Book Summaries

Book Summary -The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John C. Maxwell.

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Leadership author John C. Maxwell writes a complementary companion to his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. In The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow, John highlights twenty-one essential leadership qualities and include “Reflecting On It” and “Bringing It Home” sections that help readers integrate and apply each day’s material.

According to John C. Maxwell, the 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader are the following :

1 CHARACTER: Be a Piece of the Rock
2 CHARISMA: The First Impression Can Seal the Deal
3 COMMITMENT: It Separates Doers from Dreamers
4 COMMUNICATION: Without It You Travel Alone
5 COMPETENCE: If You Build It, They Will Come
6 COURAGE: One Person with Courage Is a Majority
7 DISCERNMENT: Put an End to Unsolved Mysteries
8 FOCUS: The Sharper It Is, the Sharper You Are
9 GENEROSITY: Your Candle Loses Nothing When It Lights Another
10 INITIATIVE: You Won’t Leave Home Without It
11 LISTENING: To Connect with Their Hearts, Use Your Ears
12 PASSION: Take This Life and Love It
13 POSITIVE ATTITUDE: If You Believe You Can, You Can
14 PROBLEM SOLVING: You Can’t Let Your Problems Be a Problem
15 RELATIONSHIPS: If You Get Along, They’ll Go Along
16 RESPONSIBILITY: If You Won’t Carry the Ball, You Can’t Lead the Team
17 SECURITY: Competence Never Compensates for Insecurity
18 SELF-DISCIPLINE: The First Person You Lead Is You
19 SERVANTHOOD: To Get Ahead, Put Others First
20 TEACHABILITY: To Keep Leading, Keep Learning
21 VISION: You Can Seize Only What You Can See

Leadership is an inside job.

 Leaders are effective because of who they are on the inside—in the qualities that make them up as people. And to go to the highest level of leadership, people have to develop these traits from the inside out.

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

Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.—Bernard Montgomery, British Field Marshal

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. Every time he chooses character, he becomes stronger, even if that choice brings negative consequences.

Improving your character

• Search for the cracks. Spend some time looking at the major areas of your life (work, marriage, family, service, etc.), and identify anywhere you might have cut corners, compromised, or let people down. Write down every instance you can recall from the past two months.

• Look for patterns. Examine the responses that you just wrote down. Is there a particular area where you have a weakness, or do you have a type of problem that keeps surfacing? Detectable patterns will help you diagnose character issues.

• Face the music. The beginning of character repair comes when you face your flaws, apologize, and deal with the consequences of your actions. Create a list of people to whom you need to apologize for your actions, then follow through with sincere apologies.

•Rebuild. It’s one thing to face up to your past actions. It’s another to build a new future. Now that you’ve identified any areas of weakness, create a plan that will prevent you from making the same mistakes again.

CHARISMA: The First Impression Can Seal the Deal

How can you have charisma? Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are making them feel good about you. —Dan Reiland

Roadblocks to Charisma

Pride. Nobody wants to follow a leader who thinks he is better than everyone else.

Insecurity. If you are uncomfortable with who you are, others will be too.

Moodiness. If people never know what to expect from you, they stop expecting anything.

Perfectionism. People respect the desire for excellence, but dread totally unrealistic expectations.

Cynicism. People don’t want to be rained on by someone who sees a cloud around every silver lining.

3 COMMITMENT: It Separates Doers from Dreamers

People do not follow uncommitted leaders. Commitment can be displayed in a full range of matters to include the work hours you choose to maintain, how you work to improve your abilities, or what you do for your fellow workers at personal sacrifice. —Stephen Gregg, Chairman and CEO of Ethix Corp.

What is commitment? To each person, it means something different:

  • To the boxer, it’s getting off the mat one time more than you’ve been knocked down.
  • To the marathoner, it’s running another ten miles when your strength is gone.
  • To the soldier, it’s going over the hill, not knowing what’s waiting on the other side.
  • To the missionary, it’s saying good-bye to your own comfort to make life better for others.
  • To the leader, it’s all that and more because everyone you lead is depending on you.

If you want to be an effective leader, you have to be committed. 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.

When it comes to commitment, there are really only four types of people:

1. Cop-outs. People who have no goals and do not commit.

2. Holdouts. People who don’t know if they can reach their goals, so they’re afraid to commit.

3. Dropouts. People who start toward a goal but quit when the going gets tough.

4. All-outs. People who set goals, commit to them, and pay the price to reach them.

4 COMMUNICATION: Without It You Travel Alone

Educators take something simple and make it complicated. Communicators take something complicated and make it simple. —John C. Maxwell

Improving your communication

To improve your communication, do the following:

•Be clear as a bell. Examine a letter, memo, or other item you’ve recently written.

