John Maxwell on the Three Phases of His Journey Pt. 1
John Maxwell told me there have been three phases to his leadership journey. The first is having followers.
A leader without followers is delusional.
5 top ways to gain followers:
- Have character. Be humble and passionate – at the same time – about your vision. Humility stays open and listens. Passion presses through resistance.
- Solve painful problems with others. Leaders don’t just talk, they take action. They don’t just work on their own, they work toward a noble cause with others. It takes more than hard work to be a leader. A “leader” who works alone is an individual contributor.
- Make people believe they matter. Leaders who focus on themselves collapse from within. Leaders who focus on others expand from without.
- Establish strong connections by combining strengths with vulnerability. Leaders without weaknesses are off putting fakers who can’t be trusted. Run!
- Align values. You can’t lead people who don’t believe what you believe. Adapt your language with what’s important to them, not you. When Jesus called fishermen to be his followers he said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
Danger in the follower phase:
Leadership changes people. What happened to Billy or Mary? They got a promotion and now they think they’re all that.
Pride is self-limiting.
Anyone who hasn’t felt the darkside of pride hasn’t seen the look of admiration in a follower’s eyes. That’s when you slap yourself and say, “I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve.”
Arrogant leaders surround themselves with compliant, admiring followers.
John Maxwell on phase one of the leaders journey (1:00):
The shortfall of having followers is, “… if you just have followers you can add but you can’t multiply,” John Maxwell.
Arrogance prevents leaders from finding phase two on the leader’s journey.
Phase two of the leader’s journey tomorrow.
How can leaders be worthy of having followers?
Read John Maxwell’s latest book: “Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership.”
Be yourself, don’t be what others want you to be, follow your heart, give with your soul and Lead with your wisdom and passion. Be open to others and accept them for whom they are whether you see the same views or not. Listen to others to understand them ,offer guidance if others seek it, share your knowledge if you can help,be careful not to become ruling of your followers, be more of a mentor. After all someone has gotten us to our points in life though their guidance too, whether they were teachers, parents, Philosophers, Clergy, or just everyday folks!
Thanks Tim. Lot’s of great ideas in your comment. Your suggestions about openness resonate with me because I have a tendency to close down or shut out. That’s why you see me writing that being humble is staying open. Cheers
Tim, your sincere yet profound comment reminded me of a wonderful leader at California Institute of Technology who spoke similar words and thoughts about persons we call followers. We hire them as staff members. He said something like this: However heroic the efforts of great leaders, our history has been underwritten by the consensus of the whole, by the will of the masses; hundred’s of nameless and faceless staff members whose collective soul determined a school’s and a school student-body’s destiny. It was their conscience, blood, and sweat that enabled the leaders to lead; their work and judgment that prevailed over crises. Contributors everyone. The story of men and women are unforgettable accounts of the human spirit. They made a difference. And he called them “the common man.” (Today to be politically correct–if he is a she, does she recognize the fact that the term “common man” includes her, since the term “common person” is abusive?)
If a bank president is dropped from the job and becomes unemployed, does that person then become common? Is the common man the citizen who votes or the citizen who says it makes no difference who’s in there? Is he Muhammad Ali, who was born a descendant of slaves and at whose birth there were probably few signs that one day he would be called the greatest boxer of all time? Did the parents of Jonas Salk hope merely that their newborn infant would turn out to be a normal, fairly contented man or were they secretly aware their offspring was in the course of time going to make a discovery that would eradicate a crippling plague of Polio?
Was she an immigrant woman who taught elementary-school classes in Milwaukee and then became the prime minister of a foreign state? That’s what Golda Meir did. Does the common man repair bicycles? Remember Henry Ford? Does he work as a singing waiter in a Bowery saloon? Irving Berlin collected his nightly tips at just such a job. Is he a shoe salesman? Tennessee Williams earned his living “bringing down size 9Es” in St Louis before striking out for Broadway.
Followers all. Common stock. Perhaps our staff members.
Here’s a question to you Dan, did you ever fall into the trap of only “adding” with followers? If so, what was your 1st big step to getting out? f this does NOT apply to you, is there someone you’ve coached to help get out of phase 1?
Thanks James. My thought on getting stuck in the adding phase of leadership is learning to share your expertise with others, rather than being protective of position, skill, or power. Tomorrow, Maxwell shares phase two…and I think moving from phase one to phase two centers a lot on pride. If we can’t get past the need to protect ourselves and our positions it will be impossible to move beyond just getting followers.
I know it’s important to get followers. We can’t neglect that…but there’s more. Cheers
Great points, gents. Leaders can’t collect followers at all if they are covetous of their own leadership abilities. Leaders must give themselves to their followers inasmuch as they share their love for others and the goal by helping lead them toward that goal….success of an organization or whatever the intent is. Leaders must be confident enough that their skills are impossible for others to steal from them, enabling them to actually lead with those skills.
I have great respect for John Maxwell, at least what I KNOW of him anyway.
That said, as I read this post, it stirred a question on leadership itself that keeps coming up for me. A question regarding leadership and motive.
