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High Road Leadership Preview: 3 Ways High Road Leaders Keep from Keeping Score

By Maxwell Leadership | April 23, 2024
High Road Leadership Preview: 3 Ways High Road Leaders Keep from Keeping Score

The following blog post is an adapted excerpt from John Maxwell’s upcoming book, High Road Leadership: Bringing People Together in a World That Divides, releasing May 7. Click here to preorder the book today and receive $299 in bonuses.

Keeping score may appear to be a way not to get behind in life. Or it may look like a way to get ahead in leadership. But the reality is that the practice drags us and others down. It puts guilt on others. It creates feelings of unfairness. It becomes an act of control, removes gratitude by poisoning attitude, and breeds entitlement.

English writer and actress Elizabeth Bibesco said, “Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.” That’s at the core of not keeping score. If you have that desire, then I suggest you follow these three pieces of advice:


By definition, “keeping score ” means being in competition with others. People keep score to keep track of who is the winner and who is the loser. Keeping score is appropriate for games but not for relationships. At the same time, if you want to be a successful leader, how can you do that without keeping score? By keeping track.

Keeping track is about my behavior. Keeping score is about yours. Keeping track is about the management of my life, making certain that I do the right things for the right reasons. Keeping score is about the manipulation of your life, controlling you, fostering guilt, creating unhealthy comparisons, increasing emotional baggage, and prompting feelings of unfairness.

My greatest leadership challenge every day is leading myself. Keeping track helps me do that. It holds me accountable for what I’m doing before I try to hold you accountable for your actions. Keeping track helps me to improve. It prompts me to ask, Am I a plus instead of a minus in your life? Am I lifting your load instead of being a heavy load? Am I making sure you win when I win?

How can I be certain I’m keeping track and not keeping score? I look for positive outcomes. Keeping score doesn’t usually produce them.I like to think of keeping track as give and forget. I remember what I’m doing to add value to your life but forget what I receive. I’m keeping track of myself, not you. Why? Because you matter! You are much more valuable than the score.


Forgiveness is not about keeping score; it’s about losing count. Highroad leaders forgive others without placing conditions on them. They make that choice because it not only releases the other person from any harm they have caused, but because it also releases the forgiver. Forgiveness allows you to be free from the nightmares of the past so you can reclaim your dreams for the future.

In 1987, I wrote my fourth book, Be All You Can Be. I was very proud of it because I felt I was finally getting the hang of this book-writing thing. But then I got a call from my friend David Jeremiah.

“John, I just read Be All You Can Be,” he said.

“You did?” I answered quickly, and then listened intently, waiting with great anticipation for the compliments to come.

“Your chapter on Joseph…” Here they come! I thought. “It came from my sermon.”

I was stunned. As he explained, I realized what had happened. I’d received an outline of his message, and it was so good I filed it. But I neglected to write where it came from. Much later when I went looking in my files for ideas, I grabbed it and used it to write my chapter, not remembering it was David’s. I felt terrible and I apologized immediately. His response? He forgave me and never mentioned it again. He could have kept score and held it against me, but he didn’t. That’s what high-road leaders do. He and I remain friends to this day.


No doubt you’re familiar with the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. But did you know there is such a thing as the Platinum Rule? That says we should treat others better than they treat us. This is the essence of not keeping score. Really, it’s the essence of high-road leadership. It means not keeping a record of wrongs done to us, retaliating, or holding grudges. It means being kind to others, even if they are unkind or indifferent to us.

I like what Swedish scientist and inventor Emanuel Swedenborg said about this:

Kindness is an inner desire that makes us want to do good things even if we do not get anything in return. It is the joy of our life to do them. When we do good things from this inner desire, there is a kindness in everything we think, say, want, and do.

If you cultivate this inner desire to be kind and do good things for others no matter how you’re treated, you can become a high-road leader.

Are you leading on the high road?

We’re living in a world where disagreement reigns and people are divided. Too many leaders are serving themselves. In High Road Leadership, foremost leadership expert John C. Maxwell teaches how to make your leadership rise so that you can bring people together and inspire them to achieve good results together. Click here to preorder the book today before its release on May 7th and receive $299 in bonuses.

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