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Celebrating 300 Episodes: 7 Leadership Lessons Learned Producing the Maxwell Leadership Podcast

By Jake Decker | April 2, 2024
Celebrating 300 Episodes: 7 Leadership Lessons Learned Producing the Maxwell Leadership Podcast

Hi, friends. Jake Decker here. I serve as Maxwell Leadership’s podcast producer and director of content development. Those may be my titles, but my drive is to equip others in their journey of self-discovery.

After 300 episodes, 35 million downloads, and countless stories of impact, the journey of producing the Maxwell Leadership Podcast has been nothing short of transformative. In celebration of our 300th episode, I’d like to share 7 of the biggest and hardest lessons I’ve learned throughout producing the Maxwell Leadership Podcast. But before I do, I would be remiss if I did not first thank our listeners. If you listen to the podcast, you know that you are the reason the podcast exists in the first place. Thank you for carrying our vision of impact from me to we and impacting countless lives by putting to action the principles you learn in each episode.


The first lesson I learned was the quickest as well––starting is the hardest part. On the other side of starting is uncertainty and risk. Stepping into the unknown can be daunting. For this reason, I think the biggest obstacle to starting is fear. The late Irish poet John O’Donohue defined fear as “negative wonder.” That idea is so helpful to me when I get stuck taking the next step. I’m the kind of person that can stifle my own progress by focusing too much on all the obstacles to overcome to make a new endeavor successful. I like to have all my ducks in a row. Unfortunately, ducks are hard to catch, and they don’t like to sit still––and the mean ones bite.

But when I marvel and wonder at the big picture––at the possibilities––I find myself no longer asking, “What if this fails?” I start asking, “What if this works?” Most of the time, the answer to the first question pales in comparison to the second. If the podcast failed, we simply would have wasted some time and energy. But if it succeeded, we would impact countless lives and leaders. That was worth the risk, and it continues to pay off.


When we started the podcast, I had recently come off living on the road full-time as a musician. At the time I was certain that the way––the only way––I would positively impact the lives of others was through music. I was taking a break from touring and was contracting with Maxwell Leadership at the time when one of my leaders, Richard Chancy, had the idea to start the podcast. The goal was to repurpose older recordings from John Maxwell’s tape club archives into new podcast episodes. After all, why let them sit in a closet collecting dust when they could be making a positive difference? It was up to me to curate the content, produce the episodes, and build the online ecosystem. This undertaking started out a bit tedious. But things changed when I started to write the content for the first episode. This felt familiar to me. It felt like writing a song––it starts with a blank page, a blinking cursor, and great anticipation.

We had no idea how the podcast would perform. But, to our astonishment, the podcast received 87,000 downloads in the first month! So, whether I was writing songs or writing content, the podcast showed me that there was more than one way to live out my purpose through writing. One of our past podcast guests, Dr. Caroline Leaf, says it best: “Your purpose is not what you do; it’s what happens within others when you do what you do.”


A few years ago, I was leading someone who was not showing up––literally and figuratively––to work. This often left me scrambling to keep the podcast on track. Leadership mistake #1: I started to take this personally. They promised it wouldn’t happen again. And then it did, over and over. I was at my wits’ end. 

So, I had to develop a game plan––one that both accomplished the work that needed to be done and that empowered the person I was leading. It was around that time I was developing an episode called “Leading Difficult Personalities.” In the episode, John teaches how to build a game plan in this very type of conflict:

  1. Lead according to their dream.
  2. Coach according to their weakness.
  3. Mentor according to their potential.
  4. Delegate according to their strengths.
  5. Relate according to their temperament/personality.

Implementing this, I realized we’d overlooked crucial aspects of the hiring process: number 1 and 4. I didn’t know this person’s dream, and I didn’t have a good idea of their strengths outside of their technical skills. We had not hired someone who aligned with the position. Both of us were frustrated and felt stuck. But now, we understood the best way forward, and we both grew in the process.

Leadership isn’t just about managing systems; it’s about people. And people, by nature, are complex. Leaders have to embrace the messiness because it’s within this complexity that true leadership emerges. It’s in the messy moments of connection, growth, and collaboration that the beauty of leadership reveals itself and reveals more of ourselves.


