Unexpected
- God’s interaction with people is one story after another of God doing the unexpected.
- Deborah was an unusual and exceptional leader at a time when women normally were unable to rise up. But God raised her up, showing that He enjoys using people others might discount or dismiss.
- “You cannot be God’s servant and do what He asks only when you feel like it or when it is safe. Serving God is not always safe. Speaking out for Him is not always safe. But while there may not always be safety in standing up and speaking out for God, there is always security in God.”
There are many leadership lessons we can learn from Deborah:
- When One Leader Refuses, God Often Asks Another to Take His Place. God’s will can be fulfilled through leaders. And reluctant leaders may be given the chance for a change of heart and therefore a second chance to lead. But God’s will cannot be thwarted by leaders. God is sovereign. So the question becomes, who will lead?
- We Should Not Put Limitations on Leaders When God Doesn’t. What might God do with you or me if we didn’t put limitations on ourselves? What people might we be able to serve? What victories might we be able to win with God’s help? The possibilities are as great as God is.
- When Godly Leaders Obey God’s Call, the People Are Blessed
ISAIAH ~ God Has a Reason for Your Encounter with Him
- That often seems to be the way God works. He uses our losses, failures, and challenges to get our attention, so that He can show Himself to us, grow us, and draw us nearer to Him.
- Confess your inadequacy and ask God to cleanse you. He will. And then you will begin to change for the better, one step at a time. You cannot get to your future until you settle your past.
- When you are doing what God asks you to do, you know why you exist, why you are breathing air.
- God often allows us to help others in the places where He has helped us the most. Where God touches you, He will use you to touch others.”
What leadership lessons can we learn from him Isaiah?
- When There Is a Crisis—God Prepares a Leader
- God Always Calls the Leaders He Prepares. When there is a crisis, God always prepares new leaders and He always invites them to lead. The question is whether they will answer the call. Not all do, as Isaiah did. But they always get the opportunity. The greatest leaders all have this in common: they rise up to meet the anxiety and fear of the people and lead them forward through it.
- Leaders Need a Touch of God Before They Go Touch the People. If you are a leader, seek God before any undertaking. Don’t try to touch the people until you’ve received a touch from God. He will guide and direct you, and He will give you strength and favor to lead for Him.
JONAH ~ God Always Gives Us a Second Chance
- After all that Jonah had done, God offered him another opportunity. That’s something that should give each of us hope.
- If you ask God to give you a second chance, it is not an entirely selfish act. You have no idea how many people you may help if you seek God’s forgiveness and obey His calling on your life.
- All people matter to God, and so they should matter to me.”
- Grace always runs downhill. It met me when I was at the bottom, not the top.
What can we learn from Jonah?
- A Leader’s Decision Affects Many People. For either good or bad, everything rises and falls on leadership. As leaders, we must never forget that every decision we make affects other people. The greater the influence and higher the position, the larger the number of people affected. The decisions of leaders have a compounding effect on others—either positive or negative.
- Leaders Must Continually Examine Their Hearts. Good leaders do the right things for the right reasons with the right heart. For that reason, we must continually examine our hearts. To examine our hearts, we need to ask ourselves whether we’ve sought God’s will for any given situation. We need to consider if He would be pleased with our words and actions. We need to try to see things from His perspective.
- God Chooses to Work Through Leaders to Help Others. Several years ago I wrote down the top ten questions I wanted to ask God when I arrived in heaven. One of those questions was “Why did You choose people to fulfill Your purpose, and why did You pick some of the people You did?”
JOSHUA ~ God Is Greater than Your Greatest Challenges
- “Trust God when challenges confront you; Trust Him when your faith is too small. Trust Him when simply to trust Him Is the hardest thing of all.”
Lessons from Joshua?
- Let God Encourage You with Courage. The core of leadership is courage.
- Keep God in the Picture. Too often our problems are pictures without God in them. As leaders, we must find ways to keep God in the picture. We need to do it visually. We need to do it creatively. And we need to do it continually.
- Focus on the Possibilities, Not the Problem. Most people are problem spotters instead of problem solvers. Leaders cannot think that way if they want to be successful. Do you naturally tend to see problems or possibilities? Why?
DANIEL ~ Have a Purpose Bigger than You
- “When your purpose is no greater than yourself, it’s easy for you to rely on only yourself. But when your purpose is bigger, you need God’s favor to accomplish it. When you are asked to do the impossible, as I was, it requires God to do a miracle.
- “The longer you walk with God and strive to live according to His greater purpose, the more courage He will give you to fulfill His will.”
- “When you choose to follow a bigger purpose, it’s not a one-time decision. Your resolve will be tested. If you want to finish well, you must keep choosing to follow God.”
Three leadership lessons stand out from Daniel’s life:
- God Chooses the Purpose Before the Person. People who fail to make a difference in the lives of others lack purpose.
- When Leaders Follow God’s Purpose, They Are Given God’s Power. When God gives leaders something to do according to His purpose, He provides them with the power and favor they need to complete it. If you are pursuing the bigger purpose of doing what God created you to do, He will provide the resources you need.
- On-Purpose Leaders Do the Right Thing—Not the Easy Thing. As a leader, your why needs to be bigger than you are. If you are bigger than your why, you might have a successful career, but you will have little more. However, if your why is bigger than you are, you have a calling. And your calling makes it possible for you to always do the right thing, not merely the easy thing.
I think about the giants of the faith we met today, and the messages they had for us: Elijah: God loves you on your bad days. Elisha: Give your best wherever God puts you. Job: God sees the big picture. Jacob: Let God have control of your life. Deborah: God specializes in the unexpected. Isaiah: God has a reason for your encounter with Him. Jonah: God always gives us a second chance. Joshua: God is greater than your greatest challenges. Daniel: Have a purpose bigger than yourself.
In his latest book, 67 year old John Maxwell writes that he has been asking questions about leadership for forty years. He states that we need to embrace question-asking in order to grow in leadership. He reviews the benefits of asking questions and shares the top questions he has asked and the top questions people have asked him. The book covers a wide variety of topics pertaining to leadership and development. As with all Maxwell books, he offers helpful quotes from people such as Rick Warren, Patrick Lencioni, John Wooden, and many others, as well as relevant stories and illustrations throughout the book.
I listened to the audiobook version of the book, which was read by Maxwell. It took me much longer than usual to complete the book because I kept stopping to take notes on what I had just heard. I’d like to share some of those notes with you below:
- Good questions inform, great questions transform
- What questions should we ask ourselves as leaders?
- What do we need to ask ourselves? Maxwell shares questions he asks himself as a leader, such as “Are you willing to invest in yourself?” and “Are we genuinely interested in others?”
- Am I grounded as a leader?
- Embrace charisma, humility, and authenticity
- A calling is something you have to do. A dream is something you want to do. Calling is doing what you are created to do.
- John Wooden would ask “What can I do to make my team better?”
- Am I working in my strengths zone?
- Maxwell covers seven questions he asks himself every day.
- Maxwell reviews questions that he asks his team members, such as “What do you think?”, “How can I serve you?”, “Did we exceed expectations?”, “Did we add value?”, “What do I need to know?” and “How are the numbers?”
- To become a good questioner, you need to be a good listener.
- If you want to be a good leader, you must become a good listener.
- One of the greatest gifts we can give someone I’d the gift of attention.
- Tell me what I need to hear, not necessarily what you think I want to hear.
- Questions that leaders ask him, such as questions on self-leadership, blind spots of leaders, the most important leadership values and servant leadership.
- What is the most effective daily habit that a leader should develop?
- How do you lead with humility when in the corporate world it is seen as a weakness? Here he compares pride and humility.
- How transparent should a leader be?
- How do you filter you emotions so that you can make good decision?
- Leading yourself is perhaps the least discussed and most important aspect of leadership.
- Leadership is more caught than taught.
- Leaders are developed rather than discovered.
- Don’t need a title or position to lead.
- Influence is a choice.
- Can a leader serve and lead at the same time? Leadership is servant hood. Compares serving leaders self-serving leaders.
- One of his favorite quotes: “There is a choice you have to make in everything you do, so keep in mind that in the end the choice you make makes you.”
