John C. Maxwell on Leadership.

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“Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

John C.Maxwell is my favorite Leadership mentor and author, he is the author who have read his book the most (16), John is a great communicator, highly experienced, knows his stuff, got the jokes, anecdotes, insights, lessons learned, myths, stories, parables and examples of what it takes to be a great leader. I enjoy reading his books as they are very insightful and thought-provoking. According to John, Everything rises and falls on leadership. In The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, John noted that 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.


In his book, The leadership gold, he writes about where the motivation for the leadership ssaying : “Everything rises and falls on leadership” came from:

“In the mid-1970s, I attended a conference where Lee Roberson was a speaker. He made a statement during a session that inspired me and changed my life. Roberson said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” By that, he meant that leaders inevitably make things better or worse for the people who follow them. Wherever you have a good leader, the team gets better, the organization gets better, the department or division gets better. And wherever you have a bad leader, everyone that leader impacts has a tougher time. Leadership makes every endeavor either better or worse.”

What is Leadership?

In Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading, John defines leadership in the following ways

  • Leadership is the willingness to put oneself at risk.
  • Leadership is the passion to make a difference with others.
  • Leadership is being dissatisfied with the current reality.
  • Leadership is taking responsibility while others are making excuses.
  • Leadership is seeing the possibilities in a situation while others are seeing the limitations.
  • Leadership is the readiness to stand out in a crowd.
  • Leadership is an open mind and an open heart.
  • Leadership is the ability to submerge your ego for the sake of what is best.
  • Leadership is evoking in others the capacity to dream.
  • Leadership is inspiring others with a vision of what they can contribute.
  • Leadership is the power of one harnessing the power of many.
  • Leadership is your heart speaking to the hearts of others.
  • Leadership is the integration of heart, head, and soul.
  • Leadership is the capacity to care, and in caring, to liberate the ideas, energy, and capacities of others.
  • Leadership is the dream made reality.
  • Leadership is, above all, courageous.

The Five Levels of Leadership

In Developing the Leader Within You 2.0, John described the five levels of leadership, he writes:

Level 1: Position—Influence Based on Rights.

  • Position represents leadership before a leader has developed any real influence with the people being led.
  • People who have been appointed to a position may have authority, but that authority doesn’t exceed their job description. Positional leaders have certain rights. They have the right to enforce the rules. They have the right to tell people to do their jobs. They have the right to use whatever power they have been granted.

“Position is a good place to start in leadership, but it’s a terrible place to stay.”

Level 2: Permission—Influence Based on Relationship

  • Permission is characterized by good relationships. The motto on this level could be written as “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” True influence begins with the heart, not the head. It flourishes through personal connections, not rules and regulations.
  • On Level 2, as you connect with people, build relationships with them, and earn their trust, you begin to develop real influence with them. That makes you want to work together more. It makes you more cooperative with one another. It makes the environment more positive. It boosts everyone’s energy. And in work settings, people stay longer and work harder.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Level 3: Production—Influence Based on Results

  • On Level 3, people get things done. And they help the members of their team get things done. Together they produce results. That’s when good things really begin to happen for the organization. Productivity goes up. People reach goals. Profit increases. Morale becomes high. Turnover becomes low. Team loyalty increases.

Level 4: People Development—Influence Based on Reproduction

  • On Level 1, the team member has to follow the leader. On Level 2, the team member wants to follow the leader. On Level 3, the team member appreciates and admires the leader because of what he or she has done for the team.
  • On Level 4, the team member becomes loyal to the leader because of what the leader has done for him or her personally. You win people’s hearts and minds by helping them grow personally.

If you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe the message. —JAMES M. KOUZES AND BARRY Z. POSNER

Level 5: Pinnacle—Influence Based on Respect

  • People at the Pinnacle level are known not only outside of their own organizations, but outside of their fields, their countries, and even their lifetimes. For example, Jack Welch is a Level 5 leader in business. Nelson Mandela was a Level 5 leader in government. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Level 5 leader among social activists. Leonardo da Vinci was a Level 5 leader in the arts and engineering. Aristotle was a Level 5 leader in education and philosophy.

