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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #78: Are You An Inspiring Leader? (Part 1) With Chris Fuller

March 16, 2020
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #78: Are You An Inspiring Leader? (Part 1) With Chris Fuller

Is your workplace culture inspiring or exasperating? Are your employees going home drained or motivated? As a leader, it’s up to you to positively impact and develop your team. In Episode #78 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, we speak with one of our Executive Facilitators and the author of Inspired Leadership, Chris Fuller, on what it means to be an inspired leader and how to build an engaged workforce. 

Are you an inspiring leader? Learn more about our assessment resources that were developed to equip leaders with the knowledge needed to grow and move forward along the path toward leadership excellence.

Download our Learning Guide for this podcast!

Read Transcript Below:

Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator, and coach, and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome, and thank you for joining.

Just as a quick reminder before we get started. If you’d like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership process or even perhaps have Perry, myself, or one of our other executive facilitators come and do a private workshop in your organization, please visit While you’re there, if you have a topic where you’d like Perry to get creative around his title as we talk about you can leave that there or even just a question for us. We’d love to help you in that manner. 

Well, today’s topic is titled “Are You an Inspiring Leader?” And oftentimes at this point, I will make fun of or at least give a little jab to Perry about the title. But what I’m really excited about today is that we actually have a special treat. And Chris Fuller is one of our executive facilitators and is in the room with us today because of his passion to be an inspiring leader. And Chris just came out with a book entitled Inspired Leadership. And if you’d love a copy of that book, learn more about it. Please visit Actually, we’re going to spend some time talking about some of the content of his book. In addition to his book, he’s also the principal and new leader of Right Path Resources, which we use everyday inside our organizations around assessments.

We talk a lot about, hey, John says, man, the hardest person to lead is yourself. And in order to lead yourself, you have to know yourself. And so with the RightPath, we use it a lot for understanding yourself and your awareness as a leader, and then also kind of setting a benchmark around the traditional 360. So, man. Chris, we are excited that you’re in the room with us. I’m excited so that I don’t have to look at Perry the whole time. I’m excited. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me. 

Listen, let’s spend some time today talking about this book of yours. Yeah. Guys and gals that are listening out there in podcast land, when I talk about an individual that is passionate about content and intellectual property, Chris goes way back with us. And even back to when John was developing the curriculum: 360 Leader. Right. And you spent some time helping us flesh that out. And what does that look like in the corporate space and organization? And so he has a passion for content. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to dive into your book. We’re gonna talk about some of the principles, but talk to us a little bit about the Inspired Leadership and kind of where that comes from. Where was the passion that drove you to pull that out and put it on paper? 

So, you know, the Inspired Leadership content was really I’m somebody that unless I am the real deal, unless I have that high degree of authenticity, there is not something that I really want to put out there. And so, you know, there’s a lot of people that I struggle with that put out theoretical leadership material. And as you know, I’m all about the shoe leather. If this doesn’t work in and in business, you know, I don’t have time for it. And so people quote colloquialisms and they throw out theory all the time. And that’s a struggle for me, as you guys know. And so with the John material and when you know, when I got started, the first John book was handed to me in 1993, Developing The Leader Within You, I leveraged that 5 Levels of Leadership to be able to grow and scale the organizations that I was developing. It was a useful tool. And in the middle of that usefulness, then I became a passionate Maxellian. Well, so fast forward now cashed out of those businesses. And really, as I align my businesses more and more with you guys through that passion, I was able to talk about the application of the 5 Levels and go deep in that regard.

So fast forward. The 20 years plus of being a Maxwellian, in the 25 years of teaching those concepts and and really the last 15 years of tightly aligning with you guys. You know, I finally started building this sort of success system by which I was consulting into organizations. And the actual first aspect of the inspiration was customer service. And so if you’re not customer centric, then essentially you’re going to have a revenue problem, you’re going to have a problem on those particular pieces. So how much more so as leaders do we need to be customer centric? And we have a lot of customers. We have investors, we have key stakeholders. We have employees. So whether it’s an internal or Esther external customer, then we need to lead from an inspired way. If you don’t have inspired employees, if you don’t have inspired customers, you will not have inspired investors in what we do.

