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​Maxwell Leadership Podcast: Best of John Maxwell at Live2Lead: The Leader’s Greatest Return

October 7, 2020
​Maxwell Leadership Podcast: Best of John Maxwell at Live2Lead: The Leader’s Greatest Return

Today we’re releasing another Best of John Maxwell at Live2Lead! This talk is from last year when John was preparing to release his latest book, The Leader’s Greatest Return. This is one of our favorite messages from John, and we’re confident you’ll learn so much as you listen!

Don’t forget, this year’s Live2Lead is on October 9, 2020, and for the first time we’re going virtual! We have an amazing speaker lineup that we’re stoked to share with you. Get your tickets and learn all about Live2Lead 2020 at!

Our BONUS resource for this episode is the Leader’s Greatest Return Worksheet, which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from John’s teaching. You can download the worksheet by clicking “Download the Bonus Resource” below.


Mark Cole:       Welcome to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. Hello podcast listeners, I'm Mark Cole. Today, John Maxwell is going to give you a lesson and we are excited for what we have for you today. But before we get started, make sure you have visited and click the bonus resource button to download the worksheet for today. That's Believe me, you are going to take some serious notes today. That's because you're going to hear the second of our best of Live2Lead episode from John Maxwell. It comes from last year's event in 2019. If you were not there, it was hands down, in my opinion, one of the best Live2Lead experiences we've ever had. We were featuring Chris Hogan, Rachel Hollis, Angela Ahrendts, and Marcus Buckingham, who joined John Maxwell for a day of leadership and amazing impact. And John was nothing short of John.

He was brilliant. We were preparing to launch his book, The Leader's Greatest Return, and John wanted to speak on a subject as a way of grounding us on the importance of this book. He shared an overview of the book and did a great job of casting the vision for developing more and better leaders. That's a vision we're still chasing today in 2020. Of course the book has been out for a while now, and it's done very well. But since you'll hear John talk about the book as if it's not out yet, just consider yourself ahead of the curve. So, we thought we would clarify upfront to keep anyone from getting confused. You will enjoy the book by purchasing the book. You'll enjoy the talk as John prepares us for the book's release. So, okay, that should cover everything for now, but enjoy with me this episode. Grab your pen, grab your paper, get your worksheet, and give your attention to Dr. John C. Maxwell. Here is John.

John Maxwell:  First of all, I'm excited, because this is our largest L2L simulcasts, 326 sites around the world. And I'm so excited, because our coaches for the John Maxwell team are hosting each one of those sites, because the John Maxwell team and our coaches really helps us to extend our outreach, our influence in an incredible way. They are what I affectionately call the legs to my legacy. And there are some John Maxwell coaches here. Every host side has John Maxwell coaches as hosts, but they also have John Maxwell coaches in Tennessee. And I want to do this, I just want to take one moment because I want to honor you, because so much of who I am and what I do is because of the extension of good people around me that really take and lift the load for me. I want the John Maxwell team coaches here in Atlanta, but in all of our sites, the host, but the other coaches, if you're a John Maxwell team coach, would you just stand, so I can recognize you and honor you, because I love you so much and I'm so proud of you. So proud of you.

Look at her. Huh? I'm so proud of you. Thank you. Wow. Thank you for who you are. Thank you for what you do. And our John Maxwell team coaches are there today in every site to add value to you, to help you, to serve you, and to know you better so that they can make a difference in your life too. So, I know you'll get acquainted with them today, and I'm excited about a book that comes out this coming late winter. I think it comes out in February, not sure, but sometime in there. But it's a book that I've written that I've never shared with anybody. And this is my first time to share it. And I'm very excited, because it's a book I think that's going to really add value to you as a leader. The book is entitled The Leader's Greatest Return. And so, the good news is you get to hear it first. The bad news is I teach you're never good the first time.