“To a communicator, your best friends are simplicity and clarity. Write your next piece of communication keeping both in mind.

• Refocus your attention. During the coming week, pay attention to your focus when you communicate. Is it on you, your material, or your audience? If it’s not on people, you need to change it. Think about their needs, questions, and desires. Meet people where they are, and you will be a better communicator.

•Live your message. Are there any discrepancies between what you communicate and what you do? Talk to a few trustworthy people and ask them whether you are living your message. Your spouse, a mentor, or a close friend may be able to see things that you are blind to. Receive their comments without defensiveness. Then purpose to make changes in your life to be more consistent.

5 COMPETENCE: If You Build It, They Will Come

Competence goes beyond words. It’s the leader’s ability to say it, plan it, and do it in such a way that others know that you know how— and know that they want to follow you.—John C. Maxwell

When you think about people who are competent, you’re really considering only three types of people:

1. Those who can see what needs to happen.
2. Those who can make it happen.
3. Those who can make things happen when it really counts.

“You’re only as good as your private standards. When was the last time you gave a task your absolute best even though nobody but you would know about it?”

6 COURAGE: One Person with Courage Is a Majority

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities . . . because it is the quality which guarantees all others.—Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister

Improve your Courage

•Face the music.

Go out and do something stretching simply for the sake of growing in courage. Skydive. Speak in front of an audience (most people’s greatest fear). Perform in a play. Go white-water rafting. Rock climb. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it causes you to face a genuine fear.”

•Talk to that person.

Most people are avoiding confrontation with someone in their lives—an employee, a relative, or a coworker. If that’s true for you, talk to that person this week. Don’t dump on him or abuse him. Speak the truth in love. (You won’t be so afraid to do it if you’ve already skydived rafted, etc.)

•Take a giant step.

Maybe you’ve been afraid to make a career move. If you’ve known in your heart that you should have changed jobs or started that new business, now is the time to face up to it. Take the time to really look at it. Talk to your spouse, your mentor, and a trusted friend or two. If it’s the right thing to do, then do it.

7 DISCERNMENT: Put an End to Unsolved Mysteries

The first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.—Molly Ivins, Columnist

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.

“Never ignore a gut feeling, but never believe that it’s enough. – Robert Heller

8 FOCUS: The Sharper It Is, the Sharper You Are

What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.—Margaret Mead, Anthropologist

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.

To get back on track with your focus, do these things:

  • Work on yourself. You are your greatest asset or detriment.
  • Work at your priorities. You will have to fight for them.
  • Work in your strengths. You can reach your potential
  • Work with your contemporaries. You can’t be effective alone.

9 GENEROSITY: Your Candle Loses Nothing When It Lights Another

No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.—Calvin Coolidge, American President

To improve your generosity, do the following:

•Give something away. Find out what kind of hold your possessions have on you. Take something you truly value, think of someone you care about who could benefit from it, and give it to him. If you can do it anonymously, even better.

•Put your money to work. If you know someone with the vision to do something really great—something that will positively impact the lives of others—provide resources for him to accomplish it. Put your money to work for something that will outlive you.

•Find someone to mentor. Once you reach a certain level in your leadership, the most valuable thing you have to give is yourself. Find someone to pour your life into. Then give him time and resources to become a better leader.

10 INITIATIVE: You Won’t Leave Home Without It

Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.—Conrad Hilton, Hotel Executive

Don’t wait for opportunity to knock.

 Opportunity doesn’t come to the door knocking. You’ve got to go out and look for it. Take stock of your assets, talents, and resources. Doing that will give you an idea of your potential. Now, spend every day for a week looking for opportunities. Where do you see needs? Who is looking for expertise you have? What unreached group of people is practically dying for what you have to offer? Opportunity is everywhere.

11 LISTENING: To Connect with Their Hearts, Use Your Ears

The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.Woodrow Wilson, American President

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.

2. Your Customers

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.