On the one hand, yes, if a person is in a leadership position, it is important to be ‘worthy’ of having followers. Although if work situations, there are technically already people in those positions whether their heart is following the leader or not.
However, I’ve seen something else when it comes to leadership that touches on the heart of something else. Something that has concerned me a great deal especially as I’ve been exploring the topic of leadership online for the past couple of years.
It’s one thing to take responsibility as a human being in recognizing that if we are parents, we are ‘leaders’ of our children. If we are a leader at work based on our positions and titles, people will be counting on us and watching us. Leaders have a huge impact on people.
And yet, there is this ‘other’ thing to leadership I keep seeing. The desire to ‘be a leader’ simply for the sake of being able to CALL oneself a leader and HAVING followers.
If the ONLY reason people aspire to leadership is so they can HAVE followers, that taps into a whole other ‘motive’ that is not very healthy. I’ve been seeing this a great deal and this is the side of leadership that I question.
So when it comes to question #1: aspire to be worthy of having followers.
The big question for anyone to ask themselves is WHY they WANT to have followers in the first place. This has to do with motive. Does the person want to be a leader because they want to sincerely be of SERVICE to people…or is this something else.. something more self-serving and ego-serving.
And this is what I’d hope every aspiring leader and existing leader would be willing to ask themselves.
‘Know why you WANT to lead people and ‘have’ followers in the first place.’ (spoken in general not to you specifically Dan!)
I hope this makes sense.
PS: This isn’t meant to attack leadership. This is a sincere look at the topic on discernment of motives in people aspiring to lead.
To be of genuine service is the right motive. Anything else is well…unhealthy.
Thanks Samantha. You remind me of something I heard Pat Lencioni say:
“Most people want to be known as the person who changed the world. That’s a very dangerous reason to become a leader. People should want to become a leader because they want to sacrifice themselves for the good of others even when they know there is no ROI.” Patrick Lencioni
If you plan to lead, plan to serve.
You touched on something critically important here:
‘Most people want to be known as the person who changed the world. That’s a very dangerous reason to become a leader.’
It’s true. Are you familiar with the book/workbook called The Search for Significance by Robert S McGee? It was popular back in the 90’s. It came to mind when I read what you wrote because we ALL have a desire for significance. Most of us (if not all) want to ‘make our mark’ if you will. Some more ‘boldly’ then others if you consider the terrorist, the rock star, and all the way over to the opposite side of the spectrum with Mother Theresa.
And yet there is that ‘icky’ quality to the agenda of someone who hides behind ‘changing the world’ and yet the actions reveal it as more of a self-serving act then anything else. Even if it’s simply filling up the narcissistic ‘look at how important I am…I’m changing the world’ fix for a person.
One of the big dangers is this. Not every caring act is going to be globally known. In our culture and society, it seems we go to such great pains and lengths to WRITE about ‘stuff’ and ‘talk’ about it instead of actually doing the simple act of giving the glass of water to the thirsty person in our own life who needs it. Being present for our son or daughter when they seek our attention. (without having part of our attention still focused on a computer or work or the cell phone or fill in the blank) We miss some of the MOST IMPORTANT acts of love that can be the most life-changing in our day to day lives that are sacrificed at the alter of our need to BE significantly ‘famous’, if you will.
Caring doesn’t need to be ‘famous’ in order to still serve. Small can still be BIG.
Anyway, that’s what just came up for me after reading what you shared from Pat Lencioni.
Thanks Samantha. So much is seen in what happens when we aren’t noticed.
Dan, I started reading Maxwell’s latest book yesterday. Questions are so valuable! I’m very interested by Maxwell’s practice of having a “learning lunch” once a month where he takes someone out to lunch and comes prepared with a file of questions to ask.
Thanks Bruce. I love good questions. Trust you will enjoy Maxwell’s book.
A very interesting and useful post. Phase 1 of Journey is ‘Aspire to be worthy’ is just fascinating. The 5 points as mentioned are very valuable to ensure the journey of success enjoyable and respectful. Shall wait for other 2 phases to move on with a greater confidence.
Thanks Dr. Asher. Glad you enjoy the idea of aspire to be worthy. I think it lifts us above a focus on techniques and focuses us on character. Cheers
Thanks for today’s post Dan!
The one thing I would add to the 5 points is “to live a vision that is greater than you are”. As becomes clear in the post, true leaders do not work for personal or egotistical gain; they do it because they believe in a vision that is much greater than they are and which is why they need followers in the first place.
I believe this overlaps with Samantha’s point on ‘the right motive’ as well.
Thanks Linda. Wonderful addition. Cheers
Leaders: Be truthful with others, and yourselves. It shows through in ways that you often can’t see for a long time. Ways that you can’t foresee. Also do what you say you’re going to do – when you say you’re going to do it. If you can’t, let employees know; tell them why.
What isn’t stated but implied in those 5 points is the importance of listening. Listening is one of the hardest skills for leaders to master..particularly those who like the sound of their own voice…which is probably most people.
Love this article. I’ve seen many of his leadership videos on his website, and he is a huge contributor to management skills, leadership skills, and motivational speaking. Tried and true, his techniques have become excellent advice.