So I'm just working on it right now, you follow me? So it's going to be fresh and it's going to be real. But I'm very excited about it, because the greatest way to multiply your influence, your energy, your time, your money is by being able to develop other leaders. You see, 90% of all leaders never develop leaders. They just have followers. And if you have followers, it's a wonderful thing, because you can do a lot with followers. But you begin to compound incredibly and multiply when you develop leaders. I was really, I wrote a book 25 years ago called Developing the Leader Around You. And my publisher asked me to kind of revise it. And I thought it was a good idea, so I started working on Developing the Leader Around You, but I looked at my 25-year-old book. And just to be honest with you, I couldn't revise it. And I couldn't revise it because it really wasn't any good.

Now, if you want to get depressed, write a book. 25 years later read it.

And get real disgusted and say, "Who wrote that?"

(laughs) Hello? It wasn't any good. You can't revise it if it's not any good. Now you say, "Well, John, well, excuse me, that was one of your books." Yeah. Yeah, it really was. It was one of my books and it wasn't really good. Now let me explain something to you. You see when I wrote the book 25 years ago, the book and I were on the same page.

But guess what I've been doing in 25 years. You see 25 years later, I'm here. Where's the book? Down here. You see the book didn't have the privilege of changing like I did. And so I had to go back and look at the book and say, "Wow, this isn't any good." And I don't mean that, I'm not even trying to be humble about it. I would have liked to look back and said, "It's good," but let me tell you something, if you look back 10, 15 years ago what you did and you're still excited about it, you're not growing very much. Yesterday ended last night.

It ended. See, the only guarantee that tomorrow, for me or for you, is going to get better is that we're growing today. It's the only guarantee. When people talk about their future, the key to the future is that I'm still learning and I still have a teachable spirit and I'm still growing. And so, I finally called Mark, I was in the fourth chapter, the first chapter, I didn't use any of the first chapter of the last book, because it wasn't... I didn't have anything to use, I had learned so much more.

The second chapter I got excited, because there was a quote I could use. And I thought, "Oh my gosh. Yeah, that one quote still is good."

Yeah, hooray. And third chapter, nothing. And in the fourth chapter, I finally called Mark and I said, "Mark," I said, "I just I'm having a hard time revising a book. I just know so much more, and I've learned so much more, and I've experienced so much more." And he said, "John, just write a new book." And I thought, "How brilliant.

How brilliant." That's why he's the CEO of the companies. He's just a deep thinker.

He said, "John, you stay with choreography and I'll stay with deep thoughts."

Now, so I wrote a new book, the Leader's Greatest Return. Now developing yourself as a leader is a real challenge, but a much greater challenge is developing other leaders. This is a whole new game. It's much more challenging and it's incredibly more rewarding. It takes much more time. As my good friend, Art Williams said, "I don't promise you it will be easy, but I do promise you it will be worthwhile." And what I'm about to teach you, there's nothing easy about developing the leaders around you. There's nothing easy about developing people and getting this huge return. There's nothing easy about it, but it's incredibly rewarding. So, let's get started. You see, there is a leadership shortage. In 1976, when I made a commitment to spend the rest of my life training and developing leaders, I had no idea what that meant except I knew that was what my calling was.

And I never had an idea that this challenge of developing leaders would never cease that. That every place I go, people needed more leaders and they needed better leaders. And I've never, I've never experienced this, I've been doing this for a long time now, I've never gone to a company and them say, "John, you're going to have to come and help us." "And what's your problem?" "Well, our problem is we have too many great leaders. We're just, I don't know, we're just overrun with leadership. And oh my gosh, they're just building these things and it's... And could you just come and weed out the leaders for us?"

It's never happened. No matter how good you are, if you're growing, there is always a need for leadership. And so, let me just give you just a couple of opening leadership development thoughts. Number one is that when you grow your leaders, you grow your organization. And when you grow more leaders, the growth of your organization has much greater potential. It's almost like grow a leader, grow the people, grow the company, grow the organization. In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, I call it the Law of the Lid. And the Law of the Lid, you know what that law is, the Law of the Lid just simply says how well you lead determines how well you succeed.