“Listen to the whispers and you won’t have to hear the screams.” – Cherokee Saying

12 PASSION: Take This Life and Love It

Anyone can dabble, but once you’ve made that commitment, your blood has that particular thing in it, and it’s very hard for people to stop you.—Bill Cosby, Comedian

If you look at the lives of effective leaders, you will find that they often don’t fit into a stereotypical mold. For example, more than 50 percent of all CEOs of Fortune 500 companies had C or C– averages in college. Nearly 75 percent of all U.S. presidents were in the bottom half of their school classes. And more than 50 percent of all millionaire entrepreneurs never finished college. 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.

13 POSITIVE ATTITUDE: If You Believe You Can, You Can

The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind.—William James, Psychologist

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.

14 PROBLEM SOLVING: You Can’t Let Your Problems Be a Problem

The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.—John Foster Dulles, Former Secretary of State

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.

The majority see the obstacles; the few see the objectives; history records the successes of the latter, while oblivion is the reward of the former. – Author Alfred Armand Montapert

The ability to solve problems effectively comes from experience facing and overcoming obstacles. Each time you solve another problem, you get a little better at the process. But if you never try, fail, and try again, you’ll never be good at it.

The TEACH Process for Problem Solving

  • TIME—spend time to discover the real issue.”
  • EXPOSURE—find out what others have done.
  • ASSISTANCE—have your team study all angles.
  • CREATIVITY —brainstorm multiple solutions.
  • HIT IT —implement the best solution

15 RELATIONSHIPS: If You Get Along, They’ll Go Along

The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.—Theodore Roosevelt, American President

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

16 RESPONSIBILITY: If You Won’t Carry the Ball, You Can’t Lead the Team

Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility . . . In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.—Michael Korda,  Editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster

Good leaders never embrace a victim mentality. They recognize that who and where they are remain their responsibility— not that of their parents, their spouses, their children, the government, their bosses, or their coworkers. They face whatever life throws at them and give it their best, knowing that they will get an opportunity to lead the team only if they’ve proved that they can carry the ball.

17 SECURITY: Competence Never Compensates for Insecurity

You can’t lead people if you need people. —John C. Maxwell

No one can live on a level inconsistent with the way he sees himself. You may have observed that in people. If someone sees himself as a loser, he finds a way to lose. Anytime his success surpasses his security, the result is self-destruction. That’s not only true for followers, but it’s also true for leaders.

Insecure leaders are dangerous—to themselves, their followers, and the organizations they lead—because a leadership position amplifies personal flaws. Whatever negative baggage you have in life only gets more difficult to bear when you’re trying to lead others.

18 SELF-DISCIPLINE: The First Person You Lead Is You

The first and best victory is to conquer self.—Plato, Philosopher

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.

Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways. – Author H. Jackson Brown Jr.

19 SERVANTHOOD: To Get Ahead, Put Others First

You’ve got to love your people more than your position.—John C. Maxwell

Servanthood is not about position or skill. It’s about attitude. You have undoubtedly met people in service positions who have poor attitudes toward servanthood: the rude worker at the government agency, the waiter who can’t be bothered with taking your order, the store clerk who talks on the phone with a friend instead of helping you.

Just as you can sense when a worker doesn’t want to help people, you can just as easily detect whether a leader has a servant’s heart. And the truth is that the best leaders desire to serve others, not themselves.

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. – Albert Schweitzer

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

Leaders face the danger of contentment with the status quo. After all, if a leader already possesses influence and has achieved a level of respect, why should he keep growing? The answer is simple:

  • Your growth determines who you are.
  • Who you are determines who you attract.
  • Who you attract determines the success of your organization.
  • If you want to grow your organization, you have to remain teachable.

As long as you’re green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot. – Ray Kroc

21. VISION: You Can Seize Only What You Can See

The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.—John Sculley Former CEO of Pepsi and Apple Computer

To improve your vision, do the following:

•Measure yourself. If you have previously thought about the vision for your life and articulated it, measure how well you are carrying it out. Talk to several key people, such as your spouse, a close friend, and key employees, asking them to state what they think your vision is. If they can articulate it, then you are probably living it.

•Write it down. If you’ve thought about your vision but never put it in writing, take the time to do it today. Writing clarifies your thinking. Once you’ve written it, evaluate whether it is worthy of your life’s best. And then pursue it with all you’ve got.”

“•Do a gut check. If you haven’t done a lot of work on vision, spend the next several weeks or months thinking about it. Consider what really impacts you at a gut level.

What makes you cry? ________________________________

What makes you dream? ______________________________

What gives you energy? _______________________________

Also think about what you’d like to see change in the world around you. What do you see that isn’t—but could be? Once your ideas start to become clearer, write them down and talk to a mentor about them.

All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |