21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader | Notes & Review

Posted on August 29, 2010


John Maxwell. 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want To Follow. Thomas Nelson, 1999. (156 pages)

As you dive into the book, you may find that you are able to easily breeze through several chapters at a time. You may even be able to knock out the whole book in one sitting. Don’t do it. The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader is designed to be absorbed strategically and methodically.

I want to encourage you to live with this book for a while. Read a chapter, and then give it some time. Use it to reflect, review, and renew. If the quality you’re studying is a weak area in your life, spend some time addressing it before you move on to the next chapter. You may even want to repeat this process several times over the course of a year, cementing each trait into your character.

Everything rises and falls on leadership. And leadership truly develops from the inside out. If you can become the leader you ought to be on the inside, you will be able to become the leader you want to be on the outside. (xi)

1. CHARACTER: Be a Piece of the Rock

Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence – Bernard Montgomery, British Field Marshal

Never “for the sake of peace and quiet” deny your own experience or convictions. – Dag Hammarskjold, Statesman and Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

Crisis doesn’t necessarily make character, but it certainly does reveal it. Adversity is a crossroads that makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise. Every time he chooses character, he becomes stronger, even if that choice brings negative consequences. (4)

  1. Character is more than talk. Anyone can say that he has integrity, but action is the real indicator of character.
  2. Talent is a gift, but character is a choice. In fact, we create it every time we make choices — to cop out or dig out of a hard situation, to bend the truth or stand under the weight of it, to take the easy money or pay the price.
  3. Character brings lasting success with people. Followers do not trust leaders whose character they know to be flawed, and they will not continue following them.
  4. Leaders cannot rise above the limitations of their character. Steven Berglas, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of The Success Syndrome, says that people who achieve great heights but lack the bedrock character to sustain them through the stress are headed for disaster. He believes they are destined for one or more of the four A’s: arrogance, painful feelings of aloneness, destructive adventure-seeking, or adultery.

To improve your character, do the following:

  • Search for the cracks. Spend some time looking at the major areas of your life (work, marriage, family, service, etc.), and identify anywhere you might have cut corners, compromised, or let people down.
  • Look for patterns.
  • Face the music. The beginning of character repair comes when you face your flaws, apologize, and deal with the consequences of your actions.
  • Rebuild. Create a plan that will prevent you from making the same mistakes again.

2. CHARISMA: The First Impression Can Seal the Deal

How can you have charisma? Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are making them feel good about you. – Dan Reiland

I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism – Charles Schwab

To make yourself the kind of person who attracts others, you need to personify these pointers:

  1. Love Life. John Wesley said, “when you set yourself on fire, people love to come and see you burn.”
  2. Put a “10” on Every Person’s Head. Benjamin Disraeli said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”
  3. Give People Hope
  4. Share Yourself.

If people are not naturally attracted to you, and you are not well liked, you may possess one of these roadblocks to charisma:

  • Pride. Nobody wants to follow a leader who thinks he is better than everyone else.
  • Insecurity. If you are uncomfortable with who you are, others will be too.
  • Moodiness. If people never know what to expect from you, they stop expecting anything.
  • Perfectionism. People respect the desire for excellence, but dread totally unrealistic expectations.
  • Cynicism. People don’t want to be rained on by someone who sees a cloud around every silver lining.

To improve your charisma, do the following:

  • Change your focus. Observe your interaction with people during the next few days. As you talk to others, determine how much of your conversation is concentrated on yourself. Determine to tip the balance in favor of focusing on others.
  • Play the first impression game. Try an experiment. The next time you meet someone for the first time, try your best to make a good impression. Learn the person’s name. Focus on his interests. Be positive. And most important, treat him as a “10.” If you can do this for a day, you can do it every day. And that will increase your charisma overnight.
  • Share yourself. Make it your long-term goal to share your resources with others. Think about how you can add value to five people in your life this year. They can be family members, colleagues, employees, or friends. Provide resources to help them grow personally and professionally, and share your personal journey with them.

3. COMMITMENT: It Separates Doers from Dreamers

People do not follow uncommitted leaders. Commitment can be displayed in a full range of matters to include the work hours you choose to maintain, how you work to improve your abiliti8es, or what you do for your fellow workers at personal sacrifice. – Stephen Gregg, Chairman and CEO of Ethix Corp.

