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Everyone talks about it; few understand it. Most people desire to cultivate a high capacity for it; few actually do. I can put my hands on more than fifty definitions and descriptions of it from my personal files.

If you google it, you’ll get more than 760 million results for it. What am I talking about? Leadership. When I wrote the first edition of this book in 1992, people who wanted to succeed in businesses and other organizations focused their attention on management.

Every year another management fad seemed to be in fashion. But few people paid any attention to leadership. It wasn’t on most people’s radar. I have earned three degrees: a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a doctorate.

Yet I had not taken a single course in leadership during my studies before the 1993 publication of Developing the Leader Within You. Why ? Because none of the universities I attended offered a single course on the subject.
Today, however, leadership is a buzzword.

And schools and universities have embraced it. If you wanted to, you could earn an advanced degree in the subject at more than a hundred accredited universities. All three of the universities I attended now offer courses in leadership. Why has leadership become so important ?

Because people are recognizing that becoming a better leader changes lives. Everything rises and falls on leadership. The world becomes a better place when people become better leaders.

Developing yourself to become the leader you have the potential to be will change everything for you. It will add to your effectiveness, subtract from your weaknesses, divide your workload, and multiply your impact.

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More and more people recognize the value of good leadership, yet not very many work to become better leaders. Why is that ?

Despite the widespread prevalence of leadership books and classes, many people think leadership isn’t for them. Maybe it’s because they make one of these assumptions:

Leaders are not born.

Well, okay, they’re born. I’ve never met an unborn leader. (And I wouldn’t want to.) What I really mean is that your ability to lead is not set at birth. While it’s true that some people are born with more natural gifts that will help them lead at a higher level, everyone has the potential to become a leader. And leadership can be developed and improved by anyone willing to put in the effort.

I believe this kind of thinking was more common in my generation and that of my parents, but it can still be seen today. People think they need to be appointed to a positon of leadership, when the reality is that becoming a good leader requires desire and some basic tools. You can have a title and seniority and be incapable of leading. And you can have no title or seniority and be a good leader.

Leadership is like maturity. It doesn’t automatically come with age. Sometimes age comes alone. Tenure does not create leadership ability. In fact, it’s more likely to engender entitlement than leadership ability.

I’M WAITING UNTIL I GET A POSITION TO START DEVELOPING AS A LEADER This last assumption has been the most frustrating to me as a teacher of leadership. When I first started hosting leadership conferences, people would say, “If I ever become a leader”—meaning if they were ever appointed to a leadership position—“then maybe I’ll come to one of your seminars.”

What’s the problem ? As legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, “When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.” If you start learning about leadership now, not only will you increase your opportunities, but you’ll also make the most of them when they arrive.

The bottom line is that if you’ve never done anything to develop yourself as a leader, you can start today. And if you have already begun your leadership journey, you can become a better leader than you already are by intentionally developing the leader within you.

What will that take ?
That’s the subject of this book.
These ten chapters contain what I consider to be the ten essentials for developing yourself as a leader. I’ve also created free bonus materials that you can access at MaxwellLeader.com.

Included is an assessment that will help you gauge your current leadership ability.
I encourage you to take it before reading any further. Let’s start with the most important concept of the ten: influence.

After more than five decades of observing leaders around the world and many years of developing my own leadership potential, I have come to this conclusion: Leadership is influence.

That’s it—nothing more, nothing less. That’s why my favorite leadership proverb is “He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.” For you to be a leader, someone has to be following you.

I love what James C. Georges, founder and chairman of the PAR Group, said in an interview I read years ago: “What is leadership ? Remove for a moment the moral issues behind it, and there is only one definition: Leadership is the ability to obtain followers.”1 Anyone—for good or ill—who gets others to follow is a leader. That means Hitler was a leader.

(Did you know that Time named Hitler their Man of the Year in 1938 because he had greater influence on the world than anyone else ?) Osama bin Laden was a leader. Jesus of Nazareth was a leader. So was Joan of Arc.

Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy were leaders. While the value systems, abilities, and goals of all these people were vastly different, each of them attracted followers.

They all had influence. Leadership is the ability to obtain followers.
—JAMES C. GEORGES Influence is the beginning of true leadership. If you mistakenly define leadership as the ability to achieve a position instead of the ability to attract followers, then you will go after position, rank, or title to try to become a leader. But this type of thinking results in two common problems.

First, what do you do if you attain the status of a leadership position but experience the frustration of having no one follow you ? Second, what if you never achieve the “proper” title ? Will you keep waiting to try to make a positive impact on the world ?

My goal with this book is to help you understand how influence works, and use it as the starting point for learning how to lead more effectively. Each chapter is designed to help you acquire skills and abilities that further develop you as a leader. With the addition of each skill set, you will become a better leader.

