When it comes to leadership, there is no other household name known to everyone in the modern western world but John Maxwell.
Maxwell is a leadership expert, speaker, pastor, and author. He speaks annually to Fortune 500 companies, government leaders, and international organizations. Maxwell is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author and he was one of 25 authors named to Amazon. com’s 10th Anniversary Hall of Fame. Three of his books, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, have sold over a million copies each. And in May of 2014, Maxwell was named the No. 1 leadership and management expert in the world by Inc. Magazine.
While we can certainly spend the next few lines listing down all the achievements he had in his life, we would be better off asking a more important question: “What makes him and his leadership style different?” There are hundreds, if not thousands, of inspirational speakers and authors that talk about personal development and leadership skills. So, let’s take a closer look on the unique and unconventional perspectives John Maxwell has in the areas of growth, success, and leadership. And though he talks about a lot of things in each topic, we’ll be highlighting only a few of them.
What does Maxwell have to say about growth? Lots. While others see growth as some kind of seed in a germination process, where all the necessary and favorable conditions are required to grow, Maxwell isn’t so bought with this concept. He says that a person will grow under a “conducive” environment. But does conducive always mean comfortable? In his ‘15 Invaluable Laws of Growth’ he will tell you that you need to embrace every discomfort and every struggle. He features the importance and necessity of pain in the growth process. But take heed, Maxwell also emphasizes that not all discomfort and pain will bring about growth, it is only when we know how to respond to a bad situation that we learn to grow. The takeaway? See every struggle as an opportunity to respond right and a great opportunity to grow.
According to several surveys across the U.S. and even around the globe, people define success as “being happy” and “achieving their personal goals.” Is this wrong? Of course not. But Maxwell embraces a different view of success. It has little to do with personal happiness and achieving personal goals. He defines success as knowing your purpose in life, reaching your maximum potential, and using the two to grow seeds that benefit others. Will you be happy when you know your purpose, reach your full potential, or benefit others? Of course, you can. But Maxwell points out that success is not feeling-based, and ultimate success is far more than achieving material goals. Happiness and satisfaction is a present emotion, but contentment is a general state of your heart. Being content heavily constitutes success. You can be happy for a time and achieve a goal you’ve set last year, but if you don’t learn how to be content with what you have, you can never be successful. Maxwell is keen to say that knowing your purpose is the first step in being successful. It’s the difference between a goal and a mission. Personal goals are things that won’t really matter at the end of your life, while your mission will dictate what you were born here on Earth for.
Maxwell suggests that to do this, you need to first have a personal relationship with God, and then you will find out what your mission and purpose in life is. Achieving your full potential sounds more like the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, not Maxwell’s. But both are basically just the same. Self-actualization comes after all the physiological and psychological needs, and to do that requires more than just wealth, fame, and power (although these do help), but if you’re running a race with no direction, you’ll never reach your full potential. You need to focus and be consistent in improving yourself and keep yourself reminded of your purpose. What happens when you know your purpose and you’re already doing your best in it? Maxwell says that those two will never be considered as “success” unless you use it to benefit others. As they say, it gets lonely at the top. So, grow other people, help them achieve what you have achieved, and then only when you have other people who know their purpose and reaching their full potential can you finally say you are successful.
Aside from his own leadership skills, Maxwell rises above from the rest because of how he communicates and shares his talent of leadership. John Maxwell has this amazing gift of observing the universal truths there are on leadership via his personal experience and translating them well for even the most ordinary people to understand. This is what makes him better, not that he is more of a leader than other leaders, but he speaks the language that everyone easily understands.
This is his bread and butter. He has spent several years of his life talking and teaching about leadership. But the best thing he has ever imparted to us and the thing that is already tried and tested through the years is ‘Servant Leadership’. How is a servant a leader? How is a leader a servant? For a lot of people, this is a new concept. When you’re used to bosses in your office being jerks, making your life a living hell, and making you a slave in your company, Maxwell says that real leaders are those who serve. This implies a lot of things. First, a servant leader will always see every member of his team as his equal. This prevents one from thinking he is more important than others. His role in the organization is important, but every person is equal in dignity. Second, a leader shows his team how to do it. He acts and lets his members follow him rather than commanding his team to do what he says. A good leader is a good follower. A servant leader walks the talk, in fact, minimizes the ‘talk’ if possible by just doing it. Third, a great leader will create other leaders. Some leaders are afraid to mentor and develop other people, despite knowing their potential, just because they fear being replaced. Servant leaders are not insecure of their position. They make it a main goal to develop good leaders instead of developing ‘yes-men’ in their organization.
Growth, success, and leadership are abstract things that most people think about daily. Some have developed them on their own, and some have learned from the experts, like John Maxwell. Overall, John Maxwell has a lot more to say about leadership, success, and growth than what we have featured here and ultimately, it’s not how many books about leadership or success you have read, it’s how you apply these principles in your daily life that really matters.