So I don’t know if you could tell, but Chris is extremely passionate about this topic. And what I love about even just what you said, what I was thinking just minutes ago was Chris and I had an off offline conversation a couple weeks ago. And Chris has built and run and sold some businesses and then spent some time consulting. And as we mentioned with him getting back into now kind of being the principal leading RightPath, he comes to me the other day and says I think from now on, every single one of our executive facilitators and coaches that are out there consulting should be actively running the business. This stuff is hard to do and I feel like I owe some people apologies and I’ve been consoled lately. But you can just hear the passion about the content, where it comes from.

To be a Successful Leader, You Need Feedback on Your Leadership.

We’re excited to announce our new and improved Organizational Effectiveness Survey (OES). The OES gathers feedback from employees to give leaders and management the knowledge and action plans needed to develop a more effective and productive work environment. Our new version measures 4 areas of your business: Leadership, People, Strategy, and Performance. 

Well, Perry had mentioned that I think it was like an episode like 68 or something back in one of those bad guys that as a sales manager, when you got there, that you were the one to go back and apologize to some of those leaders, because essentially it’s like, man. Yeah, sorry about that.

Yeah. And that’s what I appreciate about your opening comment about you wanting to be the real deal, you wanting to be authentic. And a lot of that has that. You’ve lived it, you’ve done some hard things. You were in that position and you’re learning all of all the while, but never taking for granted how hard some of this stuff is and but how we all run want a growth path to do that. 

I should also confess that Chris is one of my mentors. When I first started here, he was the first person I interacted with. It helped me with 5 Levels and kind of showed me the ropes. So I’ve always had an impact on my life. I really enjoyed the book and I’ve always told Chris Goldie that I’m going to do a whole series on inspiring leadership in 2020. And then I didn’t know about your book at the time. And then when you and I talked, I got this book on being inspired leaders about, okay, I’m all over that. And I let them know when you laid out the content you’re using the word inspired. And also maybe because of the mention of engagement. And in the early parts of the book you talk about how you engage or your team. And I think for me, that’s something Chris and I have talked about a lot here on the podcast is how do you increase engagement? So you increase your reputation, increase your influence, increase your results.

Right. Well. So if we just started with why inspired matters and then we’ll we’ll go into the acronym of it. But to me, my why, the passion for what I do has that impact on what we do. When you think about how many people are employed, right. Tons of people employed and how many of them go home at night better than they went to work in the morning. And when we talk about the impact of leadership and we talk about inspired cultures and engaged workforce, the struggle is when leaders lead in a poor fashion, when culture is toxic, that toxicity follows people home. And so the why behind the what of inspiring, your culture is either going to be inspiring or exasperating. You’re either going to add to the family fabric and the societal fabric or your culture is going to tear at the family fabric. And how many people aren’t available for their kids? They are present, but they’re not present. We have difficulty at work when we are blown out. And so by the time we get home, how much open capacity do we have to be a human in the relationships that matter most? Because we’ve been so drained by our workplaces, by our organizations and by the leaders that are around us that are supposed to be developing us. So that’s really the heart and the content of we’re either going to be inspiring or we’re going to be exasperating. And so many people work in this sort of this zombified environment, that’s really why that’s why we need to impact leaders. We need to impact cultures because people matter.

And then from that part, you know, the success system, so the system that I put into place around the inspired acronym. It was just building components into people’s needs. I believe people need a success system to work. They need something to follow. That’s why the 5 Levels of Leadership works as we’re developing this. Are you results or relationship oriented and how do we build that and culture of results and relationship people and profits? And so that’s why I think that we need that. That’s the genius of the 5 Levels. And that’s really what I was hoping to build into the inspired, is some sort of methodical success system that allows people to deploy those concepts.

I really appreciate the upfront way you said. And I do believe nobody gets out of bed in the morning wanting to go to work, to be uninspired, unengaged and just make their way trudging through the day. It’s up to me as a leader. Like you said, that it’s both the cause and the solution. The inspired leader is the cause and the solution to this disengagement problem we have.

Yeah. And what I want to add to that comment right there, because I think that was key that he mentions in the book that as leaders were the solution and we talk about engagement. You also mentioned in there disengaged employees and a lot of people you make you make it very clear, hey, this is not a disruptive employee. Right. People are probably like, oh, you know, I don’t. All my team is engaged because they’re not destroyed. But it’s really indifferent. And I love how you’re going to talk about that, because as leaders, if we’re not aware of that, that can be disruptive to our business because they are indifferent and we’re not aware of it. And when we’ll address it. Right. Or even help them become engaged through inspiring them as a leader. 