- Discusses the seasons of growth in leadership.
- A question that he asks to all who want to become leaders is “Why do you want to lead?” The answer to that question tells him a lot.
- Need to earn credibility before people will buy into your vision. As people’s trust in you grows, so will your influence.
- People who think they are leading but no one is following are only taking a walk.
- Leadership is influence. Everything rises and falls on leadership.
- At 67 years old Maxwell’s purpose is still unfolding and he hasn’t realized all of his dreams yet.
- Nobody only leads or follows – we all do both.
- Can an introvert be a good leader? Yes, leaders such as Lincoln, Gates and Gandhi were introverts.
- Connect with people. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
- Help get people in their strengths zones.
- Questions to ask when delegating to others.
- Can’t be overly concerned about what people think of you and be a strong leader.
- If your confidence isn’t what it should be, rack up a few wins. Don’t compare yourself to others. Instead focus on being your best you. Focus on being an expert at something.
- Leadership has to be earned. It’s not a right, but a privilege.
- Reach out to those who have influence. They may not have your title, but they are the ones who others follow.
- Everyone deserves our best shot at succeeding, but not repeated shots at the expense of the rest of the team.
- He asks two questions about those who need to change: Can they change? A question of ability and Will they change? A question of attitude.
- Leaders can show value by being honest with people, telling them where they need to grow, etc.
- How do you raise the bar for people who are used to average or mediocre?
- Wins and losses – observe the 24 rule. Celebrate or mourn for only 24 hours, then move on.
- Sometimes you have to part with poor performers. Do it with respect, but don’t have regrets or second thoughts. Make the decision and move forward.
- It is the leader’s responsibility to seek reconciliation in a relationship. However, sometimes the relationship can’t be saved.
- How do I work with a bad leader? This is one of the questions most asked of him over the years.
- After character, vision may be the most important trait of a leader.
- How do you deal with a boss who is a bully?
- How can you work with a leader who plays it safe and avoids risk?
- A characteristic of a good leader is to be able to successfully navigate transitions to new assignments.
- Don’t leave something, go to something.
- You always want to leave an assignment on a high note.
- When considering a change consider the risks and rewards and get good counsel from others.
- The indecision and inaction of a leader hurt the most.
- Need to successfully communicate the reason for change to/for – employees, customers, stockholders – everyone.
- Empower leaders who have strengths in areas that you do not.
- How does a leader who failed get back into leadership? Need to do an evaluation on why they failed and then be willing to make necessary changes.
- The greatest legacy a leader can leave is developing future leaders.
- How do you identify people with leadership potential? A leader has to be able to influence and have good people skills.
- Leaders are givers. They add value to others.
- Leaders are finishers. They fulfill their commitments. Help people focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses.
- Give them an opportunity to practice (development opportunities).
- Set them up for a win.
- Who do you permit into your inner circle? These are existing leaders, not potential ones.
Kevin Myers is the senior pastor of 12Stone Church, a multi-site church in the Atlanta area, one of the fastest growing and the 29th largest church in the U.S. with about 12,000 attending each week. This book, Myers’ first, is primarily written by Myers, with perspectives and application discussion questions added by Maxwell throughout the book.
My friend Kirk and I have a story about Myers and Maxwell that dates back to 2007 when we were on the board of the local American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) chapter. We brought in Maxwell to speak as a thank you to our members. He was coming in on a private plane into our local airport from Atlanta for the event and would be going back right after signing books following the event. He brought Myers with him to mentor him, looking to make the best use of his busy schedule, even a plane ride. Kirk and I had the pleasure of taking them to and from the airport that day. In the book Kevin mentions that he has been mentoring with Maxwell for over ten years.
Myers writes about a vision he had as a sixteen year old that he would lead a large church. He had been working as a pastor at a church in Michigan, and with his church’s blessing, he and his family moved to Georgia to plant a church. Although he expected 400 to show up the first week, only 69 adults showed up and less than that the following week. Over the next few years Myers ran out of money, had lost his family’s health insurance and was ready to close the church doors. He asked his former pastor if he could have his job back. He was told yes, but not at that time. He was to go back to Georgia and try a little longer.
God pointed out where Myers was going wrong and showed him the biblical pattern for living, in order to live a “Home Run Life”. This transformed his life, leadership, ministry, and relationships. It was during that time John Maxwell became his mentor. The story behind how that happened was very interesting. Myers and Maxwell use a baseball diamond as an analogy for following God’s plan for life. Myers talks about four growth gates, each of which corresponds to one of the four bases in baseball: Connection with God: Winning Dependence – Home Plate Character: Winning Within – First Base Community: Winning with Others – Second Base Competence: Winning Results – Third Base Myers writes that a breakdown occurs because most people run the bases backwards. In our performance-based culture, they run straight to third base (Competence), focusing on performance to the detriment of relationships, character, and their connection with God.
Maxwell corresponds the four growth gates and bases to his five levels of leadership (home plate corresponds to position level, etc.).
Myers uses the baseball theme (minor leagues to major leagues, lines such as the four line, lines of a batter’s box, etc.), biblical figures such as Joseph, Jacob and David and scripture passages such as Romans 12:1-2 to illustrate his points. He first used baseball as an analogy to teach his 11 year old son and later others God’s game plan for life. He then took it to his church and later started teaching it at conferences. Maxwell encouraged him to put the material into book form.
Myers talks about living a secret life outside the lines, using Tiger Woods as an example.
A few insights from Maxwell that I appreciated were:
- Add value to others
- Give more and before than you receive from others
- Keep short accounts
- Stay in your strengths zone, but not in your comfort zone
Myers shares four key mentoring lessons from Maxwell and also discusses dealing with failure and needing to earn our keep every day at work, a principle that I try to live by.
This book is much more a solid introduction to the Christian life than it is a book on leadership. As such, it contains much more Christian content than a regular Maxwell book would have. The baseball analogy is simplistic and will be helpful if you are discipling someone who enjoys baseball.
I like to use the game of golf as a way to explain the Christian life. You start out on the first tee and have many ups and downs – in your score and emotions – over the course of four or more hours before you putt out on the 18th green. Don’t give up. Persevere. Perhaps this will be my first book!
Here is the website for the book: www.homerunlife.com
And a video from John Maxwell about the book:
The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow by John Maxwell. Thomas Nelson. 160 pages. 2007.
Maxwell indicates that he has written this book to help readers recognize, develop, and refine the personal characteristics needed to be a truly effective leader, the kind people want to follow. He settled on a list of 21 qualities possessed by all great leaders. The traits are described and illustrated in this book, meant to be a complementary companion to his classic book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
Although this small book could be read in one sitting, Maxwell encourages his reader to live with the book for a while, to read a chapter, and then give it some time. To use it to reflect, review, and renew. He states that if the quality you’re studying is a weak area in your life, spend some time addressing it before you move on to the next chapter. You may even want to repeat this process several times over the course of a year, cementing each trait into your character.
For each of the qualities Maxwell starts out with some appropriate leadership quotes. He describes and illustrates the quality and then includes “Fleshing It Out”, “Reflecting on It”, “Bringing it Home” and “Daily Take-Away” sections.
I highlighted several passages in this book and want to share them with you below:
• Everything rises and falls on leadership. And leadership truly develops from the inside out. If you can become the leader you ought to be on the inside, you will be able to become the leader you want to be on the outside. People will want to follow you. And when that happens, you’ll be able to tackle anything in this world.
1. CHARACTER: BE A PIECE OF THE ROCK How a leader deals with the circumstances of life tells you many things about his character.
• Crisis doesn’t necessarily make character, but it certainly does reveal it. Adversity is a crossroads that makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise.
• What must every person know about character? Character Is More than Talk. Anyone can say that he has integrity, but action is the real indicator of character.
1. Talent Is a Gift, but Character Is a Choice
• As you live your life and make choices today, you are continuing to create your character.
2. Character Brings Lasting Success with People
• Followers do not trust leaders whose character they know to be flawed, and they will not continue following them.
3. Leaders Cannot Rise Above the Limitations of Their Character
• As you lead others at home, at work, and in the community, recognize that your character is your most important asset.