And I visually teach it all the time. The Law of the Lid is if from a one to a 10, I'm an average leader, I'm a five. So let me visually show this. So if this is my leadership lid, it's a five out of 10, I'm average. I'm in the middle. If this is my leadership lid, what that means is my organization is going to be a four. It's going to be a four. What's impossible is for me to have five leadership skills, now number five leadership skills and ability, and then to somehow build a company that's a six, seven, eight or nine. It can't happen. It's never happened in the history of mankind. So give it up for yourself. It's not going to happen.

Now, the great news is you can grow in your leadership, we know that. And you can develop your leadership skills. And so you can go, the good news is you can go from a five to a six to a seven to eight. And as you raise your leadership lid, obviously you raise the potential for your organization, for your team. Now that's true with one, but it's also true with two, it's true with three, it's true with four, it's true with five. And when you want to exponentially grow your organization and your team, what you do is you develop more leaders. And the second development thought on leadership and developing leaders is that people overvalue their dream and they undervalue their team. I see it happen all the time, they just get this dream and they get all excited about.

And they tell me about it. They say, "Well, John, this is my dream and this is what I want to accomplish." And I love hearing people's dreams and I love sitting on the other side of the table and encourage him. I love this. And they begin to lay out their dreams. And when they're finished, they kind of run out of gas. I listen till they're dead. The first thing I ask him is, "Well, who's on your team?" Your dream doesn't determine if you reach your dream. Your team determines that. You're only as good as the people around you. And so you make a commitment to developing leaders around. You see, let me explain, let me define a nightmare. Talking about dreams, I'll tell you what a nightmare is. A nightmare is a big dream and a bad team.

And so we make a commitment to learning how to develop leaders. And the latest Leader's Greatest Return is a result of developing what I call a leadership culture. Mark Miller, a great friend of mine with Chick-fil-A who kind of oversees leadership for them, they have an expression at Chick-fil-A that I just love. And that is Mark says, "Leaders made here. We just make leaders at Chick-fil-A. I know we serve chicken, we serve chicken, but what we're really doing is we're making leaders. And a leadership culture is where leaders are routinely and systematically developed, and you have a surplus of leaders ready to take the next opportunity. When I was in my twenties, the first time I heard Zig Ziglar speak, he just mesmerized me. He was such a great communicator, and later on, became a terrific friend. And I remember his definition of success, when he said, "Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have. When you can maximize the ability that you have, you're successful."

But let me just say this, I think success in developing a team is the maximum utilization of the abilities of the players you have around you. That's where success begins to be compound. So here we go, here we go. Chapter one. Chapter one. I'm going to take you in these two sessions through the whole book. And that way you won't have to buy the book.

In fact, let me tell you what's going to be awesome about this. I'm going to give you this stuff, then you go back and share it with your team immediately. And then when the book comes out, say, "John did it to me again. (laughs) I was with him and I was sharing with him and he picked up all my ideas and put every one of them into a book."

Now I'm going to really give you a summary of each chapter, I really am, but I have purposely left out of each chapter integral parts of the success that you'll have to have. And the reason I've purposely left them out is so you will buy the book.

I am not stupid. Okay?

You do understand that. So look at your neighbor and tell them, "Buy the book." Go ahead and tell them, "Buy the book."

Buy the book. All right, here we go. Here we go. Chapter number one is entitled Identifying Leaders. You got to find them so you can develop them. What happens in the leadership arena is often we forget that we have to find them. We assume that they're already there for us to lead. And so we're kind of like the leader that's on top of the mountain and we are looking at all of our people down below. And we're basically saying, "Come on up to me, come on up to me. I'm here. Come on up to me." And let me just say something, your job as a leader is not to be on top of the mountain and ask people to come up and meet you.

