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The Ultimate Guide To Developing Leaders

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO DEVELOPING LEADERS: Invest in people like your future depends on it. John C. Maxwell. (2023, Kindle Edition)

Organizational leaders that seek opportunities to improve and grow their organizations often pour money and energy into marketing campaigns, organizational restructuring, rewriting mission statements, and other time and resource-intensive initiatives. Yet, according to bestselling leadership author and expert, John C. Maxwell, the greatest potential for success rests with the strength of the organization’s leadership. In his newest book, The Ultimate Guide to Developing Leaders, Maxwell addresses why it is important for leaders to identify, invest in, and develop the leadership potential of others; as well as provides a step-by-step process for doing so.

In the introductory chapter, Maxwell elaborates on his thesis that “[T]he strength of any organization is a direct result of the strength of its leaders.” He argues that “[I]f you lead a team or organization, no matter whether your goal is to grow your company, increase sales, develop a new product, establish a new location, launch a new initiative, create a new team, or enter a new industry, your success will be determined by the number of leaders you have and their ability to lead.” Accordingly, throughout the following twelve book chapters, Maxwell addresses each critical step in the process of developing leaders, which include the following:

  • Commit to becoming a developer of people

  • Get to know your team members

  • Equip team members to excel at their jobs

  • Identify your potential leaders

  • Invite people with potential to the leadership table

  • Know the goal of developing your leaders

  • Empower new leaders to lead

  • Harness your leaders’ natural motivation

  • Challenge your leaders to work as a team

  • Choose who to develop further

  • Mentor your best leaders, one-on-one

  • Teach your leaders to develop other leaders

In each chapter, Maxwell delves into the rationale and goal associated with the corresponding process step, describes how to translate the goal into action, and then concludes the chapter with practical “ACTION STEPS” that can be employed. To illustrate, a personal favorite chapter of this reviewer is the one on inviting people with potential to the leadership table. The chapter begins by establishing the rationale for why creating a place with open seats in your organization or on your team is perhaps the best way to start leaders in a development process and to attract new leaders⎯that is, it creates a place where people can learn, practice leadership with its successes and failures, and receive opportunities to shine. Maxwell then clarifies that the goal or intent of creating a leadership table or forum is to attract potential leaders and find out if they will become leaders. Then, he sets forth what needs to happen at the leadership table to achieve those ends, which includes: (a) exposing potential leaders to the culture of the leadership environment, (b) establishing expectations and encouraging them to participate in the dynamics of problem-solving and strategy discussions at the table, (c) allow participants to learn and grow by listening to leaders wrestle through issues, seeing how they make choices, and watching how they interact with one another, and (d) create opportunities for them to practice leadership. The chapter concludes with practical ACTION STEPS that can serve as a guide for organizational leaders on how to create a leadership roundtable/forum. 

The 13 book chapters are peppered with quotes and anecdotes from the author, as well as other industry leaders, that reflect the core principles that are advanced. A few select examples include:

  • People too often overvalue their dream and undervalue their team. . . . A big dream with a bad team is a nightmare.

  • You must develop the person before you begin developing the leader.

  • It’s very difficult for people to rise up if their leader refuses to put the wind of development under their wings.

  • Listening is one of the most important skills any leader can possess, yet most of us put greater emphasis on talking.

  • The function of leadership isn’t to gather more followers. It’s to produce more leaders.

  • Given the uncertainties of business today and the powerful forces shaping our lives . . . it is impossible to tell who will be the thought leaders of tomorrow.

  • Not everyone invited to the table will become an effective leader. The table is meant to attract potential leaders and find out if they will become leaders.

  • Leadership is like swimming. It can’t be learned by reading about it. Leaders become leaders by practicing.

  • If someone is always at the head of the class, he or she is in the wrong class.

  • Only secure leaders give power to others… you cannot empower people if you allow your insecurities to control you.

  • The greatest leaders aren’t necessarily the ones who do the greatest things. They are the ones who empower others to do great things.

  • When people get to weigh in on their development, they more readily buy into owning their personal growth progress.

  • Good mentors don’t hesitate to have difficult conversations with the people they mentor. They deal with the “elephants” in the room even when others won’t.

  • The only thing limiting the future of any organization is the number of good leaders it develops.

Arguably, some of the statements may be considered to be overused platitudes and may even be somewhat controversial. That said, Maxwell offers a thoughtful commentary of his personal views on each statement from his vast experience as a leadership consultant and scholar.

If you seek to build and/or improve the leadership pipeline in your organization, this book would be an excellent resource to inform your thinking. 


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