He who has done his best for his own time has lived for all times. – Johann von Schiller, Playwright

What is the true nature of commitment?

  1. Commitment Starts in the Heart. “Heart is what separates the good from the great.” – Michael Jordan.
  2. Commitment Is Tested by Action. “Nothing is easier than saying words. Nothing is harder than living them day after day.” – Arthur Gordon.
  3. Commitment Opens the Door to Achievement. “Commitment is the enemy of resistance, for it is the serious promise to press on, to get up, no matter how many times you are knocked down.” – David McNally

When it comes to commitment, there are really only four types of people:

  1. Cop-outs. People who have no goals and do not commit.
  2. Holdouts. People who don’t know if they can reach their goals, so they’re afraid to commit.
  3. Dropouts. People who start toward a goal but quit when the going gets tough.
  4. All-outs. People who set goals, commit to them, and pay the price to reach them.

To improve your commitment, do the following:

  • Measure it.
  • Know what’s worth dying for.
  • Use the Edison method. When he had a good idea for an invention, he would call a press conference to announce it. Then he’d go into his lab and invent it. Make your plans public, and you might be more committed to following through with them.

4. COMMUNICATION: Without It You Travel Alone

Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter. – Gilbert Amelio, President and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp.

Educators take something simple and make it complicated. Communicators take something complicated and make it simple – John Maxwell.

You can be a more effective communicator if you follow four basic truths.

  1. Simplify Your Message. “Be clear, be clear, be clear.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
  2. See the Person. It is impossible to effectively communicate to an audience without knowing something about them. People believe in great communicators because great communicators believe in people.
  3. Show the Truth. “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” – Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch. Second, live what you say. There is no greater credibility than conviction in action.
  4. Seek a Response. Every time you speak to people, give them something to feel, something to remember, and something to do.

To improve your communication, do the following:

  • Be clear as a bell.
  • Refocus your attention.
  • Live your message.

5. COMPETENCE: If you Build It, They Will Come

Competence goes beyond words. It’s the leader’s ability to say it, plan it, and do it in such a way that others know that you know how — and know that they want to follow you. – John Maxwell

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water. – John Gardner

If you want to cultivate high competence, here’s what you need to do.

  1. Show Up Every Day. — no matter how you feel, what kind of circumstances you face, or how difficult you expect the game to be.
  2. Keep Improving. The person who knows how will always have a job, but the person who knows why will always be the boss.
  3. Follow Through with Excellence. “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” – Willa A. Foster.
  4. Accomplish More than Expected.
  5. Inspire Others

To improve your competence, do the following:

  • Get your head in the game. Reengage…give your work an appropriate amount of your undivided attention. And, figure out why you have been detached.
  • Redefine the standard.
  • Find three ways to improve.

6. COURAGE: One Person with Courage Is a Majority

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities … because it is the quality which guarantees all others. – Winston Churchill

Courage is fear that has said its prayers. – Karl Barth

As you approach the tough decisions that challenge you, recognize these truths about courage:

  1. Courage Begins with an Inward Battle. “All significant battles are waged within self.” – Sheldon Kopp. Courage isn’t an absence of fear. It’s doing what you are afraid to do.
  2. Courage is Making Things Right, Not Just Smoothing Them Over. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr. Courage deals with principle, not perception.
  3. Courage in a Leader Inspires Commitment from Followers. “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” – Billy Graham. “Leadership is the expression of courage that compels people to do the right thing” – Jim Mellado
  4. Your Life Expands in Proportion to Your Courage. “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” – Tacitus. “Fear not that your life will come to an end but that it will never have a beginning.” – John Henry Newman

To improve your courage, do the following:

  • Face the music. Go out and do something stretching simply for the sake of growing in courage.
  • Talk to that person. Most people are avoiding confrontation with someone in their lives. If that’s true for you, talk to that person this week. Don’t dump on him or abuse him. Speak the truth in love.
  • Take a giant step. If it’s the right thing to do, then do it.

7. DISCERNMENT: Put an End to Unsolved Mysteries

Smart leaders believe only half of what they hear. Discerning leaders know which half to believe. – John Maxwell.