Your job as a leader is to get off the mountain and walk slowly through the crowd and look for the leader that you want on your team. And when you find them, your job is to take them up to the mountain with you. And the key is you never climb the mountain alone. If you climb the mountain alone and all of your people are down below, and you're the only one on top, you're not a leader, you're a hiker.

There's a difference. There's a difference. And if you're going to find them, you have to know what they look like. You see, people all the time come to me and they say, "John, well, we need some leaders in the organization." "Well, good. Talk to me, what does a leader look like?" And the moment that I ask him what a leader looks like, I can tell they're in trouble. They're like a deer in the headlights. They're, "Well, we just need some. We need some." Now, you've got to know what they look like to find them. It's like when I go to the airport, sometimes people don't know who I am.

And most of the time what they do is they have an iPad, something like this, and they got it up in the air and they got my name on it. They're in the baggage claim area and they expect me to get off the plane, come through the security, go to the baggage area, look for an arm in the air. Go at the end of the arm, see my name, and read my name. And when I read my name, I go up to them and say, "Hey, I'm John Maxwell." And they tell me this every time, this blows my mind. As soon as I tell them I'm John Maxwell, they say, "I found you!"

Found me? You didn't find me. I found you.

I could've walked right by you, and you would've just been fat, dumb, and happy. You didn't find me, I found you. And so many times we don't have a clue what we're looking for, so we stick a name on it and hope, which is not a strategy. Now there's another kind of person that picks me up at the airport. And they have either one of my books, I hope it's a recent one.

(laughs). That's got the picture in it. You know what I mean? And they're there by the baggage claim and they're doing this number.

"You're John Maxwell." "Well, yes, I am. How'd you know?" "I've got a picture of you right here!"

Now they found me. You see, in identifying leaders, you've got to have a picture of what they look like. That's why several years ago I wrote a book called The 21 Qualities of a Leader. All I did in that book was make a picture book of what does a leader look like, what are qualities of leaders that you can kind of know so that when you see one, you kind of spot them. I love teaching, I don't have time to teach it today, but I love teaching a principle called advanced attraction. And advanced attraction just very simply is when I know what I want and I know what I want to accomplish, I begin to find the people that will allow me to do that. Why? Because I already have a picture of what I want to accomplish, what I want, and now I begin to be able to spot those people that would kind of fit in that picture.

So in identifying leaders, you've got to have a clear picture. Chapter two: Attracting Leaders. Now this is one of my very, very favorite chapters, because I talk in Attracting Leaders in chapter two about invite them to what I call the leadership table. The leadership table is an environment that you have purposely in your company, or on your team, or in your organization that allows them to sit with you and be exposed to leadership. You see, people grow into the conversations that you have around them. And the leadership table is a conscious effort for you to let people that are on your team that have not yet been proven to be leaders, to sit at the table with you.

And at that process of sitting in that table with you, being on leadership discussion and hear leadership interaction, and go into the questions, and just begin to see how leaders work. It's the beginning spot of developing a leader. I love tables. My favorite thing in life, my favorite thing in life is to go to a great restaurant and have great food with people that I greatly love and to ask questions and engage in conversation. I wish you could have been with us last night, I had a few of my team with Marcus Buckingham, and honest to God, we got into a, almost a three hour conversation that is just life-changing. I mean, we all looked at each other when it was all done and we just kind of gulped real big and we all said to ourselves, "If nothing else happened, what happened here tonight is going to take us to, to an entirely new level."

There's something about the table that I just love. It's a place where where you just get to be with people that can help you understand and see leadership to a greater degree. I can remember when I was a very young leader and I was 33 and I went to the West Coast and I was a... My first 25 years, I was a pastor. And I was taking a big church in San Diego. And so they had invited me to come to Los Angeles to go to a large conference and they invited me to be one of the speakers. And I looked at everybody on the thing and they were all bigger, better, faster than me, that was for sure. And I'll never forget going up to LA and saying to myself, "Wow, somebody was nice to me. They were just nice to me, because the people I'm going to be around, they're just bigger, better, faster, smarter than I am."

