Developing the Leader Within You

Developing the Leader Within You

by John C. Maxwell

Developing the Leader Within You will teach you how to become a true, successful leader.  It explores the major principles, habits and core values of leadership. Through it, you will get to understand that leadership is influence - not power nor authority.

Summary Notes

Leadership and Influence

"Leadership is influence. That’s it. Nothing more; nothing less…”

To become a successful leader, you must have influence. This will help you find others who believe in your vision and values. However, you must also be open to being influenced by others. We all have qualities we can teach others, which means that there is still more we can learn too.

Not everyone is born a leader but you can learn how to be one.

Leaders learn best from experience. There are five levels of leadership you will go through as a leader:

  1. Position. Where others follow you because they have to.

  2. Permission. Where others follow you because they want to.

  3. Production. Where others follow you because of what you have done for the organization.

  4. People development. Where others follow you because of what you have done for them.

  5. Personhood. Where others follow you because of who you are and what you represent.

Actions to take


“Thinking ahead and prioritizing responsibilities marks the major differences between a leader and a follower.”

Leadership comes with many responsibilities - and you’ll need to prioritize them in terms of importance and urgency. Investing equal amounts of time and effort into all your projects and tasks isn’t feasible.  Instead, if you think ahead and prioritize only what's important, you will find yourself achieving the wins you need. 

The Pareto Principle states that 20% of your priorities will give you 80% of your results. So, spend your time, energy and resources on the top 20%. For example, identify the 20% of your team that is responsible for 80% of overall productivity and invest 80% of your personal development resources in them. 

The key principles of prioritization are:

  1. Priorities will continually shift and demand attention. Evaluate your projects periodically, say weekly, monthly or yearly, and adjust their order depending on the current level of importance and urgency.

  2. Some things are just not that important, so avoid focusing on them.

  3. Make the right choice between the good and the best option. Account for the preferences of your coworkers, clients and mentors. You can even choose to handle one task and let a colleague handle the other.

  4. You can’t have it all. Know exactly what you want and work for it.

  5. Avoid committing to too many priorities that demand too much of your time. Your attention will be shifted from bigger issues, which can result in bigger problems.

Actions to take


“The supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office”.

To become a successful leader, you must build your integrity. You want your team to feel like they can trust you, so they’ll support you in achieving your vision. Your life has to be an open book with nothing to hide. You must always stand by your values and standards even when no one is watching you. In fact, your values should be so embedded in you that it's impossible to separate them from you.

Maintaining a high level of integrity comes with its own set of unique challenges. You’ll have to choose between what you want to do, and what you ought to do. For example, let’s say you’re approached by a group of people to misrepresent a fact in exchange for a thousand dollars. Will you accept this life-changing offer or stick to your values of honesty? What if you were offered a million dollars?

What sets a true leader apart from the rest is the ability to withstand such tests of integrity. Recognize these tests for what they are - your integrity will help you establish the ground rules to resolve the associated tension.

Actions to take

Creating positive change

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things”.

To become a successful leader, you need to continually work on yourself. After all, you can hardly lead others in the right direction if you’re not heading that way yourself. Think of yourself as a work in progress, so you can create room for positive change.  

The first step towards positive change in your organization is to change yourself for the better - it’s impossible to give what you don’t have. You can’t teach your team how to be punctual when you are always late for every appointment. You would need to take time to work on your time management issues first, and then encourage your team to learn from you through your actions. 

The moment you understand how difficult it is to change yourself, you will also understand how challenging it can be to change others. However, you need to encourage your team members to think positively and educate them on how beneficial the changes will be to them and the entire organization.

Actions to take


“Your problem-solving skills will always be needed because people always have problems”.

The real test of your leadership potential is your ability to recognize problems, differentiate between real and perceived problems, and solve the real ones in a timely manner. Your responsibility is not just to your problems, but also to your team - you need to help them resolve the issues keeping them from accessing their full potential. 

You also need to think positively. With a positive mindset, you will approach your problems in a better way and your circumstances will change accordingly. Your journey towards life will become much easier the moment you groom yourself to think positively, even amidst tough situations.

Actions to take


“Just as our attitudes are the extra pluses in life, they also make the difference in leading others.”

Your attitude has a powerful impact on your life. It's more important than your education, money, past achievements, and what people think of you. Your attitude is even more important than your appearance, talents, or skills. You can be multi-talented with certificates from the best schools in the world but without a good attitude, you won’t achieve most of the things you are qualified for.

Your attitude makes a big difference in how you deal with problems. Will you let your problems weigh you down or will you stand up, think positively, and find solutions to them?  

There are six stages of attitude changes:

  1. Recognizing the feelings you have when you experience problems.

  2. Recognizing the triggers of those feelings.

  3. Identifying the impact of the problem.

  4. Identifying possible solutions.

  5. Making a public commitment to solving the problem. 
    a. For example, you could assure your team that you will follow the right procedure to solve a particular problem within a specific timeframe.

  6. Developing a plan of action. 
    a. Evaluate all the possible solutions to the problem before settling for the most efficient solution that is within your budget and is easy to implement.

Actions to take


“The one who influences others to follow only is a leader with certain limitations. The one who influences others to lead others is a leader without limitations”.

You can’t become a great leader on your own - helping your team develop is how you’ll create a support network for yourself too. Plus, the more people you help develop, the greater the extent of your dreams. 

You need to give the right assistance to your team to help them develop. For example, invest your time in working with each member individually, so you can get to know them on a more personal level. Focus on helping them in areas they need the most.

You can become a limitless leader by influencing your team members to lead instead of just influencing them to follow you. As a limitless leader, you also need to give your team all that is needed to succeed. This includes an excellent atmosphere to work in, the right tools to work with, a continual training program to work under, excellent people to work for, and a compelling vision to work towards.

Actions to take


“All effective leaders have a vision of what they must accomplish”

Guard your vision well so that you don’t lose it. Otherwise, you may also start to lose focus, paying attention to things that do not really matter. 

To become an effective leader, you need to stay true to your vision, with the goal of accomplishing it through hard work and the help of others you have influenced and developed. . Your vision is more like the energy behind your efforts- the force that keeps you going amid the problems and challenges that come your way.

Having a dream is not enough, you need to communicate it effectively to gain the support of others. This only boils down to the fact that you need a clear vision and the right team to work with to stand out as a leader. 

Be a leader with a vision - not a visionary person. You can achieve this by talking less and acting more, finding inner strength instead of outward authority, and not giving up even when the road becomes bumpy.

Actions to take


“All leaders have understood that their number one responsibility was for their own discipline and personal growth. If they could not lead themselves, they could not lead others”

To be able to successfully lead your team, you have to discipline yourself to do the right things at the right times and at the right places, even when no one is watching. The team you lead will always be influenced by your personal traits, which are a reflection of your ability to discipline yourself.

Integrity is important for self-discipline. Be a leader who lives what he teaches, one who does what he says, and one who is honest with those he leads or influences.

Being organized goes hand in hand with being disciplined. When you are organized, you develop a special power and work with a surer sense of purpose. Also, when you are organized, your priorities will become clearer, making it possible for you to move smoothly from one project to another.

Actions to take

Team development

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership”.

Will your team collaborate with you and work towards your vision? Will they happily share the workload?

You can create a collaborative environment by keeping the workplace calm, positive and free of disputes. Provide all the amenities needed for staff development, including working tools like computers, and laptops. When your team feels relaxed, they’ll naturally feel happier and more enthusiastic about their work.

Actions to take

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