The first rule of holes; When you’re in one, stop digging. – Molly Ivins

Discernment can be described as the ability to find the root of the matter, and it relies on intuition as well as rational thought.  Effective leaders need discernment, although even good leaders don’t display it all the time. For example, read the following comments made by leaders, which I like to think of as famous last words:

I tell you Wellington is a bad general, the English are bad soldiers; we will settle the matter by lunch time. – Napoleon Bonaparte at breakfast with his generals preceding the Battle of Waterloo (1815)

I think there is a world market for about five computers – Thomas J. Watson, chairman of IBM (1943)

I don’t need bodyguards. – Jimmy Hoffa, one moth before his disappearance (1975)

Discernment is an indispensable quality for any leader who desires to maximize effectiveness. It helps to do several important things:

  1. Discover the Root Issues. “Organizational effectiveness does not lie in that narrowminded concept called rationality. It lies in the blend of clearheaded logic and powerful intuition.” – Henry Mintzberg
  2. Enhance Your Problem Solving.
  3. Evaluate Your Options for Maximum Impact.
  4. Multiply Your Opportunities.

To improve your discernment, do the following:

  • Analyze past successes. If you can capture the heart of the matter in a few words, you can probably learn to do it with future issues.
  • Learn how others think.
  • Listen to your gut.

8. FOCUS: The Sharper It Is, the Sharper You Are

If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things. – Margaret Mead

How should you focus your time and energy?

  • Focus 70 Percent on Strengths. “The great mystery isn’t that people do things badly but that they occasionally do a few things well. The only thing that is universal is incompetence. Strength is always specific!” – Peter Drucker.
  • Focus 25 Percent on New Things. Don’t forget: in leadership, if you’re through growing, you’re through.
  • Focus 5 Percent on Areas of Weakness.

To get back on focus, do these things:

  • Work on yourself.
  • Work at your priorities.
  • Work in your strengths
  • Work with your contemporaries.

To improve your focus, do the following:

  • Shift to strengths.
  • Staff your weaknesses.
  • Create an edge.

Experienced animal trainers take a stool with them when they step into a cage with a lion. Why a stool? It tames a lion better than anything — except maybe a tranquilizer gun. When the trainer holds the stool with the legs extended toward the lion’s face, the animal tries to focus on all four legs at once. And that paralyzes him. Divided focus always works against you. (57)

9. GENEROSITY: Your Candle Loses Nothing When It Lights Another

No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave. – Calvin Coolidge

Giving is the highest level of living. – John Maxwell

Cultivate the quality of generosity in your life. Here’s how:

  1. Be Grateful for Whatever You Have. If you’re not content with little, you won’t be content with a lot. And if you’re not generous with little, you won’t suddenly change if you become wealthy.
  2. Put People First. The measure of a leader is not the number of people who serve him, but the number of people he serves.
  3. Don’t Allow the Desire for Possessions Control You. “Owning things is an obsession in our culture. If we own it, we feel we can control it; and if we can control it, we feel it will give us more pleasure. The idea is an illusion.” – Richard Foster. If you want to be in charge of your heart, don’t allow possessions to take charge of you.
  4. Regard Money as a Resource. “Money is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. If it gets on top and you get under it, you will become its slave.” – E. Stanley Jones
  5. Develop the Habit of Giving. Andrew Carnegie said that the life of a wealthy person should have two periods: a time of acquiring wealth and one of redistributing it. (“Gospel of Wealth”) “Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed.” – Richard Foster. If you’re enslaved by greed, you cannot lead.

To improve your generosity, do the following:

  • Give something away.
  • Put your money to work.
  • Find someone to mentor.

“All that is not given is lost.” – Rabindranath Tagore, Indian poet.

10. INITIATIVE: You Won’t Leave Home Without It

Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit. – Conrad Hilton

Of all the things a leader should fear, complacency should head the list. – John Maxwell

What qualities do leaders possess that enable them to make things happen? I see at least four.

  1. They Know What They Want. “The starting point of all achievement is desire.” – Napoleon Hill.
  2. They Push Themselves to Act. “You can if you will.” “There is nothing brilliant or outstanding in my record, except perhaps this one thing: I do the things that I believe ought to be done…And when I make up my mind to do a thing, I act.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
  3. They Take More Risks. “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” – John F. Kennedy.
  4. They Make More Mistakes. “The way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” – Thomas J. Watson. “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert Kennedy.

To improve your initiative, do the following:

  • Change your mind-set.
  • Don’t wait for opportunity to knock.
  • Take the next step.

