To break it down even more simply, having potential as a leader basically comes down to having three things: vision, influence, and character. That’s it. To realize that potential, evaluate:
Looking backwards, how have you been successful? Looking forward, how will you get better?
As Maxwell admits, not everyone has the same ceiling as a leader. Sure, we can all get better, but we don’t all start with the same intangibles. Not everyone is naturally a big-picture, visionary thinker, and not everyone is gifted with the same charisma and communication skills. And unfortunately, simply holding a position of authority won’t magically increase our actual leadership abilities. John explains on page 11, “Because some positional leaders can’t and possess no influence or authority of their own, they rely on the authority of their boss or the person who appointed them. Anytime they fear that their team members won’t follow them, they’re quick to say, ‘We need to do this because the boss says so.’ That kind of borrowed authority can wear thin after a while … People do not become committed to vision or causes led by positional leaders.”
If we want to avoid being solely a ‘positional leader’, we need to dial in. See, it’s the areas that we are most proficient in ourselves where we’ll have the greatest impact in leading others, and it takes effort to narrow our influence within those strengths. If we try to do it all, we end up getting nothing done. Or in Maxwell’s words, “When you say everything is a high priority, then nothing is a high priority. It really indicates that you’re unwilling or unable to make a decision” [p. 29]. One of the reasons John has become so successful is his conscious decision to operate in and improve upon his most apparent proficiencies: speaking, writing, and leadership. On the other hand, John concedes, “Do you know the areas where I never give advice? Singing. Technology. Golf. Nobody wants to hear what I have to say about these subjects” [p. 17]. I guarantee you Maxwell has been tempted to give golf advice. And he’s surely felt tech-savvy at least time or two. But maximizing our best means intentionally minimizing effort and time spent in our pretty good - much less in our bad and ugly.
I’ll let you read the book for yourself to get Maxwell’s inside scoop on how to define and grow your vision, influence, and character, but I’ll finish this summary with a few quotes.
On Effective Communication
That’s the question for all of us. Are we willing to do what it takes today to be where (and who) we want to be tomorrow?
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