In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, he writes about the significance of leadership in getting things done:

Without leadership ability, a person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership. The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership. The greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence needs to be. Whatever you will accomplish is restricted by your ability to lead others.

On Leadership Development, John observed in the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership:

People don’t at first follow worthy causes. They follow worthy leaders who promote causes they can believe in.

Becoming a leader is a lot like investing successfully in the stock market. If your hope is to make a fortune in a day, you’re not going to be successful. There are no successful “day traders” in leadership development. What matters most is what you do day by day over the long haul.

“If you develop yourself, you can experience personal success. If you develop a team, your organization can experience growth. If you develop leaders, your organization can achieve explosive growth.”

 If you continually invest in your leadership development, letting your “assets” compound, the inevitable result is growth over time. What can you see when you look at a person’s daily agenda? Priorities, passion, abilities, relationships, attitude, personal disciplines, vision, and influence. See what a person is doing every day, day after day, and you’ll know who that person is and what he or she is becoming.

When people respect you as a person, they admire you. When they respect you as a friend, they love you. When they respect you as a leader, they follow you.


In his book, Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow’s Success, John writes about the importance of our daily agenda:

The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda. If you make a few key decisions and then manage them well in your daily agenda, you will succeed. You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. You see, success doesn’t just suddenly occur one day in someone’s life. For that matter, neither does failure. Each is a process. Every day of your life is merely preparation for the next. What you become is the result of what you do today. In other words . . .YOU ARE PREPARING FOR SOMETHING.

You are either preparing or you are repairing.

Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.

“He is a wise man who wastes no energy on pursuits for which he is not fitted; and he is wiser still who from among the things he can do well, chooses and resolutely follows the best.” – William Gladstone 

Priorities don’t stay put; you have to revisit them every day. Why? Because conditions continually change. So do methods of getting things done. Your values, once defined, are going to be steady. You will be able to rely on them. But how you carry them out needs to be flexible.


On Personal Growth, John wrote about the impact of our environment on personal growth in the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential:

If you know that you need to make a major change to your environment, then there’s something you must keep in mind: You must also determine to change yourself at the same time. Here’s why: If you try to…

  • Change yourself but not your environment—growth will be slow and difficult;
  • Change your environment but not yourself—growth will be slow and less difficult;
  • Change your environment and yourself—growth will be faster and more successful.

As you consider changing yourself and your environment, think about the elements that the right kind of growth environment provide:

  • The right soil to grow in: What nourishes me? Growth.
  • The right air to breathe in: What keeps me alive? Purpose.
  • The right climate to live in: What sustains me? People.

The most significant factor in any person’s environment is the people. If you change nothing else in your life for the better than that, you will have increased your chances of success tenfold. So think long and hard about who you’re spending the most time with, for wherever they are headed, so are you.

“If you need to make changes in yourself and your environment, don’t dwell on your past. You can’t change it. Don’t worry about your future. You can’t control it. Focus on the current moment and what you can do now.”

In The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, John advised:

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.

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


John made the following observation about the domestication of the human mind, in his book, No Limits: Blow the CAP Off Your Capacity, he writes

When an elephant was very young and weighed only several hundred pounds, it was restricted by having a chain clasped to its leg and connected to a tree or deep stake. When the animal tried to move away and learned that it could not break the chain, it limited itself. It believed that whatever restriction was put on it—even a rope it could have easily broken—was more powerful than it was.

People are like those elephants. We often believe that some of the restrictions we may have experienced earlier in life are permanent. Or we’ve been told we have limitations that we actually don’t possess, and these things are keeping us from taking the journey in life that we long for. These are the chains we need to break.

“Awareness changes everything. As soon as we become aware that some of our “limitations” are artificial limitations, we can begin to overcome many of them. We can blow off these caps, which opens the way for growth.”

Leadership is an inside out job, you need to first lead yourself before you can successfully lead others. It takes self-awareness, courage, focus, consistency, character and other qualities that John Maxwell have written about extensively in his book. Since I read the first leadership book by John Maxwell in 2007, I have been a committed student on the subject of leadership. You can not give what you do not have, gabage in, gabage out. I intend to read more books from John Maxwell and other authors. Leadership is a life long journey of learning, personal transformation and growth.

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

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