What makes one a truly great leader, and is outstanding leadership something anyone can demonstrate? With the amount of leadership training and resources available today, one would think that becoming a highly accomplished leader is a simple feat. Sadly, we seen through experience that it is not. Virtually all of us who’ve worked in organizations for numbers of years have personally witnessed leadership approaches that fall very short of success, especially in today’s times of rapid change. So, what shifts do we need to make in order to ensure our employees and our organizations thrive?
I had the pleasure of interviewing Maxwell on my podcast Finding Brave recently, and was intrigued by his discussion of important shifts such as the Relational Shift, Influence Shift, and Impact Shift, helping leaders stay nimble and ready to adapt, so they can survive and thrive. Maxwell also shared fascinating personal information about how he got started many years ago in the work of leadership (it’s not what you would expect), how he develops his many teaching frameworks, and the one most compelling reason he began sharing his leadership insights.
Below Maxwell shares critical leadership growth insights and strategies for bringing about the internal shifts required to stay nimble, flexible and effective:
Kathy Caprino: You’ve already written more than twenty books about business and leadership. How did you decide it was time to write this particular book? How do you define “leadershifting?”
John Maxwell: I define leadershifting as the ability and willingness to make a leadership change that will positively enhance organizational and personal growth. I think it’s a key component of leadership, especially in our digital age.
I’ve been wanting to write this book for years, I think, because the world around me told me it was time. I’ve been talking about leadership for forty years, and when you stay in the game for that long, you start to notice things.
The world has sped up—information flows faster, communication is quicker, and technology just ratchets up the pace even more—and because of that, I realized that leaders needed to be more agile, more adaptable than ever before.
So, the book comes from that realization and a desire to continue adding value to leaders at every stage.
Caprino: The core of your book focuses on eleven major leadershifts you’ve made in your leadership journey. One of the shifts you talk about in the book is the Improvement Shift, which is shifting from team uniformity to team diversity. What are some of the positive effects of bringing diversity to a team?
Maxwell: Well, first of all, diversity makes thinking better. When you have people with different experiences, different backgrounds, and different perspectives, you have higher potential for creativity. I’m a firm believer that having more and different people at the table is the best way to take a good idea and make it great.
But diversity also makes people better. I know in my life, being around people who were and are different from me makes an incredible difference in the way I live. The life stories and wisdom others have shared—and lived—with me has made me grow, and through that growth I’ve become a better person.
A person who will not embrace diversity will not easily grow—and in the end that person will not lead well , because continual growth is the lifeblood of every leader.
Caprino: You say that you’ve been asked a lot in the business community how to go about interacting with millennials. What are some ways leaders can create a collaborative environment between older generations and millennials?
Maxwell: I think you have to value the millennial generation, first and foremost. They’re not so different from my generation—like us Boomers, they’re willing to work hard, they’re motivated, they’re goal-driven, they’re resourceful, they know how to contribute to the team. They just approach those characteristics from a different set of convictions.
Once you value millennials, you can look for ways to create collaboration across generational lines . In the book, I highlight the need for a culture of sharing—a safe space where all ideas and contributions are welcomed. I’ve taught this concept for years, but it’s highly important for effective collaboration with the millennial generation, because they want their voice to be heard and considered.
That’s where older leaders often miss the boat: they’re willing to give younger team members the chance to talk but aren’t as willing to listen to what they say. If you as a leader won’t allow their voice to matter, then you’re not going to create an environment where they feel safe to contribute.
Caprino: We’re all about ‘fast’ today. You even wrote this book about that, but you also make a point to talk about making small improvements over time and how those add can add up to make a big difference in your growth as a leader. If there were one change someone reading this could start making today, what would that be?
Maxwell: Well, there are so many things that I could say here—and so many that I want to say here—but I think the one change most people would benefit from would be intentionality with their daily schedule. I’ve said for years that the secret to anyone’s success if found in their daily agenda, and I still believe that to be true.
So many people wake up and just take what the day gives them, so the simple act of setting an agenda for the day would be transformative. Once you set an agenda, you create a plan for how you’ll spend the day—you know where to focus your thinking, or your emotional energy, or how to better allot your time.
Being intentional is a step of action that frees you from the tyranny of someone else’s priorities. It restores ownership of your life to you and begins building the necessary leadership muscles that our fast-paced world requires. When you develop disciplines over time—when you allow consistency to compound—you’ll find you’re more able and willing to make the shifts a rapid world requires.
Caprino: Can you tell us a success story of a business leader (apart from yourself) who made a successful leadershift? How did he/she do it?
Maxwell: Oh, there are so many I could name—Ed Bastian, Rachel Hollis, Trent Shelton, Mark Cole, Don Yaeger, Chris Hodges, Collin Sewell. And there are many, many more whose names people might not recognize, but who have tremendous stories about the benefits of leadershifting.
I’ve recently spent a lot of time with Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard who now runs her own company and non-profit. The more I’m with Carly, the more I appreciate how she understands and embraces the need for leaders to make shifts that change the order of things for the better.
What I love about Carly is her willingness to, as she calls it, “embrace the path over the plan.” She leaves room in her life for making shifts because she wants to fulfill her potential and help others do the same. It’s taken her from secretary to CEO to political candidate to now working with individuals to make a difference in their communities. It’s a beautiful story of what happens when a leader stays agile and open to opportunity.
For more information, visit John C. Maxwell’s book Leadershift.
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