Book Review: Developing the Leader within You – John C Maxwell

As part of my second master’s degree in Business Analytics from Naveen Jindal School of Management, I came across a very special person. While I have a mentor like Dr Ravi Batra from whom I have learned things such as ethics, integrity, courage and rationality; I have been searching for a person who could guide me on the leadership skills in business. As successful has my new mentor been in his professional career, the way he holds me accountable, makes this relationship stronger. As part of his mentorship to develop me into a good leader, he is coaching me personally to grow into a successful leader. He suggested to me that I should read John Maxwell’s book “Developing the Leader within You” and I have been diligent in taking time out of my busy schedule to read this fascinating book. Here, I would like to share a book review for this book as I believe that many would benefit from what I have to say. It also confirmed my belief that I don’t need to pursue an MBA to eventually lead an organization. I certainly don’t want to become a manager, but I intend to become a leader in any organization I belong or any venture that I undertake in life. It also gave in an insight into the leadership skills that I need to cultivate to envision my ideas that I have included in my books, which have never been implemented in the past.

In this book, Mr. Maxwell covers a broad range of topics about leadership such as Influence, Priorities, Integrity, Creating Positive Change, Problem Solving, Attitude, People, Vision, Self-Discipline and Staff Development. The book is full of wonderful quotes from several successful people across the world covering people successful in business, government, sports, innovation, etc. For the people who aspire to pursue MBA degree with a goal to be able to lead organization, this book offers a wealth of wisdom and advice. John says,

If you want to manage somebody, manage yourself”.

Influence – Leadership begins with heart not the head. It flourishes with a meaningful relationship, not more regulation. A leader cannot lead people without loving them.

Priorities – All true leaders have learned to say no to the good in order to say yes to the best. William James said that the art of being wise is the “art of knowing what to overlook”.

Integrity – My mentor Dr Ravi Batra mentioned it specifically when he put a recommendation for my Green card that “Apek is honest, reliable and a man of integrity”. I believe that when someone says these things about you, you have to ensure that you maintain your highest ethical standards in personal and professional life. Maxwell says, To earn trust a leader has to be authentic. Image is what people think we are, but Integrity is what we really are. If the process is right, the product is guaranteed and the same holds true of integrity; it guarantees credibility. Billy Graham said, “Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact.” People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. Their lives are open books.

When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost; something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.

Creating Positive Change – If you want to become a change agent, you must also change. No change will ever occur if the psychological needs are unmet. Once change has begun, the skills of a manager are needed to maintain the needed change. The leader should be able to distinguish between the logical and psychological aspects of any change. Cornfield’s Law says that nothing is ever done until everyone is convinced that it ought to be done. It is important to know what happened in the past before making changes for the future. The proposed change is what is best for the people, not the leader. The people must be first.

Problem Solving – Problem solving needs two skills -Right Attitude and Right Action Plan. What really counts is not what happens to me but what happens in me. Our focus as a leader should be to build big people. Big people will handle big issues effectively. The problem-solving skills of a leader must be sharpened because every decision becomes a major decision.

Attitude – Leadership has less to do with position than it does with disposition. Right Attitude –> Right Atmosphere –> Right responses from others. There is a great difference between how we feel and how we handle our feelings. People sabotage themselves because of wrong thinking. People with negative attitude may start well, have a few good days, and win a match. But sooner or later (it’s usually sooner), their attitude will pull them down. The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up. Public commitment makes powerful commitment.

People – The person who works better with people is a follower, the person who helps people work better is a manager but the person who develops better people to work is a leader. People want to feel important! A true leader knows that he got to give loyalty down before he received loyalty up. If people believe in their leader, nothing will stop them. People must buy into you before they buy into your dreams. Once people realize that you, as a leader, can help them become successful, they’re yours!

Andrew Carnegie once said, “Men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold, but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt. One goes in looking for gold.

Vision – Foresight is the ‘lead’. Loss of leaderships stems from a failure to foresee what reasonably could have been foreseen, and from failure to act on that knowledge while the leader has freedom to act. Vision comes first, 89% of what we learn is visual, 10% is auditory and 1% is through senses. Leaders are people who see it, pursue it and help others see it. Leaders can never take their people farther than they have traveled. People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. Communicating a vision is one of the most frustrating areas of leading an organization. Man who says, ‘It cannot be done’ should not interrupt man who is doing it. People don’t care how much you see until they see how much you care. The leader with vision believes not only what he envisions can be done, but that it must be done.

Self-Discipline – Discipline becomes the choice of achieving what you really want by doing things you now want to do! Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up. Multi-tasking involves following : Itemize –> Prioritize –> Organize –> Emphasize. Peter Drucker’s definition of Efficiency ( Doing things right ) v/s Effectiveness (Doing the right things). My greatest gift to others should not be a job but myself. Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent.

Staff Development – A great leader develops a team of people who increase production. Great leaders possess the knowledge of human nature. Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. A leader doesn’t have to make every decision but should always be accessible. Team building involves getting the members to feel a sense of ownership is what they are doing as a group. The first objective a leader is to develop people, not to dismiss them. Remember, it isn’t the people you fire who make your life miserable; it’s the ones you don’t.

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