Leadership Insights from Some Greats

Perhaps you’ve heard of him before, John Maxwell, a huge hitter in the leadership world. He is an author, speaker, and he has served as a pastor and as a pastor within the movement I am part of, the Wesleyan Church. Some of his books include: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow. His books have sold millions of copies and some have made it on the “New York Times Best-Seller List” as well.

I’ve read a few of his books and I have taken classes developed around his writings and other resources he provides. The man is out of this world. And, he drives me nuts, makes me angry and yet inspires me and challenges me to do more with myself. Not many people live in that kind of extreme, in that kind of tension. He does. Maxwell is one of a kind.

And even though I am not his biggest fan, I have been impacted by him. He has poured into other pastors within my specific area and they in turn, have poured into me. The things they learned from him, they shared with me and I have used many of tools to help encourage and guide those that I lead. Perhaps this is why Maxwell has such a dynamic presence because his leadership and values are so far reaching.

Recently I attended a national event for our movement of churches, called “The Gathering” in Orlando, Florida. It was such a special time to gather with several thousand pastors and leaders from our denomination – to be refreshed, encouraged and challenged both personally and in ministry. One of the seminars that I attended was hosted by another prolific church leader in our movement, Kevin Myers. He too had been mentored and coached by John Maxwell and he lead Maxwell into a time of sharing key insights regarding leadership.

Here is what I walked away after a few moments:

Wooden asked himself everyday: “How can I make my team better?”

A leader makes those around him better. We cannot lead by assumption, for this is the wrong way to lead others. Let those you lead discern what went wrong, what needs to happen and then lead them from that place, no longer assuming but knowing where they are so you can lead them to the next level. Ask good questions, not just be a good teller, vision caster. Listen more, ask better questions and direct less. Value the question asking process more than the teaching process.

For the team, a great question to ask: “Did I/we exceed expectations?” Most live below expectations. Few meet expectations. And only 1% exceed expectations. Disappointment is the gap between expectation and reality. Most of us live in this gap.

Exceeding Expectation: First, expect more from yourself than others expect of me. Don’t let others set your bar of expectation, for when they do, you are already at a loss. Meeting expectations is the bare minimum. The people who own the world exceed expectations, so don’t let others set your expectations. Second, refuse to live off of your past. Most people, when they taste success, get fat, dumb and happy. They always talk about yesterday. Yesterday ended last night, quit sucking off yesterday. It’s over. Your memories shouldn’t excite you more than your future. Don’t live forever in today’s success. Third, do not let relationships cover your issues. Whenever you use a relationship to cover up for what you didn’t do, you begin to abuse the relationship. Fourth, respect must be earned daily. We honor people for what they have done. We respect people for what they are doing. Fifth, it is impossible to offer excuses and exceed expectations. These two worlds cannot cohabit together. Accepting excuses dumbs down expectations.

The reason I need to exceed expectations is because one day, I will stand before God and I don’t want to give a list of “if’s” and “buts”.

And then Kevin Myers shared about the impact that Maxwell had on his life. I loved this part and it was such a solid reminder about how to learn from others and apply what you learn. Here is what I gained from Myers:

What Myers Learned from Maxwell: We cannot sit there and surround ourselves with people who will let us dwell in emotionally acceptable standards. Be careful where you get your expectations affirmed. Even though I won’t meet every expectation, it doesn’t mean that I am not accountable and must grow and strive to exceed expectations. If we are meeting expectations that means we are working faithfully. If we are exceeding expectations, we’d be willing to cancel our vacations and work harder – meaning we can’t just let momentum die, because eventually it will die. Live off of momentum once you have momentum. When that momentum dies, then go on that vacation or take your break then. And, if we miss expectations, we need to work smarter. The set expectation was probably too high, too soon. The expectation wasn’t wrong, probably, but the timing was. Adjust and re-set, and go again.

Prepare for your times with your mentor. You do all the digging. You must prepare. Consultants do all the work, they do they digging – you’ve bought them. People say they want a mentor, but really, they  want a consultant. But we must dig deep with our mentor. We must prepare and prepare again and get from them all the layers of information that they have, and that we need – for we must draw it out. Be a good steward of your time with your mentor. Come back, after results. Insecure leaders always think more about themselves and end up taking more than giving more.

I won’t be personally embracing everything that was shared by both men. I can’t. I don’t want to. But there many things shared that did challenge and encourage me. So perhaps these insights have challenged you too. That was my hope. To share from some great leaders things they’ve learned and things the believe in. I hope these insights help you to be more effective in our goal to advance the Kingdom of God and to make more and better disciples of Jesus Christ.