2 CHARISMA: THE FIRST IMPRESSION CAN SEAL THE DEAL
• Charisma, plainly stated, is the ability to draw people to you. And like other character traits, it can be developed.
• To make yourself the kind of person who attracts others, you need to personify these pointers:
1. Love Life. People enjoy leaders who enjoy life.
• Put a “10” on Every Person’s Head. One of the best things you can do for people—which also attracts them to you—is to expect the best of them. I call it putting a “10” on everyone’s head. It helps others think more highly of themselves, and at the same time, it also helps you.
• Give People Hope. French General Napoleon Bonaparte characterized leaders as “dealers in hope.”
• If you can be the person who bestows that gift on others, they will be attracted to you, and they will be forever grateful.
• Share Yourself. People love leaders who share themselves and their life journeys. As you lead people, give of yourself.
• When it comes to charisma, the bottom line is other mindedness. Leaders who think about others and their concerns before thinking of themselves exhibit charisma.
3 COMMITMENT: IT SEPARATES DOERS FROM DREAMERS
• The world has never seen a great leader who lacked commitment.
• True commitment inspires and attracts people. It shows them that you have conviction. They will believe in you only if you believe in your cause. As the Law of Buy-In states, people buy into the leader, then the vision.
• What is the true nature of commitment? Take a look at three observations.
1. Commitment Starts in the Heart. Some people want everything to be perfect before they’re willing to commit themselves to anything. But commitment always precedes achievement.
2. Commitment Is Tested by Action. It’s one thing to talk about commitment. It’s another to do something about it. The only real measure of commitment is action.
• Commitment Opens the Door to Achievement
4 COMMUNICATION: WITHOUT IT YOU TRAVEL ALONE
• Excellent communication skills are absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter. —Gilbert Amelio, President and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp.
• Educators take something simple and make it complicated. Communicators take something complicated and make it simple. —John C. Maxwell
• Reagan was a good executive because he possessed a clear vision, made decisions easily, and delegated very effectively. But he was a great leader because of his uncanny ability to communicate. Communication made him the kind of leader that people wanted to follow.
• People will not follow you if they don’t know what you want or where you are going.
• You can be a more effective communicator if you follow four basic truths.
1. Simplify Your Message. Communication is not just what you say. It’s also how you say it.
• Contrary to what some educators teach, the key to effective communication is simplicity.
2. See the Person. Effective communicators focus on the people with whom they’re communicating. They know it is impossible to effectively communicate to an audience without knowing something about them.
• As you communicate with people—whether individuals or groups—ask yourself these questions: Who is my audience? What are their questions? What needs to be accomplished? And how much time do I have?
• Show the Truth. Credibility precedes great communication. There are two ways to convey credibility to your audience. First, believe in what you say.
• Second, live what you say.
• There is no greater credibility than conviction in action.
• Seek a Response. As you communicate, never forget that the goal of all communication is action.
• Every time you speak to people, give them something to feel, something to remember, and something to do.
5 COMPETENCE: IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME
• If you want to cultivate that quality, here’s what you need to do.
1. Show Up Every Day
• But highly competent people take it a step farther. They don’t show up in body only. They come ready to play every day—no matter how they feel, what kind of circumstances they face, or how difficult they expect the game to be.
2. Keep Improving
• Like Benjamin Franklin, all highly competent people continually search for ways to keep learning, growing, and improving. They do that by asking why. After all, the person who knows how will always have a job, but the person who knows why will always be the boss.
3. Follow Through with Excellence. I’ve never met a person I considered competent who didn’t follow through.
• As leaders, we expect our people to follow through when we hand them the ball. They expect that and a whole lot more from us as their leaders.
4. Accomplish More than Expected. Highly competent people always go the extra mile. For them, good nough is never good enough.
• They need to do the job, and then some, day in and day out.
5. Inspire Others
• Highly competent leaders do more than perform at a high level. They inspire and motivate their people to do the same.
6 COURAGE: ONE PERSON WITH COURAGE IS A MAJORITY
• Whenever you see significant progress in an organization, you know that the leader made courageous decisions.
• Larry Osborne offers this observation: “The most striking thing about highly effective leaders is how little they have in common. What one swears by, another warns against. But one trait stands out: the willingness to risk.”
• As you approach the tough decisions that challenge you, recognize these truths about courage:
1. Courage Begins with an Inward Battle
• Courage isn’t an absence of fear. It’s doing what you are afraid to do. It’s having the power to let go of the familiar and forge ahead into new territory.
2. Courage Is Making Things Right, Not Just Smoothing Them Over
• If you don’t have the ability to see when to stand up and the conviction to do it, you’ll never be an effective leader.
3. Courage in a Leader Inspires Commitment from Followers
• A show of courage by any person encourages others. But a show of courage by a leader inspires. It makes people want to follow him.
4. Your Life Expands in Proportion to Your Courage
• Courage not only gives you a good beginning, but it also provides a better future.
7 DISCERNMENT: PUT AN END TO UNSOLVED MYSTERIES
• Smart leaders believe only half of what they hear. Discerning leaders know which half to believe. —John C. Maxwell
• Discernment can be described as the ability to find the root of the matter, and it relies on intuition as well as rational thought. Effective leaders need discernment, although even good leaders don’t display it all the time.
• Discernment is an indispensable quality for any leader who desires to maximize effectiveness. It helps to do several important things:
• Discover the Root Issues
• Discernment enables a leader to see a partial picture, fill in the missing pieces intuitively, and find the real heart of a matter.
2. Enhance Your Problem Solving If you can see the root issue of a problem, you can solve it. The closer a leader is to his area of gifting, the stronger his intuition and ability to see root causes. If you want to tap into your discernment potential, work in your areas of strength.
3. Evaluate Your Options for Maximum Impact
• Discernment enables you to use both your gut and your head to find the best option for your people and your organization.
4. Multiply Your Opportunities
• Although great leaders often appear to be lucky to some observers, I believe leaders create their own “luck” as the result of discernment, that willingness to use their experience and follow their instincts.
8 FOCUS: THE SHARPER IT IS, THE SHARPER YOU ARE
• What does it take to have the focus required to be a truly effective leader?
• The keys are priorities and concentration. A leader who knows his priorities but lacks concentration knows what to do but never gets it done. If he has concentration but no priorities, he has excellence without progress. But when he harnesses both, he has the potential to achieve great things.
• So the important question is, how should you focus your time and energy? Use these guidelines to help you: Focus 70 Percent on Strengths
• Effective leaders who reach their potential spend more time focusing on what they do well than on what they do wrong.
• To be successful, focus on your strengths and develop them. That’s where you should pour your time, energy, and resources.
• Focus 25 Percent on New Things Growth equals change. If you want to get better, you have to keep changing and improving. That means stepping out into new areas.
• If you dedicate time to new things related to areas of strength, then you’ll grow as a leader. Don’t forget: in leadership, if you’re through growing, you’re through.
• Focus 5 Percent on Areas of Weakness
• Nobody can entirely avoid working in areas of weakness. The key is to minimize it as much as possible, and leaders can do it by delegating. For example, I delegate detail work to others.
9 GENEROSITY: YOUR CANDLE LOSES NOTHING WHEN IT LIGHTS ANOTHER
• Cultivate the quality of generosity in your life. Here’s how:
1. Be Grateful for Whatever You Have
• It’s hard for a person to be generous when he is not satisfied with what he has.
2. Put People First. The measure of a leader is not the number of people who serve him, but the number of people he serves. Generosity requires putting others first.
3. Don’t Allow the Desire for Possessions to Control You
• If you want to be in charge of your heart, don’t allow possessions to take charge of you.
4. Regard Money as a Resource
• The only way to really win with money is to hold it loosely—and be generous with it to accomplish things of value.
• Develop the Habit of Giving
• The only way to maintain an attitude of generosity is to make it your habit to give—your time, attention, money, and resources.
• If you’re enslaved by greed, you cannot lead.