John Maxwell is well known for saying, “Everything worthwhile is uphill, all the way.” Success rarely comes without its share of challenges, setbacks, and hard work. My experience producing this podcast has taught me that any endeavor that positively impacts the lives of others will be twice as hard as you anticipate and ten times more fulfilling than you anticipate.

It’s essential to maintain a positive outlook and believe in the potential for success, but it’s equally important to be prepared for the obstacles along the way. So, embrace the journey, both its highs and lows, and let them fuel your determination to press forward.


Every episode of the Maxwell Leadership Podcast carries a message aimed at adding value to leaders who multiply value to others. This purpose is the lens through which we filter our content, our promotional offerings, and our language. And this lens is crucial for anyone in the people business. Oh, by the way, everyone is in the people business. The root of every leadership book, marketing strategy book, or personal growth book I’ve read shares this one common trait: success happens when you exist to serve others rather than yourself.

So, our episodes are not aimed at gaining more listeners, or building a bigger audience, or seeing bigger revenue. Our goal is to help you achieve those things. And in doing so, the podcast achieves those things as a byproduct. This is what makes leadership so paradoxical. If you want to succeed, you should help others succeed. If you want to sit at the head of the table, help others get to the head of the table. If you want to make an impact, help others make an impact. But, in order for this to work, your primary objective must be the success of others.


Unlike John Maxwell or Mark Cole, I’m not an avid golfer. I have golfed once. On the very first hole I ever played I swung and hit a shot that landed within 5 yards of the hole. My friends’ jaws dropped, which suggested that was a very good shot. I thought, “Wow, this is pretty easy!” I did not think that by the second hole, though. Turns out, I’m a pretty bad golfer. But I could have convinced anyone on the first hole that I was a professional. I was great once (by pure luck), but I wasn’t great consistently. That’s the difference between amateurs and professionals.

In leadership, consistency builds trust and stability within relationships. On a podcast, it builds trust and stability with your listeners. The Maxwell Leadership Podcast currently stands as the number one leadership podcast on Apple Podcasts. And much of this is due to consistency. When listeners return to the podcast, they know that they will always leave with more knowledge as a leader, practical ways to apply that knowledge, and more confidence in their leadership than they had before hitting the play button.

I also have to give major kudos to our hosts, past and present, for helping us stay consistent. Because leadership can be emotionally taxing, I know there have been days where the last thing our hosts wanted to do was record a podcast. They may have just left a tough meeting or received difficult news. But they know that if they carry that energy into an episode, it will negatively affect the listener experience, and the podcast will end up being less engaging. So, they consistently show up with a positive attitude, positive energy, and a readiness to serve. In fact, I jokingly give Mark Cole a hard time because it doesn’t matter what mood he’s in, whenever I ask him how he’s doing, he always emphatically answers, “I’m exceptional!”


True leadership begins from within. It’s about knowing yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your values. Investing in yourself––in your own growth––isn’t selfish like some may think; it’s essential. Only when you take care of yourself can you effectively lead and serve others. You can’t pour from an empty cup. This is something I believe wholeheartedly. John best sums this up by saying, “You cannot give what you do not have.” It also makes me think of the quote by peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh: “To love without knowing how to love hurts the person we love.” I think the same thing about leadership: to lead without knowing how to lead hurts the people we lead. So, when it comes to growth, start with yourself; but when it comes to success, start with others.

As we celebrate 300 episodes of the Maxwell Leadership Podcast, I’m reminded that the journey is far from over. With each lesson learned, each milestone reached, we continue to evolve, grow, and inspire. Here’s to the next 300 episodes and beyond, as we continue to lead, learn, and leave a legacy that lasts.

Are you developing daily as a leader?

Whether today is day 1, day 300, or day 10,000 of your leadership development journey, your growth guarantees that tomorrow will be better than today. And here’s one step you can take toward development: discover John Maxwell’s 5 steps for shifting from goals to growth in this free 30-minute teaching.

About the author

Jake Decker has served Maxwell Leadership’s team, tribe, and purpose for more than 6 years producing and overseeing the production of our digital content. He is also a husband and longtime singer-songwriter. If you would like to listen or learn more about our family of podcasts, please visit

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