11. LISTENING: To Connect with Their Hearts, Use Your Ears

The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people – Woodrow Wilson

A good leader encourages followers to tell him what he needs to know, not what he wants to hear. – John Maxwell

Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand. But before a leader can touch a person’s heart, he has to know what’s in it. He learns that by listening. (77) Keep your ear open to these people:

  1. Your followers. “Many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request.” – Philip Stanhope.
  2. Your customers. “Unhappy customers are always a concern. They’re also your greatest opportunity.” – Bill Gates.
  3. Your competitors. “I remind myself every morning: nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King.
  4. Your mentors

To improve your listening, do the following:

  • Change your schedule.
  • Meet people on their turf.
  • Listen between the lines.

12. PASSION: Take This Life and Love It

When a leader reaches out in passion, he is usually met with an answering passion. – John Maxwell

Anyone can dabble, but once you’ve made that commitment, your blood has that particular thing in it, and it’s very hard for people to stop you. – Bill Cosby

If you look at the lives of effective leaders, you will find that they often don’t fit into a stereotypical mold. For example, more than 50 percent of all CEOs of Fortune 500 companies had C or C- averages in college. Nearly 75 percent of all U.S. presidents were in the bottom half of their school classes. And more than 50 percent of all millionaire entrepreneurs never finished college. What makes it possible for people who might seem ordinary to achieve great things? The answer is passion. Nothing can take the place of passion in a leader’s life. (83)

Four truths about passion:

  1. Passion is the first step to achievement. The stronger your fire, the greater the desire — and the greater the potential.
  2. Passion increases your willpower.
  3. Passion changes you.
  4. Passion makes the impossible possible.

To increase your passion, do the following:

  • Take your temperature. Get an honest assessment by querying several coworkers and your spouse about your level of desire.
  • Return to your first love. think back to what really turned your crank. What could you spend hours and hours doing?
  • Associate with people of passion. Passion is contagious.

13. POSITIVE ATTITUDE: If You Believe You Can, You Can

The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind. – William James

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him. – David Brinkley

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas Edison

To learn more about what it means to be positive, think on these things:

  1. Your attitude is a choice. “The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances.” – Victor Frankl.
  2. Your attitude determines your actions. The winner’s edge is not in a gifted birth, a high IQ, or in talent. The winner’s edge is all in the attitude, not aptitude. Attitude is the criterion for success.” – Denis Waitley
  3. Your people are a mirror of your attitude. “If the only thing we leave our kids is the quality of enthusiasm, we will have given them an estate of incalculable value.” – Thomas Edison.
  4. Maintaining a good attitude is easier than regaining one. “Pity is one of the noblest emotions available to human beings; self-pity is possibly the most ignoble … [It is an incapacity, a crippling emotinoal disease that severely distorts our perception of reality … a narcotic that leaves its addicts wasted and derelict.” – Eugene Peterson in Earth and Altar.

To improve your attitude, do the following:

  • Feed yourself the right “food.” The more negative you are, the longer it will take to turn your attitude around. But if you consume a steady diet of the right “food,” you can become a positive thinker.
  • Achieve a goal every day.
  • Write it on your wall

14. PROBLEM SOLVING: You Can’t Let Your Problems Be a Problem

You can measure a leader by the problems he tackles. He always looks for ones his own size. – John Maxwell

The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year. – John Foster Dulles

Leaders with good problem-solving ability demonstrate five qualities:

  1. They Anticipate Problems. I heard a story about David Livingstone, the missionary to Africa, that illustrates the kind of attitude leaders need. A mission organization wanted to send helpers to Dr. Livingstone, so its leaders wrote, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to send other men to join you.” Livingstone replied, “If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come even if there is no road at all.”
  2. They Accept the Truth. “In times like these it is good to remember that there have always been times like these.” – Paul Harvey.
  3. They See the Big Picture. The majority see the obstacles; the few see the objectives; history records the successes of the latter, while oblivion is the road of the former.” – Alfred Armand Montapert.
  4. They Handle One Thing at a Time “Never try to solve all the problems at once — make them line up for you one-by-one.” – Richard Sloma.
  5. They Don’t Give Up a Major Goal When They’re Down. “I never decide whether it’s time to retire during training camp.” – Bob Christian

To improve your problem solving, do the following:

  1. Look for trouble. Don’t avoid problems, go looking for them.
  2. Develop a method. Try using TEACH (Time–spend time to discover the real issue. Exposure–find out what others have done. Assistance–have your team study all angles. Creativity–brainstorm multiple solutions. Hit it–implement the best solution.
  3. Surround yourself with problem solvers.