10 INITIATIVE: YOU WON’T LEAVE HOME WITH OUT IT
• Of all the things a leader should fear, complacency should head the list. —John C. Maxwell
• What qualities do leaders possess that enable them to make things happen? I see at least four.
1. They Know What They Want
• If you are going to be an effective leader, you’ve got to know what you want. That’s the only way you’ll recognize opportunity when it comes.
2. They Push Themselves to Act
• Initiators don’t wait for other people to motivate them. They knew it is their responsibility to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. And they make it a regular practice.
3. They Take More Risks
• But one of the reasons good leaders are willing to take risks is that they recognize there is a price for not initiating too.
4. They Make More Mistakes
• The good news for initiators is that they make things happen. The bad news is that they make lots of mistakes.
• If you want to achieve great things as a leader, you must be willing to initiate and put yourself on the line.
11 LISTENING: TO CONNECT WITH THEIR HEARTS, USE YOUR EARS
• A good leader encourages followers to tell him what he needs to know, not what he wants to hear. —John C. Maxwell
• An unwillingness to listen is too common among poor leaders. Peter Drucker, the father of American management, believes that 60 percent of all management problems are the result of faulty communications. I would say that the overwhelming majority of communication problems come from poor listening.
• As you think about how to spend your listening time, keep in mind that you have two purposes for listening: to connect with people and to learn. For that reason, you should keep your ear open to these people:
1. Your Followers
• Good leaders, the kind that people want to follow, do more than conduct business when they interact with followers. They take the time to get a feel for who each one is as a person.
• If you’re in the habit of listening only to the facts and not the person who expresses them, change your focus—and really listen.
• I am amazed by the leaders who are so caught up in their own ideas that they never hear their customers’ concerns, complaints, and suggestions.
• Good leaders always make it a priority to keep in contact with the people they’re serving.
3. Your Competitors
• As a leader, you don’t want to base your actions on what the other guy is doing, but you should still listen and learn what you can to improve yourself.
4. Your Mentors
• No leader is so advanced or experienced that he can afford to be without a mentor.
12 PASSION: TAKE THIS LIFE AND LOVE IT
• What makes it possible for people who might seem ordinary to achieve great things? The answer is passion. Nothing can take the place of passion in a leader’s life.
• Take a look at four truths about passion and what it can do for you as a leader: 1. Passion Is the First Step to Achievement
• Your desire determines your destiny.
• Think of great leaders, and you will be struck by their passion: Gandhi for human rights, Winston Churchill for freedom, Martin Luther King Jr. for equality, Bill Gates for technology.
2. Passion Increases Your Willpower
• If you want anything badly enough, you can find the willpower to achieve it. The only way to have that kind of desire is to develop passion.
3. Passion Changes You
• If you follow your passion—instead of others’ perceptions—you can’t help becoming a more dedicated, productive person. And that increases your ability to impact others. In the end, your passion will have more influence than your personality.
4. Passion Makes the Impossible Possible
• A leader with great passion and few skills always outperforms a leader with great skills and no passion.
• If passion is not a quality in your life, you’re in trouble as a leader. The truth is that you can never lead something you don’t care passionately about.
13 POSITIVE ATTITUDE: IF YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN, YOU CAN
• If you desire to be an effective leader, having a positive attitude is essential. It not only determines your level of contentment as a person, but it also has an impact on how others interact with you. To learn more about what it means to be positive, think on these things:
• Your Attitude Is a Choice
• No matter what happened to you yesterday, your attitude is your choice today.
Your attitude is crucial because it determines how you act.
3. Your People Are a Mirror of Your Attitude
• I am constantly amazed by people who display a poor attitude, yet expect their people to be upbeat.
• But the Law of Magnetism really is true: who you are is who you attract.
4. Maintaining a Good Attitude Is Easier Than Regaining One
• If you already have a positive attitude, I want to encourage you to keep it up. On the other hand, if you have a difficult time expecting the best of yourself and others, don’t despair. Because you choose your attitude, you can change it.
14 PROBLEM SOLVING: YOU CAN’T LET YOUR PROBLEMS BE A PROBLEM
• No matter what field a leader is in, he will face problems. They are inevitable for three reasons. First, we live in a world of growing complexity and diversity. Second, we interact with people. And third, we cannot control all the situations we face. Leaders with good problem-solving ability demonstrate five qualities:
1. They Anticipate Problems
• Since problems are inevitable, good leaders anticipate them. Anyone who expects the road to be easy will continually find himself in trouble.
• If you keep your attitude positive but plan for the worst, you’ll find yourself in a good position to solve problems that come your way.
2. They Accept the Truth
• People respond to problems in these ways: they refuse to accept them; they accept them and then put up with them; or they accept them and try to make things better. Leaders must always do the latter.
• No leader can simultaneously have his head in the sand and navigate his people through troubled waters. Effective leaders face up to the reality of a situation.
3. They See the Big Picture. Leaders must continually see the big picture. They cannot afford to be overwhelmed by emotion. Nor can they allow themselves to get so bogged down in the details that they lose sight of what’s important.
4. They Handle One Thing at a Time
• The leaders who get into trouble most often are the ones who are overwhelmed by the sheer size or volume of their troubles and then dabble at problem solving. If you’re faced with lots of problems, make sure you really solve the one you’re working on before moving on to the next one.
5. They Don’t Give Up a Major Goal When They’re Down
• Effective leaders understand the peak-to-peak principle. They make major decisions when they are experiencing a positive swing in their leadership, not during the dark times.
15 RELATIONSHIPS: IF YOU GET ALONG, THEY’LL GO ALONG
• People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. —John C. Maxwell
• The ability to work with people and develop relationships is absolutely indispensable to effective leadership.
• People truly do want to go along with people they get along with. And while someone can have people skills and not be a good leader, he cannot be a good leader without people skills. What can a person do to manage and cultivate good relationships as a leader? It requires three things:
1. Have a Leader’s Head—Understand People
• The first quality of a relational leader is the ability to understand how people feel and think. As you work with others, recognize that all people, whether leaders or followers, have some things in common: They like to feel special, so sincerely compliment them. They want a better tomorrow, so show them hope. They desire direction, so navigate for them. They are selfish, so speak to their needs first. They get low emotionally, so encourage them. They want success, so help them win. Recognizing these truths, a leader must still be able to treat people as individuals. The ability to look at each person, understand him, and connect with him is a major factor in relational success. That means treating people differently, not all the same as one another.
• This sensitivity can be called the soft factor in leadership. You have to be able to adapt your leadership style to the person you’re leading.
• Have a Leader’s Heart—Love People
• You cannot be a truly effective leader, the kind that people want to follow, unless you love people.
3. Extend a Leader’s Hand—Help People
• People respect a leader who keeps their interests in mind. If your focus is on what you can put into people rather than what you can get out of them, they’ll love and respect you—and these create a great foundation for building relationships.
• If your relational skills are weak, your leadership will always suffer.
16 RESPONSIBILITY: IF YOU WON’T CARRY THE BALL ,YOU CAN’T LEAD THE TEAM
• A leader can give up anything— except final responsibility. —John C. Maxwell
• Take a look at the following characteristics of people who embrace responsibility
1. They Get the Job Done
• No one can do the minimum and reach his maximum potential.
2. They Are Willing to Go the Extra Mile
• If you want to succeed, be willing to put the organization ahead of your agenda.
3. They Are Driven by Excellence
• Excellence is a great motivator. People who desire excellence— and work hard to achieve it—are almost always responsible.
• Make high quality your goal, and responsibility will naturally follow.
4. They Produce Regardless of the Situation
• The ultimate quality of a responsible person is the ability to finish.
• If you want to lead, you’ve got to produce.
17 SECURITY: COMPETENCE NEVER COMPENSATES FOR INSECURITY
• Insecure leaders have several common traits:
1. They Don’t Provide Security for Others
• Just as people without skill cannot impart skill to others, people without security cannot make others feel secure. And for a person to become an effective leader, the kind that others want to follow, he needs to make his followers feel good about themselves.
2. They Take More from People than They Give
• They are primarily takers rather than givers, and takers do not make good leaders.
