50 leaders of the evangelical generation. #42 John Maxwell. Mentor

 [I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

#42.  John C. Maxwell. Mentor  b.1947 

John C. Maxwell is an evangelical author and speaker who has written more than 50 books, primarily focusing on leadership. Maxwell is a familiar name inside and outside the church, but particularly among business professionals. A lot of people know you when the books your write sell 13 million copies.

His training organizations–INJOY, Maximum Impact, ISS and EQUIP–have trained more than 2 million leaders worldwide.

 The most surprising thing about all of that is that leadership training is John Maxwell’s second career. He’s so well known as an author, for his conferences, and his high-profile speaking that most don’t realize that Maxwell pastored Wesleyan churches for 30 years.

Maxwell says God called him away from pastoring to speak mainly with business professionals about leadership. He talks often about all the criticism that he had encountered since that decision, but finds assurance in the fact that God is using him to share Christ in the secular business community. This year more people have accepted Christ through his life than during any five-year period when he was a pastor, he says.

The criticism is a characteristic of many of the evangelical community who frown on a change among those in what’s called “full time Christian ministry,” to a “secular” vocation. And Maxwell is an example of how that change can be made without losing sight of the underlying Kingdom values. 

Now, Maxwell quite simply teaches people how to lead, and he’s found many ways to do it. He could sell an icebox to an Eskimo, as the saying goes, but then he’d write a book about the 10 steps it took to do it.

 Every year Maxwell speaks to Fortune 500 companies, international government leaders, and organizations. Maxwell was one of 25 authors and artists 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 each sold over a million copies.

One observer, J.D. Meier, summarizes Maxwell’s enormous body of teaching in 25 points:

1. Leadership is influence. Maxwell defines leadership as influence

2. Leadership isn’t a position, it’s a process.   Leadership starts right where you are, from the inside out.

3. Just do it. Forget motivation and just do it. 

4. Your attitude towards life is still under construction.  Maxwell believes that your environment shapes you more than your personality or other inherited traits, and that your outward actions are a direct reflection of your self-image (we tend to act consistently with how we see ourselves.)”

5. Use principles to guide you. Drive from durable principles instead of a bunch of rules and policies.

6. Leadership is a collection of skills.  Leadership is something you can learn and improve at. 

7. Build trust through competence, connection, and character.  You won’t follow somebody you don’t trust.  As a leader, you have to build trust. 

8. Success is a journey, not a destination.   Don’t think of success as a place.  Think of it as a path.   Success is a journey you can enjoy a day at a time. 

9. Success is a daily thing.  You can be successful one day or one decision at a time.   Maxwell says, “If you can handle today correctly, tomorrow will take care of itself.”

10. Success is a decision at a time.   Maxwell says, “You don’t become a success when you get your diploma.  You became a success when you decided to go to college. 

11. 7 Steps for success.  In Success One Day at a Time, Maxwell shares 7 steps for success:  1) make a commitment to grow daily, 2) value the process more than events, 3) don’t wait for inspiration, 4) be willing to sacrifice pleasure for opportunity, 5) dream big, 6) plan your priorities, and 7) give up to go up.

12. Look for the landmarks of success.  The highest levels of success require a series of significant trade-offs. 

13. Leadership is a visual thing. The greatest leadership is by example.  Maxwell says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

14. Everybody needs encouragement.  No matter who you are, you still need encouragement.  Maxwell says, “Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”

15. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Success depends more on your attitude than it does on how important you think you are.  Life should be fun. 

16. Use failure as a springboard.  Unsuccessful people avoid taking any risks to try and avoid failure.  Successful people turn failure into feedback.  They don’t dwell on mistakes or the negative consequences of failures

17. Win with people.   Growing people is the key to growing your success. 

18. Let people fly with you for a while.  In Maxwell’s experience, the most effective way to mentor and ramp people up is the same way craftspeople have done for years: 1) do it, 2) I do it — and you watch, 3) you do it – and I watch, 4) you do it.

19. 10 principles for personal growth.  In Your Road Map for Success, Maxwell shares 10 principles for improving your personal growth: 1) choose a life of growth, 2) start growing today, 3) be teachable, 4) focus on self-development, not self-fulfillment, 5) never stay satisfied with current accomplishments, 6) be a continual learner, 7) concentrate on a few major themes, 8.) develop a plan for growth, 9) pay the price, 10) find a way to apply what you learn.

20. Don’t make happiness your measure of success.  Happiness is fleeting while success is a stable path.  Life is uncertain, and emotions aren’t stable.  Happiness simply cannot be relied upon as a measure of success.”

21. Achievement over affirmation.   Focus on achievement rather than worry about fitting in.  Maxwell says, “Affirmation from others is fickle and fleeting.” 

22. 4 kinds of people when it comes to relationships.  There are 4 kinds of people when it comes to relationships: 1) some people add something to life (we enjoy them), 2) some people subtract something from life (we tolerate them), 3) some people multiply something in life (we value them), 4) some people divide something in life (we avoid them.)

23. Lead yourself exceptionally well.  Leadership starts from the inside out.  Lead yourself first. 

24. Treat people like a “10.” Who gets your better effort? … a leader who treats you as a “2” or a leader who treats you as a “10”?  Maxwell says that in his experience, people usually rise to the leader’s expectations – if they like the leader.  

25. Focus on production over politics. Maxwell says there are two ways to get ahead: production and politics.  Maxwell says avoid office politics and instead focus on production.


About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community, and more recently assisting other nonprofits and corporations. Everything on this blog is my personal opinion.
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