And I remember walking into a room where there were about 500 people there. And Chuck Swindoll, who was at that time, huge in my world, Chuck Swindoll got up from his table and came rushing up to me and said, "John, I've been waiting for you. I've been watching the door. I've been looking for you." He said, "I want you to sit at my table." And I went over and sat at his table. He said, "I want you to sit right beside me." And on the other side was Lloyd Ogilvie, who was the chapel of the senate, and a whole list of about seven people, bigger, better, faster than me. And I sat beside Chuck and he introduced me to all of them.

And that day, I said to myself, "There's something empowering about having a leadership table where you bring people in to spend some time with you." I would just encourage you, ask yourself, "Where do I monthly have a leadership table where I have some of my key players, but now I'm bringing in some others, other potential players where they can just talk, and interact, and ask questions, and get the feel of how leaders discuss?" I will promise you, if you just start a leadership table, you'll begin to see some of them evolve. Number three: Understanding Leaders. Understanding Leaders in chapter three is all about connect with them before you lead them. In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, there's the Law of Connection, which says, "Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand."

Wow. The great leaders, the great leaders care for you as a person. And they go to the person before they go to the position. And they have a great value for you. And so they go to the heart. And when they go to the heart, they connect with where you are. We were asked, we had a little VIP kind of a breakfast this morning. And when they asked me what my secret sauce was, I said, "It's very simple, I value people. I value people." Each one of you in sites around the world, you're a person of value. You are a person of value who has great potential to add value to other people. And I see the best in you. Now, I know, I know we all have the worst. How many of you haven't had a day in your life that you hope nobody ever knows about?

Of course we do. But you don't bring greatness out of going to the worst to people. You bring greatness by going out to the best of people. And this is huge in developing leaders. And it's huge when you begin to understand that if you'll just go to the heart... And somebody asked me the other day, they said, "John, how do you go with your heart?" And let me ask you this question: what kind of a leader are you? Because there are two kinds of leaders. Both of them are effective, so it's not right or wrong, but what kind of a leader are you? Are you a leader that gives direction? Or are you a leader that asks questions? In the beginning of my leadership life, I was a leader that gave direction, because I just, literally, I knew where I was going. I've never had anybody have to help me with that.

I knew where I was going. I'm big on vision and big on clarity, and I knew where I was going. And I just love grabbing people and saying, "You're going with me." Do you know what I mean? And I just grabbed them. They didn't even volunteer, they were snatched.

And I would grab them and show them the mountain and say, "We're going there." And I was just, I was huge at directions. I was an awesome direction leader. And I had a plan for everybody's life, that's what was so excited.

And they said, "Well, I don't know what I'm supposed to do." I said, "I don't care, I know what you're supposed. Just join me." They said, "Well, I don't even know what God wants." I said, "I'll help you, I know what he wants for you. Let me tell you."

I got this down. I was a direction guy. I'd just give him direction. "Come on."

And let me tell you something, i you're a direction leader, half the time you're leading you're leading by assumption. You're assuming that what's good for you is good for them. You're assuming that what you love, they love. You're assuming what motivates you motivates them. And you miss so much potential in a person, because you're trying to fit them into what you think they should become instead of asking questions. The biggest transition I've had in my life from a young leader to an old leader is I lead by questions all the time, because that's how you get the understanding. That's how you get the connection. That's how all of a sudden you're able to sit down and you find them, you find them, and then you lead them. Let me get one more chapter in here before I finish or... Yeah. Chapter four, there are 10 chapters and I'm behind.

So, you may not get all the chapters, but you got this.

When you leave L2L they'll say, "What did you learn?"