• They Continually Limit Their Best People
• Show me an insecure leader, and I’ll show you someone who cannot genuinely celebrate his people’s victories. He might even prevent them from realizing any victories. Or he might take credit personally for the best work of his team. As I mention in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, only secure leaders give power to others. That’s the Law of Empowerment. But an insecure leader hoards power. In fact, the better his people are, the more threatened he feels—and the harder he will work to limit their success and recognition.
• They Continually Limit the Organization
• When followers are undermined and receive no recognition, they become discouraged and eventually stop performing at their potential. And when that happens, the entire organization suffers.
• Secure leaders are able to believe in others because they believe in themselves. They aren’t arrogant; they know their own strengths and weaknesses and respect themselves. When their people perform well, they don’t feel threatened. They go out of their way to bring the best people together and then build them up so that they will perform at the highest level. And when a secure leader’s team succeeds, it brings him great joy. He sees that as the highest compliment he can receive for his leadership ability.
18 SELF-DISCIPLINE: THE FIRST PERSON YOU LEAD IS YOU
• And no matter how gifted a leader is, his gifts will never reach their maximum potential without the application of self-discipline. It positions a leader to go to the highest level and is a key to leadership that lasts. If you want to become a leader for whom self-discipline is an asset, follow these action points:
1. Develop and Follow Your Priorities
• Someone once said, “To do important tasks, two things are necessary: a plan and not quite enough time.” As a leader, you already have too little time. Now all you need is a plan. If you can determine what’s really a priority and release yourself from everything else, it’s a lot easier to follow through on what’s important. And that’s the essence of self-discipline.
2. Make a Disciplined Lifestyle Your Goal that to be successful; self-discipline can’t be a one-time event. It has to become a lifestyle. One of the best ways to do that is to develop systems and routines, especially in areas crucial to your long-term growth and success.
3. Challenge Your Excuses
• If you have several reasons why you can’t be self-disciplined, realize that they are really just a bunch of excuses— all of which need to be challenged if you want to go to the next level as a leader.
4. Remove Rewards Until the Job Is Done
• Author Mike Delaney wisely remarked, “Any business or industry that pays equal rewards to its goof-offs and its eager-beavers sooner or later will find itself with more goof-offs than eager-beavers.”
5. Stay Focused on Results
• The next time you’re facing a must-do task and you’re thinking of doing what’s convenient instead of paying the price, change your focus. Count the benefits of doing what’s right, and then dive in.
19 SERVANTHOOD: TO GET AHEAD, PUT OTHERS FIRST
• And the truth is that the best leaders desire to serve others, not themselves. What does it mean to embody the quality of servanthood? A true servant leader:
1. Puts Others Ahead of His Own Agenda
• The first mark of servanthood is the ability to put others ahead of yourself and your personal desires. It is more than being willing to put your agenda on hold. It means intentionally being aware of your people’s needs, available to help them, and able to accept their desires as important.
2. Possesses the Confidence to Serve
• The real heart of servanthood is security.
• The Law of Empowerment says that only secure leaders give power to others. It’s also true that only secure leaders exhibit servanthood.
3. Initiates Service to Others
• But you can really see the heart of someone who initiates service to others. Great leaders see the need, seize the opportunity, and serve without expecting anything in return.
4. Is Not Position-Conscious
• Servant leaders don’t focus on rank or position.
5. Serves Out of Love
• Servanthood is not motivated by manipulation or self-promotion. It is fueled by love. In the end, the extent of your influence depends on the depth of your concern for others.
• If you really want to become the kind of leader that people want to follow, you will have to settle the issue of servanthood. If your attitude is to be served rather than to serve, you may be headed for trouble.
20 TEACHABILITY: TO KEEP LEADING, KEEP LEARNING
• It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. —John Wooden, Hall of Fame Basketball Coach
• Allow me to give you five guidelines to help you cultivate and maintain a teachable attitude: 1. Cure Your Destination Disease
• Ironically, lack of teachability is often rooted in achievement. Some people mistakenly believe that if they can accomplish a particular goal, they no longer have to grow.
• But effective leaders cannot afford to think that way. The day they stop growing is the day they forfeit their potential—and the potential of the organization.
2. Overcome Your SuccessAnother irony of teachability is that success often hinders it. Effective leaders know that what got them there doesn’t keep them there.
3. Swear Off Shortcuts
• For everything of value in life, you pay a price. As you desire to grow in a particular area, figure out what it will really take, including the price, and then determine to pay it.
4. Trade In Your Pride
• You cannot be prideful and teachable at the same time.
• To gain growth, give up your pride.
• Never Pay Twice for the Same Mistake
• But the leader who keeps making the same mistakes also makes no progress. As a teachable leader, you will make mistakes. Forget them, but always remember what they taught you. If you don’t, you will pay for them more than once.
21 VISION: YOU CAN SEIZE ONLY WHAT YOU CAN SEE
• Vision is everything for a leader. It is utterly indispensable. Why? Because vision leads the leader. It paints the target. It sparks and fuels the fire within, and draws him forward. It is also the fire lighter for others who follow that leader. Show me a leader without vision, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t going anywhere. At best, he is traveling in circles.
• To get a handle on vision and how it comes to be a part of a good leader’s life, understand these things:
1. Vision Starts Within
• If you lack vision, look inside yourself. Draw on your natural gifts and desires. Look to your calling if you have one. And if you still don’t sense a vision of your own, then consider hooking up with a leader whose vision resonates with you.
2. Vision Draws on Your History
• It grows from a leader’s past and the history of the people around him.
• Talk to any leader, and you’re likely to discover key events in his past that were instrumental in the creation of his vision.
3. Vision Meets Others’ Needs
• True vision is far-reaching. It goes beyond what one individual can accomplish. And if it has real value, it does more than just include others; it adds value to them. If you have a vision that doesn’t serve others, it’s probably too small.
4. Vision Helps You Gather Resources
• One of the most valuable benefits of vision is that it acts like a magnet—attracting, challenging, and uniting people. It also rallies finances and other resources. The greater the vision, the more winners it has the potential to attract. The more challenging the vision, the harder the participants fight to achieve it.
• I hope you have enjoyed reading The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader and have benefited from doing the exercises in the “Bringing It Home” section of each chapter. These assignments are designed to help you get a handle on each quality and start you on the process of continuous personal growth in your life.
Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn by John C. Maxwell. Center Street. 256 pages. 2013. Audiobook read by Chris Sorensen
A few years ago, I was excited to be part of a learning organization that was bringing John Maxwell in to speak. I couldn’t wait to publicize the event in my company’s newsletter. As a result, I had overlooked the impact hundreds of people attending the event would have on the company’s budget. I was too focused on publicizing the event to see the big picture. After being questioned about that by a senior leader, coming up with a plan and discussing it with her, she asked “Well, what did you learn from this?” That’s what this book is about – learning – from our mistakes and other times that things don’t go as anticipated. Learning from mistakes is a characteristic of a learning organization as defined by Peter Senge.
The Foreword for this book was written by John Wooden, one of Maxwell’s mentors, just a few months before he died. Maxwell writes that any setback, whether professional or personal, can be turned into a step forward when we possess the right tools and mindset to turn a loss into a gain. Maxwell gives readers a roadmap for winning by examining eleven elements that learners who succeed in the face of problems, failure and losses possess.
Those eleven elements are:
• Humility – The Spirit of Learning
• Reality – The Foundation of Learning
• Responsibility – The First Step of Learning
• Improvement – The Focus of Learning
• Hope – The Motivation of Learning
• Teachability – The Pathway of Learning
• Adversity – The Catalyst of Learning
• Problems – The Opportunities of Learning
• Bad Experiences – The Perspective for Learning
• Change – The Price of Learning
• Maturity – The Value of Learning
As he does in all of his books, Maxwell includes many inspiring stories to illustrate his teaching. One of those stories is the story of Jim Abbott, who was born without a right hand. Despite this, he pitched ten years in the major leagues, and threw a no-hitter while with the New York Yankees.