15. RELATIONSHIPS: If You Get Along, They’ll Go Along

The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people. – Theodore Roosevelt

People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. – John Maxwell

What can a person do to manage and cultivate good relationships as a leader? It requires three things:

  1. Have a Leader’s Head — Understand People. The soft factor in leadership — treating people differently — is your ability to adapt your leadership style to the person you’re leading.
  2. Have a Leader’s Heart — Love People. “Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men.” – Albert Einstein
  3. Extend a Leader’s Hand — Help People. “The fields of industry are strewn with the bones of those organizations whose leadership became infested with dryrot, who believed in taking instead of giving … who didn’t realize that the only assets that could not be replaced easily were the human ones.” – Le Roy H. Kurtz of General Motors.

To improve your relationships, do the following:

  • Improve your mind. Read books, and spend time observing people and talking to them to apply what you’ve learned.
  • Strengthen your heart. Don’t wait until you feel like it to help others. Act your way into feeling.
  • Repair a hurting relationship. Think of a valued long-term relationship that has faded. Do what you can to rebuild it. Get in touch with the person and try to reconnect. If you had a falling out, take responsibility for your part in it, and apologize. Try to better understand, love, and serve that person.

16. RESPONSIBILITY: If You Won’t Carry the Ball, You Can’t Lead the Team

Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility .. In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsbility. – Michael Korda

A leader can give up anything — except final responsibility. – John Maxwell

“If you want to get rich, invest in victimization. It is America’s fastest growing industry.” – Haddon Robinson (114)

Take a look at the following characteristics of people who embrace responsibility:

  1. They Get the Job Done. They think of themselves as self-employed.
  2. They Are Willing to Go the Extra Mile.
  3. They Are Driven by Excellence. “Stress comes from doing less than you can.” – Jim Rohn
  4. They Produce Regardless of the Situation. “It is priceless to find a person who will take responsibility, who will finish and follow through to the final detail — to know when someone has accepted an assignment that it will be effectively, conscientiously completed.” – Richard L. Evans in An Open Road.

Gilbert Arland offers this advice: “When an archer misses the mark he turns and looks for the fault within himself. Failure to hit the bull’s-eye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim, improve yourself.” (116)

To improve your responsibility, do the following:

  • Keep hanging in there. Creativity can bring responsibility to life.
  • Admit what’s not good enough. Maybe you’ve lowered your standards. Make changes to set higher standards.
  • Find better tools. Do whatever it takes to become better at what you do.

17. SECURITY: Competence Never Compensates for Insecurity

You can’t lead people if you need people. – John Maxwell

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it – Andrew Carnegie

Insecure leaders are dangerous — to themselves, their followers, and the organizations they lead — because a leadership position amplifies personal flaws. Whatever negative baggage you have in life only gets more difficult to bear when you’re trying to lead others. (121)

Insecure leaders have several common traits:

  1. They Don’t Provide Security for Others. “You cannot give what you do not have.”
  2. They Take More from People than They Give.
  3. They Continually Limit Their Best People.
  4. They Continually Limit the Organization.

To improve your security, do the following:

  • Know yourself.
  • Give away the credit.
  • Get some help.

“Nothing is a greater impediment to being on good terms with others than being ill at ease with yourself.” – Honore de Balzac in The Human Comedy. (124)

18. SELF- DISCIPLINE: The First Person You Lead Is You

The first and best victory is to conquer self. – Plato

A man without decision of character can never be said to belong to himself … He belongs to whatever can make captive of him. – John Foster

If you want to become a leader for whom self-discipline is an asset, follow these action points:

  1. Develop and Follow Your Priorities. “To do important tasks, two things are necessary: a plan and not quite enough time.” – anonymous.
  2. Make a Disciplined Lifestyle Your Goal.
  3. Challenge Your Excuses. “Almost all our faults are more pardonable than the methods we think up to hide them.” – Francois La Rochefoucauld.
  4. Remove Rewards Until the Job Is Done. “Any business or industry that pays equal rewards to its goof-offs and its eager-beavers sooner or later will find itself with more goof-offs than eager-beavers.” – Mike Delaney.
  5. Stay Focused on Results.

