Follow the leader.  It’s more than just a child’s game.  It’s a fundamental skill in business.

John Maxwell is one of the most respected experts on the field of leadership.  He’s written more than 70 books, most of them focused on leadership.  Many have graced the New York Times bestseller list.

John Maxwell
John Maxwell

You may have heard John preach on the Hour of Power broadcasts from the Crystal Cathedral.  John’s clients range from a National Football League team to West Point and a Fortune 500 company.  More than 100,000 people listen to him every month and are members of the Maximum Impact Club.  He’s the source of countless quotes that inspire the lives of millions of people daily.

I recently had a chance to interview John Maxwell.  WOW!  He offered up so many golden nuggets that I want to share some of them with you.

John warns that:  “Too often we get to the top of the mountain and say, ‘Here we are as leaders.  Come up here and join me.’  We don’t understand that you’ve got to go to where the people are.”

He adds:  “The first responsibility of a leader is to find out where people are and connect with them.  Then when you connect with them, you can relate to them, and you can move them.”

Relationships are the foundation of leadership.  You have to develop trust.  As John says, “People won’t go along with you until they get along with you.”  You have to get close to your people and connect with them.  This goes against the previous generation which felt there needed to be distance between leaders and their people.

So I asked John, “What kinds of leadership experiences do business people often lack?”

He talked about how most people believe that experience is the best teacher, but he disagrees.  He said:  “Experience is essential to successful leadership, although I don’t think experience is the best teacher.  Just because you are getting older and more experienced, doesn’t mean you’re getting better.  I know a lot of people who are getting older, but even if they’ve done the job for 30 years, they’re not getting any better.  They’re not growing.  They’re not learning.”

John also talked about the Achilles heel for a lot of leaders:  They get a little momentum going, and they celebrate but don’t reflect.  He thinks leaders should do more reflection and less celebration.

To reflect on his experiences, John asks, “What did I learn?  What am I learning at this stage?  And what am I going to change?”

He even has a reflection chair!  “If you have a place to think, you’ll start thinking,” John reasons.

One of John’s most memorable quotes is, “Change is inevitable; growth is optional.”  So I asked him to explain.  He said:  “Growth is not an automatic process.  You and I will not grow automatically.  It just doesn’t happen.  We don’t grow because we live.  We don’t grow because we breathe.  We don’t grow because we get a day older.  If we’re going to grow, we’re going to grow because we’re intentional about it.  I’ve found that when I stop learning, I stop leading.”

John feels everyone should have a growth plan.  He believes you need to discover your strengths and grow them through a daily plan.  “Don’t take the time to focus on your weak areas because all you will do is get to average,” he warns.  “And people don’t pay for average.”

In addition to growing your strengths, John believes you have to do one more thing.  Every morning you have to ask yourself the question, “Who can I add value to today?”

“When you do this, all of a sudden the influence index on your life just takes off like a rocket.  People want to be around you.  They like to be with you.”

He added:  “I started teaching leadership because I truly believe that if a person could learn to lead, they would be successful.  I began to realize that if I could help people change their thinking, they could change their life.

“It all goes back to the Zig Ziglar quote, Harvey,” he said.  “‘If you help people get what they want, guess what, they help you get what you want.’”


Mackay’s Moral:  “A successful person finds the right place for himself.  But a successful leader finds the right place for others.” – John Maxwell


About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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