Maxwell lists eleven traps that people tend to fall into when losses happen in their lives:
1. The Mistake Trap: “I’m afraid of doing something wrong.” —Losses hold us back!
2. The Fatigue Trap: “I’m tired today.” —Losses wear us out.
3. The Comparison Trap: “Someone else is better qualified than I am.” —Losses cause us to feel inferior to others.
4. The Timing Trap: “This isn’t the right time.” —Losses make us hesitate.
5. The Inspiration Trap: “I don’t feel like doing it right now.” —Losses demotivate us.
6. The Rationalization Trap: “Maybe it’s really not that important.” —Losses allow us to lose perspective.
7. The Perfection Trap: “There’s a best way to do it and I have to find it before I start.” —Losses cause us to question ourselves.
8. The Expectation Trap: “I thought it would be easy, but it isn’t.” —Losses highlight the difficulties.
9. The Fairness Trap: “I shouldn’t be the one to have to do this.” —Losses cause us to ask, “Why me?”
10. The Public Opinion Trap: “If I fail, what will others think?” —Losses paralyze us.
11. The Self-Image Trap: “If I fail at this, it means I am a failure.” —Losses negatively affect how we see ourselves. Maxwell describes solutions to these traps, and encourages his readers to continue learning, from both wins and losses.
The book includes many helpful quotes from Maxwell and from leaders that admires. Some of those that I pulled from the book are:
• Everyone experiences adversity. Some are made humble by it. Some are made hard.
• Humility allows us to regain perspective and see the big picture. It makes us realize that while we may be in the picture, we are not the entire picture.
• It’s easier to go from failure to success than it is to go from excuses to success.
• You create opportunities by looking trouble in the eye and performing, not looking away and pretending.
• Sign your work at the end of each day. If you can’t do that, find a new profession.
• You need more than a great mind for learning. You need a great heart for learning. That’s what a teachable spirit gives you.
• Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience.
• To know who you are becoming requires you not only to know where you are now but also to know where you are going and how you need to change to get there.
• I don’t think God is as interested in our success as He is in our maturity.
• The only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference of their habits.
• Some people hit a milestone, and they make it a tombstone.
• Those who profit from adversity possess a spirit of humility and are therefore inclined to make the necessary changes needed to learn from their mistakes, failures, and losses. … When we are focused too much on ourselves, we lose perspective. Humility allows us to regain perspective and see the big picture. Humility allows us to let go of perfection and keep trying.
• I sometimes react to making a mistake as if I have betrayed myself. My fear of making a mistake seems to be based on the hidden assumption that I am potentially perfect and that if I can just be very careful, I will not fall from heaven. But a mistake is a declaration of the way I am, a jolt to the way I intend, a reminder that I am not dealing with facts. When I have listened to my mistakes, I have grown.
• Most people spend their entire lives in a Fantasy Island called ‘Someday I’ll….’
• An idealist believes the short-run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short-run determines the long run.
• Those things that hurt, instruct.
• You can’t grow and learn if your focus is on finding someone else to blame instead of looking at your own shortcomings.
• The highest reward for our toil is not what we get for it but what we become by it. … Mistakes are not failures. They are proof that we are making an effort. When we understand that, we can more easily move out of our comfort zone, try something new, and improve. … Improvement demands a commitment to grow long after the mood in which it was made has passed.”
• Success in most things comes not from some gigantic stroke of fate, but from simple, incremental progress.
• The main trouble with despair is that it is self-fulfilling. People who fear the worst tend to invite it. Heads that are down can’t scan the horizon for new openings. Bursts of energy do not spring from a spirit of defeat. Ultimately, helplessness leads to hopelessness.
• Positive thinking must be followed by positive doing.
• When you are influential and highly respected, people tend to tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear. They are seeking your approval, or they flatter you. Unfortunately, this creates a gap between what you hear and reality. If you find yourself in that situation, you will need to work extra hard to get the people close to you to speak honestly into your life. And you will have to become highly intentional in observing and listening.
• Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have preferred to talk.
• Circumstances are the rulers of the weak; but they are the instruments of the wise.
• Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience.
• Ninety percent of those who fail are not actually defeated; they simply quit. … As you face bad experiences, it’s important for you to remember that you can rarely see the benefits while you’re in the midst of them. You usually gain perspective on the other side of it.
• Most people would rather change their circumstances to improve their lives when instead they need to change themselves to improve their circumstances. They put in just enough effort to distance themselves from their problems without ever trying to go after the root, which can often be found in themselves. Because they don’t try to change the source of their problems, their problems keep coming back at them.
• To grow, you must be willing to let your present and future be totally unlike your past. Your history is not your destiny.
• If I had my life to live over again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.
• Maturity is doing what you are supposed to be doing, when you’re supposed to be doing it, no matter how you feel.
• Have you not succeeded? Continue! Have you succeeded? Continue!
• How we think when we lose determines how long it will be until we win.
John Maxwell is one of my favorite leadership authors/speakers. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him speak live twice, including one time when a professional learning organization I was a member of brought him into town for an event in 2007. My friend Kirk and I had the pleasure of transporting him to/from the local airport enjoying some personal insights from a leader we both respect.
Maxwell was a pastor for 25 years before changing his focus to building leaders in and outside of the church. His new book, the third and final in his Laws series (the previous were the 2 million selling The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork), is one of my favorite that he has written. I haven’t read nearly all of his 73 books, but I’ve read many of them. Maxwell is known for writing books that are practical and easy to read. Putting the ideas into practice is not nearly as easy. As in his other books he includes helpful quotes and stories to reinforce his points, including his personal journey of growth.
Maxwell’s 15 Laws of growth are:
1. Law of Intentionality – Growth doesn’t just happen.
2. Law of Awareness – You must know yourself to grow yourself.
3. Law of the Mirror – You must see value in yourself to add value to yourself.
4. Law of Reflection – Learning to pause allows growth to catch up with you.
5. Law of Consistency – Motivation gets you going. Discipline keeps you growing.
6. Law of Environment – Growth thrives in conducive surroundings.
7. Law of Design – To maximize growth develop strategies.
8. Law of Pain – Good management of bad experiences leads to great growth.
9. Law of Ladder – Character growth determines the height of your personal growth.
10. Law of the Rubber Band – Growth stops when you lose the tension of where you are & where you could be.
11. Law of Tradeoffs – You have to give up to go up.
12. Law of Curiosity – Growth is stimulated in asking why.
13. Law of Modeling – It’s hard to improve when you have no one but yourself to follow.
14. Law of Expansion – Growth always increases your capacity.
15. Law of Contribution – Growing yourself enables you to grow others.
Maxwell suggests that the reader tackle one chapter a week. I listened to the audio book which was well read by Maxwell, completing the entire book in just over a week. This book is good for anyone wanting to grow personally and/or professionally but don’t know exactly where to start. Each chapter looks at one of the laws and then gives practical exercises for the reader to complete and thought-provoking questions to consider pertaining to that law. Each chapter/law could be expanded into a full-length book in itself. All chapters/laws are good and will impact different readers in different ways depending on where you are on your growth journey.
This book by leadership speaker and teacher John Maxwell comes at a good time. With the explosion of social media we are doing a lot of communicating, but are we connecting? Perhaps we are, but perhaps not as well as we could be.
In this book Maxwell gives the reader five connecting principles and five connecting practices to learn so as to communicate and connect one-on-one, in a group or with a large audience.
As in all of his books, Maxwell delivers his ideas in a simple and easy to understand manner, often giving the reader a list of items to follow. I chose to listen to the audio book, narrated well by Wayne Shepherd, who will be a familiar voice to many. When discussing the setup for a room he is speaking in, I found myself nodding my head, as the requirements he spoke of were familiar to my friend Kirk and I, as we had worked to bring Maxwell into town for a speaking engagement a few years back. Requirements such as good sound and video systems were very important to him in order to be an effective communicator.
But you don’t have to be a public speaker or regularly give presentations for this book to be of benefit to you. I think most everyone will find it of value as he weaves in quotes, stories and examples to keep the content interesting. Perhaps the most useful part of the book will be a summary at the end of each chapter containing the connecting principle, the key concept and then how to use these skills in one-on-one, group, and large audience setting.