So let’s do this. Let’s break down the book. Right. So it’s inspired. What I love about it is you kept it simple for guys like Perry and myself. You have an acrostic right there. It kind of breaks it down into seven of them. And so we’re just gonna cover a few today. We have Chris with us for another episode. And so make sure you listen. Next week, as well. We’re going to get into the second half. And you don’t want to miss that. That’ll be part two. But what I want to do is kind of break this down. We’ll go over kind of the first two today. And in the word inspired, you actually kind of combine the first two letters, which is great. It helps me to drive your views. Right. So talk to us a little bit as we look at this word, the I and the N. Yeah. As you kind of laid out, this acrostic would talk to us about what that stands for, why it matters and what that means to us as leaders. 

So in the inspired well, the first piece is you’ve got to be in it to be inspiring. Right. So that engage piece if you’re not in it, if you’re not in it to win it. Why are we doing this? So the I-N of inspire is intentional. Nothing great happens by accident. You know, the Lombardi quote of the man at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there. Right. So that’s good when we get to this point of intentionality. Anything worth doing is worth doing on purpose. And how much we can’t be this this passion fueled, purpose filled if we’re not on purpose. We need to be on purpose with purpose to be able to get to that next aspect. So are you intentional about how you show up? Are you intentional about how your customers experience you? Are you intentional about how your leaders experience you? And some of that comes into that start of the self-awareness that you’re talking about that we work on. Are you intentional about knowing yourself and then are you intentional about your leadership and then as far as how your organization’s going to operate? What should you be intentional about?

That’s a big word for us. Intentional. We talk about it a lot. So I just have to ask. Early in the book, you actually start the book with a story which was very inspiring to me. But I’ve known you a while, so I know you do adventurous things. But, you tell a story about, hey, I’m in the neighborhood of Mt. Everest, why don’t I go to base camp? And I just got to ask, how did you make that? That sounded kind of like an off the cuff decision. Was it or did you have this planned? How did you do that? 

Yeah, it was a quasi off the cuff decision. So a handful of weeks before, we were doing a 5 Levels of Leadership in New Delhi, we were in Noida, India, and we still hadn’t had things lined out for the second season of leadership development for this organization in India. And I know, I just start to wander and I’m thinking if I’m never able to get back to this area of the world, what am I going to kick myself that I didn’t do? And so I’m just going, okay, I’ve got to get to Everest. And so there you have it. That’s how Chris Fuller thinks right there. Yeah, I do peg an 80 on adventure in my life.

 So. So essentially, you know, I booked a flight and a helicopter and so went from New Delhi, India to Kathmandu, Nepal, and then walked from the international terminal, which isn’t big, to the domestic terminal, which is even smaller and started negotiating with helicopter companies for somebody that would chopper me into base camp. And so they looked at me like I had 10 heads and it was a little bit of a great story. Just a small caveat here. I went to one company and it was like, I don’t know, three thousand dollars to get you to two to base camp. And I went to another company that looked like it was much cleaner, much fancier. Look like they were much more on point. And the guy said, well, it’ll be 12,500.

Well, I guess you’d get there for three grand with this guy. And he goes, do you want to see the safety records? I went, that is an amazing sales pitch. So we chopped into base camp. But the lack of being intentional caused me to not be able to stay. So on the intentional piece, you know, one of things in organizations that they fight is the biggest enemy is not internal, it’s external. And speed and scale are some of the biggest enemies. And so we talk about all the time, are you intentional about scaling your business? Because if you’re not, you may get there, but you can’t stay. You got to be able to acclimate the organization. And so I was not acclimated. I went from 900 feet above sea level in Delhi to forty five hundred in Kathmandu to seventeen something in base camp. And you start getting some pretty good headaches within the hour.

Great story. And I’ll encourage your listeners. Chris has a  first book where he models the Iditarod race with the Sled Dogs, which is another adventure that we can talk about later in the S. So we got I N the S stands for service. Walk us through that one.