Chapter four is Motivating Leaders. And motivating leaders is about encouraging them to give their best, because that's what we seldom get out of people, their best. Most people are not engaged. Most people are not 100% committed. In fact, I have an acronym that I've used for several, several years on best, BEST. The letter B: believe in them. And when I talk about believing in people, I call that personal leadership. It's me personally, looking at you and say, "I believe in you." The letter E is encourage them. And that is emotional leadership. It's where I go right to the heart of who they are, what they are, and why I believe in them. And then there's an emotional connection there. And then the letter S stands for show them. That's visual leadership. This is where you basically look and say, "Follow me. Follow me. Follow me. Just, hey, watch me, hang with me for awhile."

And then T: train them. That's practical leadership. And so when it comes to motivating and leading people, there's a difference between managers and leaders. Managers pretty much lead everybody to same and leaders pretty much lead everybody differently. And the key is understanding the person and what motivates them. What is it in their life that motivates them. I have a teaching, it's a half a day teaching, knowing the motivations of people. Let me give you some of them. I'm not sure I have the time to give all of them to you, but let me give you a couple of them. A purpose motivates people. In fact, let's do a quick evaluation. Let's just do this quick. Okay. Let's do this quick, which means I'm not going to make comments. I'm just going to read fast and you write fast.

You got it? Purpose. Leaders want to do what they were created to do. When you help people find their purpose, they're incredibly motivated. Now I'm going to have you, I'm going to give these to you, and then I'm going to have you rate yourself from one to five, I'm going to give you one [inaudible 00:30:46] and I'm going to going to be done. Number two is autonomy. Leaders want the freedom to control their lives. Number three is relationships. People want to do things with people they love. Four is progress. Leaders want to experience personal and professional growth. Number five is mastery. Leaders want to excel in their skill. Number six is money. Leaders want to be financially secure.

Wow. There's really seven, I told you there were six. When I wrote the book, I thought there were six. And then I sent in the manuscript and I thought, "Oh, crap.

(laughs) There's seven." And so I called the publisher real quick and said, "Could I get the seventh one in?" And they said, "Yes." The seventh one is recognition. How could I have missed that. Big miss. That the problem with writing a book is when you send in the manuscript and the book is published, you can't keep fixing it.

I mean, six months later, I'm wanting to call the book back and say, "Oh, I've learned something else." By the way, that's the way your life should be. As I close this session, and then... And by the way, oh, let me give you one more principle. Okay? Just one more quick principle. This is so important. Look at those seven motivations, and from a one to a five, evaluate yourself. You don't have time to do it now, but do this. Okay. One being low, five being high. So that you could say, "Okay, these are, out of the seven, these are the two things that probably motivate me the most." Now here's what you're going to find, and I found this to really... In motivating people, here's what I discovered.

Highly motivated people will rank themself high in all seven of them. They're also delusional.

No, they really will. They'll look at each one and say, "Oh, yeah, I'm motivated by that. Yes. Oh yes. Oh. Oh my gosh, I'm motivated by that." And what I discovered real quickly is with my top producers, there are four or five in every one of those. It's not one thing that motivates them, it's many things. And when you have more things that motivate you, you stay in the game longer. Now, my time is done, but we did learn today to step into leadership. Thank you very much.

Mark Cole:       Once again, what an incredible talk from John. We hope you've enjoyed the different interviews and lessons we've presented over the last few weeks. I hope you've taken away plenty of insights. I hope you have helped yourself and those around you in your leadership growth. We also hope you'll be interested in joining us for the Live2Lead event this year, especially through our virtual ticket option. We've never done this before, but we believe it is the right thing to do in leading and in adding value to you in the difficult and uncertain times of 2020.

We will bring these incredible leaders, these influencers directly to wherever you are on October the 9th. You can join John, Alan Mulally, Kat Cole, Steve Harvey, Craig Groeschel, and thousands of other leaders at Live2Lead and join us in answering the call and the expectation the world has for values-based leadership. To learn more about the 2020 Live2Lead program or to secure your virtual ticket to attend visit that's V-I-R-T-U-A-L. As always, thanks for listening. Have a great week. And let's remember to lead.

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