John Maxwell’s book Developing the Leaders around You instructs the reader on how to help others reach their full potential by identifying and training future leaders around you. It contains Maxwell’s typical easy to understand writing style, including the sharing of his past experiences and anecdotes. The book is divided into ten chapters. The book contains much helpful information. I’ll share just a few key highlights here.
Maxwell finds three things that characterize disciplined leaders:
• They have identified specific long – and short-term goals for themselves.
• They have a plan for achieving those goals.
• They have a desire that motivates them to continue working to accomplish those goals.
Maxwell suggests that a daily discipline pays dividends. Here is the weekly plan that he recommends:
Monday: One hour with God
Tuesday: One hour listening to a leadership tape.
Wednesday: Another hour with the same tape (including time filing notes on highlights and reflecting on what has been learned)
Thursday: One hour reading a leadership book.
Friday: Another hour with the same book (including time filing notes on highlights and reflecting on what has been learned)
Maxwell writes that the best type of training takes advantage of the way people learn. HE tells us that researcher shows that we remember 10 percent of what we hear, 50 percent of what we see, 70percent of what we say, and 90 percent of what we hear, see, say, an do. Knowing that, we have to develop an approach to how we will train. He has found the best training method to be a five step process of modeling, mentoring, monitoring, motivating and multiplying.
Maxwell unfolds the ten qualities to become a dream team coach based on his three decades of leadership experience.
1. A dream team coach chooses players well.
2. A dream team coach constantly communicates the game plan.
3. A dream team coach takes the time to huddle.
4. A dream team coach knows what his or her players prefer.
5. A dream team coach excels in problem solving. A leader should strive for excellence, but he should expect problems to occur. And believe it or not, he should welcome them. Problems almost always create opportunities – to learn, grow and improve. Leaders must anticipate problems before they occur. They must maintain a positive attitude while they occur.
6. A dream team coach provides the support needed for success.
7. A dream team coach commands the respect of the players.
8. A dream team coach does not treat everyone the same.
9. A dream team coach continues to win.
10. A dream team coach understands the levels of the players.
He shares ten guidelines for approaching confrontation with an attitude of win-win.
1. Confront ASAP.
2. Separate the person from the wrong action.
3. Confront only what the person can change.
4. Give the person the benefit of the doubt.
5. Be specific.
6. Avoid sarcasm.
7. Avoid words like always and never.
8. Tell the person how you feel about what was done wrong.
9. Give the person a game plan to fix the problem.
10. Affirm him or her as a person and a friend.
He indicates that true leaders are able to attract potential leaders because:
• Leaders think like them.
• Leaders express feelings that other leader’s sense.
• Leaders create an environment that attracts potential leaders.
• Leaders are not threatened by people with great potential.
This is just a small amount of what you can take away from this book and apply to your particular situation. This is an excellent companion to Maxwell’s book Developing the Leader Within You.
Developing the Leader Within You by John C. Maxwell. Thomas Nelson. 207 pages. 1993. Audiobook read by John C. Maxwell.
This is one of John Maxwell’s classic leadership books, first published in 1993, and still a very popular book for leaders. In the book he discusses ten traits that an individual needs to focus on to become more effective in a leadership role. Those ten are:
1. The Definition of Leadership – Influence. Maxwell is famous for saying “Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less”. He also often says “Everything rises or falls on leadership”. In this chapter, he covers the five levels of leadership. Maxwell taught on the five levels for years, eventually publishing The Five Levels of Leadership in 2011, which I would recommend. The five levels are:
• Level 1 – Position
• Level 2 – Permission
• Level 3 – Production
• Level 4 – People Development
• Level 5 – The Pinnacle
2. The Key to Leadership – Priorities. In this chapter he discusses the Pareto Principle, which states that an organization gets 80% of its results from 20% of its people. He suggests that a leader work in the areas (people, projects, etc.) that will bring the greatest return, and not focus on areas that will not bring high yield.
3. The Most Important Ingredient of Leadership – Integrity. Maxwell writes of integrity as who you are on the outside being the same as who you are on the inside. In other words, leaders don’t present one image to their friends, a different one to their family, and a different one to their associates in the workplace or at church. You are who you are no matter who you are with. If you can demonstrate this quality to those you are trying to influence they will realize that they can trust you.
4. The Ultimate Test of Leadership – Creating Positive Change. People are looking for leaders who can create positive change in their organizations. A true test for a leader is to motivate those in their organization who are resistant to change, or to find ways to work through the challenges without them. And the first person that the leader must change in themself.
5. The Quickest Way to Gain Leadership – Problem Solving. Maxwell states that one of the most important abilities a leader must possess is to be able to discern between a problem and an environment. Problems are things that can be controlled or changed, while environments are things that cannot. An effective leader has to identify the issues that can be changed, and then find ways to work around the issues that cannot.
6. The Extra Push in Leadership – Attitude. This was one of my favorite chapters because I’ve always placed a high premium on attitude. Maxwell includes one of my favorite quotes on leadership by Charles Swindoll, which I include in my “Expectations/Philosophies” document that I give to team members, and also have a framed copy in my office:
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our Attitudes.
7. Developing Your Most Appreciable Asset – People. This chapter talks about the importance of the leader developing others into leaders, a very important role of leaders, and one he will builds on further in lesson ten.
8. The Indispensable Quality of Leadership – Vision. Maxwell writes that people will buy into the leader before they will buy into the vision. If leaders are not able to articulate the way things should be, they will never be able to convince others that it is worthwhile to come along with them (follow them).
9. The Price Tag of Leadership – Self Discipline. Not many people like the concept of self-discipline. Maxwell states that for a leader, self-discipline is about controlling those things you want or have to do in order to achieve the things that you have to do to achieve your vision. A leader should focus on the results of the activities they are doing, not on the activities themselves.
10. The Most Important Lesson of Leadership – Staff Development. Maxwell writes that a leader needs to take the time to develop those around him, using the 80/20 principle he discussed earlier. A leader needs to encourage everyone in his area of influence, but needs to invest their time with those who are already making a difference. Maxwell expanded on this lesson in a follow-up book called Developing the Leaders Around You.
Like all of Maxwell’s books, this one is practical, easy to read and includes a lot of stories and quotes to illustrate his points. It is a good foundational book and will help leaders to understand the difference between a manager and a leader. I highly recommend this book both for those who are already in leadership positions or those aspiring to be leaders.
This is one of John Maxwell’s classic books and one that I had not read until recently. To say it is “right up my alley” is an understatement. I have struggled with the fear of failure for as long as I can remember. I recall getting a comment on a report card at Chiddix Jr. High that “Bill lacks confidence”. More recently I read Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s fine book Pivot: How One Turn in Attitude Can Lead to Success with a team member. I remember joking as we started the book that wasn’t if funny that two positive people with good attitudes were reading a book about attitude. However, as it turned out, Zimmerman included chapters on worry and failure in his book about attitude. I have to admit, I worry about failing; I have a fear of failure. Tammy can tell you that I tend to stress about each new class at seminary after reading the syllabus. So I was really looking forward to reading this book.
Maxwell writes that the major difference between achieving people and average people is their perception of and response to failure. He states that the secret of moving beyond failure is to use it as a lesson and a stepping stone. He covers the top reasons people fail and shows how to master fear instead of being mastered by it. He includes many stories of those who have failed before later succeeding. Among those who’s stories he includes are Arnold Palmer, Mary Kay Ash, Truett Cathey (of Chick Fil-A), Erma Bombeck, Tony Gwynn, Amelia Earhart, Hank Aaron and Dave Anderson, who founded the Rainforest Café and Famous Dave’s. He uses their stories to illustrate how successful people don’t let failure trap them. Instead, they “fail forward”.
Maxwell has 15 steps to turning mistakes into stepping stones for success. They are:
• Realize there is one major difference between average people and achievers. The difference is in how they respond to failure.
• Learn a new definition of failure.
• Remove the “you” from failure. Don’t take it personally.
• Take action and reduce your fear.
• Change your response to failure by accepting responsibility.
• Don’t let failure from outside get inside you.
• Say good-bye to yesterday.
• Change yourself, and the world changes.
• Get over yourself and start giving yourself.
