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3 Qualities of Effective, Big-Picture Leaders

By Maxwell Leadership | December 16, 2022
3 Qualities of Effective, Big-Picture Leaders

Have you ever had someone walk into your life, and everything became bigger and brighter when you met them? Their vision compelled you to see things so differently, changing your entire outlook. John Maxwell had that experience.

Elmer Towns, one of John’s first mentors, entered his life when he was 24. When John was with him, John felt moved out of his comfort zone, and his perspective stretched. Elmer had a picture for life that was bigger than himself. Not only did he see it for himself, he saw it for others, too. John was influenced to have a big-picture mindset from that moment on.

It’s possible for anyone to develop a big-picture mindset, and therefore, experience success and significance in their life and leadership. John Maxwell says, “To seize new opportunities and open new horizons, you need to add big-picture thinking to your abilities.”

Here’s how one leader in the education sphere developed their big-picture mindset.

Big-Picture Thinking Makes Big Waves

Brittne is a teacher at a South Carolina elementary school. She became a core participant trained in iLead this year to build excitement and understanding for Transformation Tables before it was rolled out to all the schools in the state. iLead is a values-based leadership curriculum inspired by the leadership lessons of John Maxwell. Students meet in small groups called Transformation Tables where they practice their emerging leadership skills while encouraging connection and inclusivity, develop better relationships with their peers, find their voice, and take action to lead themselves in alignment with good values.​

During the training, she was significantly impacted in her own life when she heard the stories of the people sitting at the table with her. It became apparent to her that iLead was more than a skills development curriculum: it offered a pathway for powerful, positive change.

The experience transformed Brittne – she not only caught the vision of iLead, but she moved into action. She took iLead back to her school with passion and purpose. She trained eight more teachers and immediately began implementing Transformation Tables among the students. She became a model of values-based leadership in her school, and equipped other teachers and students to do the same.

How can you become a big-picture leader and begin making a difference? Here are three ways:


Great leaders always seem to embody two seemingly dissonant qualities: they are highly visionary and highly practical. Their vision enables them to see beyond the immediate. They envision what’s coming and what must be done and possess an understanding of how: 

  1. Mission provides a purpose–answering the question, Why?
  2. Vision provides a picture–answering the question, What?
  3. Strategy provides a plan–answering the question, How?

At the same time, leaders are practical enough to know that vision without action achieves nothing. They make themselves responsible for helping their followers to take action. That cannot be easy because followers often cannot envision the future as the leader does. They lose track of the big picture. Why? Because vision tends to leak. 

Brittne didn’t just catch the vision of iLead; she acted on it. She began to cast vision for other teachers in her school by taking action to involve them in the program. Her ability to do both created the environment for big-picture thinking to spread to the entire school.


Leaders are stewards of the vision, but many leaders are tempted to merely communicate about the vision. Don’t get me wrong: communication is certainly important. Good leaders must communicate the vision clearly, creatively, and continually. But that is not enough. John Maxwell says, “People do what people see.” Good leaders are always conscious that they are setting the example and that others will do what they do, for better or worse. In general, the better the leader’s actions, the better the people’s. 

Brittne first implemented iLead in her own classroom. She didn’t recommend the other teachers to do the program until she had done it for herself – and saw effective results that would influence others! 

Simply said, the leader must live the vision. The leader’s effective modeling of the vision makes the picture come alive!


The leaders who make the most significant impact often lead well amid uncertainty. When times are tough, tension is high, and chaos threatens to overwhelm everyone, followers need a clear picture from their leaders the most. That’s when they need a big-picture leader the most. The living picture they see in their leader produces energy, passion, and motivation to keep going. 

Many teachers like Brittne see how young people are hurting, conflicted, and morally confused by negative influences on social media and in popular culture. Into that uncertainty, she has been able to offer a way for her students to gain values and tools that will transform not only their lives, but the lives of those around them.

Start developing your big-picture thinking.

You develop big-picture thinking when you connect with a great mission. Just like Brittne was invited, the Maxwell Leadership Foundation invites you to be a part of the mission of iLead. 

iLead is pouring into the next generation of students around the world — developing young people through values-based content and best practices that will transform not only their lives, but help them transform lives around them. 

iLead is for students, but it allows teachers to feel fulfilled in their purpose and to connect with their student in a big-picture way. 

And now, it’s time to bring it home — to launch a new chapter of our proven-powerful iLead curriculum right here in the United States!

  • South Carolina has approved iLead in all public schools — and other states are starting to explore the opportunity, too.
  • In pilot programs across the USA, we’re already seeing students being transformed by iLead!

You can be the one who empowers teachers like Brittne to have a big-picture mindset and to help train the next generation of leaders for a brighter tomorrow!

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