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Book:  The 5 Levels of Leadership

Author:  John Maxwell

Purchase:  PrinteBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Maxwell, J. (2013). The 5 levels of leadership : proven steps to maximize your potential. New York: Center Street.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. Anytime you think you’ve arrived - whether your position is the lowest or the highest in the organization - you’ve lowered your expectations for yourself, sold your leadership short, and fallen into a no-growth mindset. (pg. 71)

  2. I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t enjoy and benefit from encouragement.  No one is too successful, old, experienced, or educated to appreciate positive praise and encouragement from another person. (pg. 110)

  3. I have sometimes been criticized as a leader for being too positive and praising people more than I should. But it’s a weakness I’m willing to live with because the usual benefits are so high. Besides, I’d rather live as a positive person and occasionally get burned then be constantly skeptical and negative. (pg. 160)


Other Key Ideas:

The best leaders promote people into leadership based on leadership potential, not on politics, seniority, credentials, or convenience. (pg. 42)

“To whoever much is given, much shall be required.” (pg. 43)

The leaders who do the greatest harm to an organization are the ones who think they have arrived...If you become a lifetime learner, you will continually increase your influence over time. (pg. 44)​​

When leaders value position over the ability to influence others, the environment of the organization usually becomes very political...I have yet to find a highly political organization that runs at the top efficiently and possesses high morale. (pg. 53-54)​

The longer you have relied on your position, the more difficult it will be for you to change others’ perception about your leadership style.  You may even need to change positions in order to restart the process of developing influence with others. (pg. 58)

You need to stop being king of the hill, get down from your high place, and find your people.  You must move beyond your job description, both in terms of the work you do and the way you interact with your people.  You must make it your responsibility to learn who they are, find out what they need, and help them and the team win. (pg. 69)​​​

To develop authentic relationships, leaders need to be authentic.  They must admit their mistakes. They must own up to their faults. They must recognize their shortcomings.  In other words - they must be the real deal. (pg. 100)

(Effective leaders) must exhibit a consistent mood, maintain an optimistic attitude, possess a listening ear, and present to others your authentic self. (pg. 108)​

If you want people to be positive and to always be glad when they see you coming, encourage them.  If you become the chief encourager of the people on your team, they will work and strive to meet your positive expectations. (pg. 111)

Candidness is a two-way street.  If you want to be an effective leader, you must allow the people you work with to be candid with you.  You must solicit feedback. And you must be mature and secure enough to take in people’s criticism without defensiveness (pg. 117)​

People are naturally attracted to people who give them confidence and make them feel good about themselves.  You can be a leader who does that if you’re willing to become an intentional encourager. (pg. 128)

There are two types of people in the business community: those who produce result and those who give you reasons why they didn’t. (pg. 135)

Good leaders constantly communicate the vision of the organization.  They do it clearly, creatively, and continually. (pg. 140)​

Vision casting is an integral part of leading.  Fuzzy communication leads to unclear direction, which produces sloppy execution.  Productive leaders create a clear link between the vision of the organization and the everyday production of the team.  (pg. 153)​

When was the last time you cast your vision to your team? Unless it was today, you’re probably overdue.  Team members need you to describe the vision and define its success. Take time to carefully craft your communication, and deliver it creatively as often as possible. (pg. 176)

When you look at people who are eager to learn more, you can bet they are on the right track.  And when you talk to people who don’t want any more instruction, then they have pretty much hit the wall.  They are done. (pg. 185)

As you develop leaders it’s important for you to give them the right expectations.  Let the know that you’re responsible to them, but not for them. You will take responsibility for providing training, supplying tools, offering opportunities, and creating an environment conducive for their development.  They must take responsibility for their growth through their choices, attitude, and commitment. (pg. 189-190)

What’s a good rule for transferring ownership and responsibility? I use the 80 percent rule.  If someone on my team can do one of my tasks 80 percent as well as I do (or better), then I give him or her responsibility for it. (pg. 191)

Some people possess an X factor.  They are winners. They contribute beyond their job responsibilities, and they lift the performance of everyone on their team.  When you discover people with these characteristics, recruit them. They are a job to develop, and whatever you put into them returns to you compounded. (pg. 207)

Most leaders spend their time and energy on the wrong people - the bottom 20 percent.  Strong leaders focus their best time and energy on the top 20 percent - the people who don’t need attention but would most profit from it. (pg. 225)

Not once has anyone in an organization said, “We have too many leaders.  And the ones we have are better than we want. Can you help us get rid of some?” (pg. 247)

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