So how do people experience you? You know, many people we talk about servant leadership and that really in that modality it is. Am I going to be a self centric command and control extractor? Am I going to be diminished or am I going to be a multiplier of my talent? And that service orientation is really one of those key pieces that says, you know, I need to be customer centric. And I have internal customers and external customers. And when leaders approach their leadership style, that every person that they’re interfacing with is like a customer. And you treat customers differently sometimes than you do employees. We treat people differently in some of those ways. And so that customer centric mentality to that service orientation is key for me and for me, one of the things I’m passionate about is to invert the org chart. So in the book I talk about the inverted org chart that at the top of the org chart really is the customer. The top of the org chart is whom we are serving and then the people that serve the customer, those people at that front line, they need to be served by the supervisors, so the supervisors equip and empower, delineate and delegate to the frontline that then they’re able to serve the customers, the managers serve the supervisors that serve the people, that serve the customers. The executive team equips and empowers and develops those aspects. So within the service, you know, many people confuse servant leadership with weakness. And it’s not weakness. It’s gritty, you know, when you talk about giving feedback. So being a servant leader is also giving that feedback and talking through, you know, how do I give that feedback? And I don’t want to give that feedback, but the people need. So will you be self centric or will you be others centric? Do you have that passion to serve?

So when you talk about this, I just see the alignment, you know, with the 5 Levels model. I see the alignment with John’s values and his intentional living and then his servant leadership. And what that looks like reminds me of a couple of things as we kind of wrap up here today and I’ll throw back to you to kind of close. I think about Chris, maybe even this is something I learned from you. In one of the rooms that probably. Yes, that’s right. I just don’t want to give you that opportunity right here first. Right. And I’ve mentioned this before, which is when leaders ask this question, what does it look like to be on the other side of my leadership? Yeah. 

Leaders, I promise you. If you would ask that question to people that you trust and ask for candid feedback. The first two that we covered today, the I and the N and the S would show its face so fast about your leadership because it will tell you real quick, are you reacting as a leader or you be being intentional and proactive about how you’re leading, how you’re experiencing whatever this might be in regards to your leadership or to your culture and then in regards to service? I totally agree. Right. How we treat our next line of team members is how they treat their team members is how they treat their customers. And that service rolls on. And we have some organizations that don’t want us to use the phrase servant leadership. And that’s fine. We have some that embody it. But either way, the principles are the same in how you’re leading and how you’re serving your people.

And that’s my takeaway is just the alignment there, the focus on being intentional and serving not only, you know, our customers, our end users and adding value to them, but are we doing that for people that directly report to us as well? Once again, Chris has been a longtime friend of John, and our organization, helped with a ton of content right now leading RightPath resources, you know, which is a great partner of ours. Specifically, they do a ton of other stuff, but specifically for us, it’s around the assessments. We often talk about the personality assessment, the RightPath 4 and 6 is the cards that you’ve been dealt as a leader. This is how I kind of explain it, right? Like this is how you’re wired. You’re not changing. And most of the time when I’m in the south, I’ll say, you know, it’s how your mom and daddy made you. If I go to other places, they don’t quite understand that and I have to expand.

But then you’ve also been a great partner of ours and taken this traditional 360 and almost kind of customized it for us. And we call that the Maxwell Leadership Assessment. It’s your tool that we’re using. And I’d like to say taking that assessment and allowing your team and your leaders and your peers and others to speak into that, that shows you how you’re playing the cards that you’ve been dealt. And so, man, thanks for carving out some time to be here with us today. Thanks for what you’ve done for us over the last 15, 20 years and the partnership.

And I look forward to many more years to come. So Perry with that closes out and listen real quick, don’t miss next week’s because we’re going to talk about the rest of the letters in Chris’s book.

I’m excited to get to the second half of this, the next five parts of that acronym. I want to talk next time and the next episode you mention about designing a culture versus kind of defaulting is another comment we’ve had here. But this when I’m hearing you talk about others oriented in how you design the service of the client, that is inspiring. That makes somebody want to lean in when my engagement level goes up. And that’s a design point on the culture. So we’re grateful to have both Chris’ here today, Goede and Fuller. Just a reminder that there’s a learning guide on this on the website that has the entire model laid out for you. So you can see what that looks like and you can find that at Also, as Chris said, leave us a comment there or a question we love hearing from you and we’re grateful that you joined us. That’s all for today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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