Author H. Jackson Brown Jr. quipped, “Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.” (130)

To improve your self-discipline, do the following:

  • Sort out your priorities.
  • List the reasons. Post the benefits of practicing your disciplines where you will see them daily.
  • Get rid of excuses. Don’t leave yourself any reasons to quit.

A nursery in Canada displays this sign on its wall: “The best time to plant a tree is twenty-five years ago…The second best time is today.”

19. SERVANTHOOD: To Get Ahead, Put Others First

The true leader serves. Serves people. Serves their best interests, and in so doing will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by loving concern rather than a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price. – Eugene B. Habecker

You’ve got to love your people more than your position. – John Maxwell.

What does it mean to embody the quality of servanthood? A true servant leader:

  1. Puts Others Ahead of His Own Agenda.
  2. Possesses the Confidence to Serve
  3. Initiates Service to Others.
  4. Is Not Position-Conscious.
  5. Serves Out of Love.

If you really want to become the kind of leader that people want to follow, you will have to settle the issue of servanthood. If your attitude is to be served rather than to serve, you may be headed for trouble. If this is an issue in your life, then heed this advice:

Stop lording over people, and start listening to them.
Stop role-playing for advancement, and start risking for others’ benefit.
Stop seeking your own way, and start serving others.

To improve your servanthood, do the following:

  • Perform small acts. Start with those closest to you.
  • Learn to walk slowly through the crowd. Make your agenda getting to know each person’s needs, wants, and desires.
  • Move into action. Begin serving with your body, and your heart will eventually catch up. Keep at it until your heart changes.

Albert Schweitzer wisely stated, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” (140)

20. TEACHABILITY: To Keep Leading, Keep Learning

Value your listening and reading time at roughly ten times your talking time. This will assure you that you are on a course of continuous learning and self-improvement. – Gerald McGinnis

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. – John Wooden

Leaders face the danger of contentment with the status quo. Why should we keep growing? Simple:

Your growth determines who you are.
Who you are determines who you will attract.
Who you attract determines the successes of your organization.

Five guidelines to help you cultivate and maintain a teachable attitude:

  1. Cure Your Destination Disease. “As long as you’re green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot.” – Ray Kroc.
  2. Overcome Your Success. If you have been successful in the past, beware.
  3. Swear Off Shortcuts. “The longest distance between two points is a shortcut.” – Nancy Dornan.
  4. Trade In Your Pride. “The greatest mistake one can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard. Emerson wrote, “For everything you gain, you lose something.” To gain growth, give up your pride.
  5. Never Pay Twice for the Same Mistake. “He who makes no mistakes makes no progress.” – Teddy Roosevelt. That’s true. But the leader who keeps making the same mistakes also makes no progress.

To improve your teachability, do the following:

  • Observe how you react to mistakes. Do you admit your mistakes? Do you apologize when appropriate?
  • Try something new. Challenges change us for the better.
  • Learn in your area of strength. Continuing to learn in an area where you are already an expert prevents you from becoming jaded and unteachable.

21. VISION: You Can Seize Only What You Can See

A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes form passion, not position. – John Maxwell

The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious. – John Sculley

To get a handle on vision and how it comes to be a part of a good leader’s life, understand these things:

  1. Vision Starts Within.
  2. Vision Draws on Your History.
  3. Vision Meets Others’ Needs.
  4. Vision Helps You Gather Resources. Edwin Land the founder of Polaroid, advised, “The first thing you do is teach the person to feel that the vision is very important and nearly impossible. That draws out the drive in winners.”

To find the vision that is indispensable to leadership, you have to become a good listener. You must listen to several voices.

  • The Inner Voice.
  • The Unhappy Voice. Notice what doesn’t work. Discontent with the status quo is a great catalyst for vision.
  • The Successful Voice.
  • The Higher Voice. A truly valuable vision must have God in it.

To improve your vision, do the following:

  • Measure yourself. Talk to several key people, such as your spouse, a close friend, and key employees, asking them to state what they think your vision is. If they can articulate it, then you are probably living it.
  • Write it down.
  • Do a gut check. What makes you cry? What makes you dream? What gives you energy?