• Find the benefit in every bad experience.
• If at first you don’t succeed, try something harder.
• Learn form a bad experience and make it a good experience.
• Work on the weakness that weakens you.
• Understand there’s not much difference between failure and success.
• Get up, get over it, get going.
Maxwell writes that there are seven key abilities that allow successful people to fail forward instead of taking each setback personally. Successful people:
• Reject rejection.
• View failure as temporary.
• View each failure as an isolated incident.
• Have realistic expectations.
• Focus on strengths.
• Vary approaches.
• Bounce back.
Maxwell writes that we need to learn a new definition of failure. He states that:
• Failure is not avoidable.
• Failure is not an event, but a process.
• Failure is not an objective.
• Failure is not the enemy.
• Failure is not irreversible.
• Failure is not a stigma.
• Failure is not final.
He writes that people respond to failure in three ways – paralysis, procrastination and purposelessness. He states that people who get used to failure will make the same mistake over and over, and that if you always do what you’ve always done then you will always get what you’ve always gotten. He gives five ways in which people respond to failure:
• They are angry.
• They cover up mistakes.
• They speed up.
• They back up.
• They give up.
He writes that every failure is an opportunity to take the right action and begin again. We need to take full responsibility and admit our mistakes, which takes character. The ability to put things behind and move on is important. He writes that signs of people being held hostage to their past are:
To reach their potential, people need to know who they are, and to see themselves clearly, both the good and bad. They need to admit their flaws, work on their strengths and build them passionately.
He states that people need to turn attention away from themselves and toward helping others. Maxwell is famous for saying that he wants to “add value” to others. He states that we can add value to others by:
• Putting others first in your thinking when you meet them.
• Finding out what others need.
• Meeting the needs of others with excellence and generosity.
He writes that the process of success comes from repeated failure, and that adversity should be expected in the process of succeeding. He lists several benefits of adversity. Adversity:
• Creates resilience.
• Develops maturity.
• Pushes the envelope of future performance.
• Provides greater opportunities.
• Prompts innovation.
• Brings unexpected opportunities.
He writes that there are almost always positive benefits from negative experiences; we just have to look for them.
In discussing risk taking, he writes that nothing can be accomplished if we don’t take any risks. The more you risk failure and actually fail, the greater is the chance for success. He writes that people tend to fit into one of the following traps in regards to risk:
• The embarrassment trap.
• The rationalization trap.
• The unrealistic expectation trap.
• The fairness trap.
• The timing trap.
• The inspiration trap.
He states that if you succeed at everything you are doing, then you are most likely not taking enough risks.
He states that failure can either be your enemy or your best friend. If you learn from your failures then it can become your best friend. The key is your attitude. Your attitude after your fail is the key. He suggests that you ask yourself the following questions:
• What caused the failure? Did you make a mistake? Did others make a mistake?
• Was what happened truly a failure? Was the goal realistic?
• What successes were within the failure?
• What can we learn from the failure?
• Are we grateful for the experience of failure?
• How can I turn this into a success?
• Who can help me with this issue?
• Where do I go from here?
He lists ten reasons why people failure. They are:
• Poor people skills.
• A negative attitude.
• A bad fit.
• Lack of focus.
• Weak commitment.
• Unwillingness to change.
• A shortcut mindset.
• Relying on talent alone. Maxwell later wrote a book about this aspect entitled Talent is Never Enough.
• Acting on poor information.
• Not having any goals.
Maxwell writes that the difference between failure and success in many instances is persistence. You need a strategy for approaching achievement. He suggests:
• Find a purpose.
• Get next to people who possess great desire.
• Develop discontent with the status quo.
• Search for a goal.
• Put your possessions into that goal.
• Visualize enjoying the rewards of that goal.
• Eliminate excuses.
• Develop incentives.
• Cultivate determination.
In the final chapter Maxwell writes that it is what you do after you fail that is important. You need to figure out what to do so that you don’t continue falling down. He suggests a plan using the acronym FORWARD:
• Finalize your goal.
• Order your plan.
• Risk failing by taking action.
• Welcome mistakes.
• Advance based on your character.
• Reevaluate your progress continually.
• Develop new strategies to succeed.
There is much to grasp and to benefit from in this book. It is one that I will read and refer to again in the future.
The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John C. Maxwell. Center Street. 304 pages. Audiobook read by John C. Maxwell.
John Maxwell is my favorite author on leadership. A pastor for 25 years, he is a respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 20 million books. I saw Maxwell speak on the topic of the five levels of leadership at a learning industry conference a few years ago. He writes that it is the most popular topic he is asked to speak on, but until now the material has never been put into book form.
Maxwell defines the five levels of leadership as:
1. Position – People follow because they have to. This is the most basic level of leadership. You have a title and people follow you because they have to. You will only be able to lead based on what that title enables you to lead with. Your authority only goes as far as the title and people will only follow you as far as your title allows. An example of this would be a first level manager in a company. People that you are managing will do just enough to please you. You are only leading them in name and your leverage is only what authority has been given to you from above.
2. Permission – People follow because they want to. This is the true beginning of influence. Maxwell has said that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less. You can begin to really grow as a person and organization when people follow you voluntarily.
3. Production – People follow because of what you have done for the organization. People like what you do and also contribute themselves.
4. People Development – People follow because of what you have done for them personally. You’ve poured yourself into other people and they are growing in leadership themselves.
5. Pinnacle – – People follow because of who you are and what you represent. Maxwell says that this level is reserved for people who have spent years growing others and their organization. Very few people make it to this level. In the final chapter of the book, entitled “Portrait of a Level 5 Leader: Coach John Wooden” Maxwell writes lovingly about one of his heroes, legendary UCLA men’s college basketball coach John Wooden. Those 15 pages made me long for a full-length book from Maxwell about Wooden’s life and leadership principles. Maybe we’ll see that someday. He does refer to Wooden writing the foreword to his next book, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes Your Learn, which he says was one of the last things the coach wrote before his death in June of 2010.
Maxwell provides the following visual depiction of the five levels:
Maxwell goes into great detail as he discusses each level. He states that you are not at any one level for all of your followers. For example, for someone you just hired you are a Level One, but for an employee who has worked with you for two years, you might be a Level Four.
He articulates the behaviors that best5-levels-graphic characterize each level and the downsides that can sometimes keep leaders from going to the next level. He also explains to the reader how to get from the level they are at now to the next level.
There are assessments included to help you determine which Level you are at and also assessments that your team can take so you can see what Level you are perceived to be at by team members. As he does with all of his books, Maxwell includes throughout the book quotes and stories from some of the most successful leaders of all time.
You don’t have to have a title to be a leader. Whether it is in a business, a church organization, or a volunteer organization, there are opportunities all around you to lead and inspire. I’ve enjoyed several of Maxwell’s books, and this is one of my favorites.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John Maxwell. Revised & Updated 10th Anniversary Edition. Thomas Nelson. 2007. 309 pages.
This “modern day classic” is a book that I often use in mentoring relationships. Broken into 21 relatively short chapters that are practical and full of illustrations, the book is excellent for mentoring discussions with those who want to grow their leadership skills in any area of life (business, church, etc.). Christians will particularly enjoy the many illustrations that Maxwell uses from his 25 years as a lead pastor.
This updated edition also includes a helpful “Application” section at the end of each law with questions and suggestions on how to build on, apply and in general go deeper with the material that you have just read. I’ve read the book several times in the original 1998 and 2007 editions, and always pick up something new out of each reading, primarily because of the discussion I have with the mentee. This is a quick read, with each of the laws taking only a few minutes to read. As a result, one leader I know in our organization asks each of his mentees to read the book twice in the first year of their mentoring relationship.
With the new edition, two laws have been eliminated and two new laws have been added. The two laws that were eliminated were:
The Law of E.F. Hutton (When the Real Leader Speaks, People Listen)
The Law of Reproduction (It Takes a Leader to Raise Up a Leader)
In their place, the two new laws are:
The Law of Addition: Leaders Add Value by Serving Others
The Law of the Picture: People Do What People See
I highly recommend this book for those interested in learning more about leadership from one of today’s most respected authorities.