INSIGHTS ABOUT INFLUENCE Before we get into the particulars of how influence with others works and how to develop it, let’s nail down a few important insights about influence:

My friend Tim Elmore, the founder of Growing Leaders, once told me that sociologists estimate that even the most introverted individual will influence ten thousand other people during his or her lifetime. Isn’t that amazing ?

Every day you influence others. And you are influenced by others. That means no one is excluded from being both a leader and a follower. In any given situation with any group of people, the dynamic of influence is always in play.

Let me illustrate. Let’s say a child is getting ready for school. During that process, his mother is usually the dominant influence. She may choose what he will eat and what he will wear.

When he arrives at school, he may become the influencer in his group of friends. When class begins, his teacher becomes the dominant influencer. After school, when the boy goes out and plays, the neighborhood bully may have the most influence.

And at dinnertime, Mom or Dad has the most influence at the table as they eat. If you are observant, you can discover the prominent leader of any group. Titles and positions don’t matter. Just watch the people as they gather.

As they work to resolve an issue or make a decision, whose opinion seems most valuable ? Who is the person others watch the most when the issue is being discussed ? Who is the one with whom people quickly agree ?

Whom do others defer to and follow ? Answers to these questions point you to who the real leader is in a particular group. You have influence in this world, but realizing your potential as a leader is your responsibility. If you put effort into developing yourself as a leader, you have the potential to influence more people and to do so in more significant ways.

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One of the most effective ways to understand the power of influence is to think about the times you have been touched in your life by a person or an event. Significant events leave marks on all our lives and memories.

For example, ask people born before 1930 what they were doing on December 7, 1941, when they heard that Pearl Harbor was bombed, and they will describe in detail their feelings and surroundings when they heard the terrible news.

Ask someone born before 1955 to describe what he or she was doing on November 22, 1963, when the news that John F. Kennedy had been shot was broadcast. Again, you will hear no loss for words. Each generation remembers events that mark them: the day the space shuttle Challenger blew up.

The tragedy of 9/11. The list goes on. What major event stands out to you ?
How is that event continuing to influence your thinking and actions ? Now think about the people who influenced you in a powerful way, or the little things that meant a lot to you. I can point to the influence of a camp I attended as a youth and how it helped determine my career choice.

My seventh-grade teacher, Glen Leatherwood, began to stir a sense of calling in my life that I continue to live out today in my seventies. When my mother bought bubble lights for our family Christmas tree, there was no way for her to know that they would evoke the feeling of Christmas in me every year.

The affirming note I received from a professor in college kept me going at a time when I was doubting myself. My list is endless. So is yours. We are influenced every day by so many people. Sometimes small things make big impressions. We have been molded into the people we are by those influences.

And we mold others, often when we least expect it. Author and educator J. R. Miller said it well: “There have been meetings of only a moment which have left impressions for life, for eternity.

No one of us can understand that mysterious thing we call influence . . . yet out of every one of us continually virtue goes, either to heal, to bless, to leave marks of beauty; or to wound, to hurt, to poison, to stain other lives.”2

3. THE BEST INVESTMENT IN TOMORROW IS TO DEVELOP YOUR INFLUENCE TODAY What’s your greatest investment possibility for the future ?
The stock market ? Real estate holdings ? More education ? All of these things have value. But I would argue that one of the best investments you can make in yourself is to develop your influence.

Why? Because if you have the desire to accomplish something, you will be in a better place to do it if others are willing to help. In the book Leaders, Warren G. Bennis and Burt Nanus say,

“The truth is that leadership opportunities are plentiful and within reach of most people.”3 That’s true in businesses, volunteer organizations, and social groups. If you’re an entrepreneur, those opportunities are multiplied exponentially.

The question is, will you be ready for them when they come ? To make the most of them, you must prepare for leadership today and learn how to cultivate influence and use it positively to make a difference.

Robert Dilenschneider, founder and principal of the Dilenschneider Group and former CEO of the PR firm Hill and Knowlton Strategies, has been one of the nation’s major influence brokers for many years.

In his book Power and Influence, he shares the idea of the “power triangle” to help leaders become more effective. The three components of this triangle are communication, recognition, and influence.

Dilenschneider says, “If you are communicating effectively, you will get positive recognition for your communication from the audiences you are trying to influence, which means people will think what you are doing is right and that you are doing it in the right way. When you get positive recognition, your influence grows.

You are perceived as competent, effective, worthy of respect—powerful. Power comes from remembering and using the linkage of communication, recognition, and influence.”4 As a young leader, I followed that pathway to better leadership because communication is one of my gifts.

As I became a better communicator, I did receive recognition. Soon I was being asked to teach on the subject of leadership. But I also sensed that leadership was more complex than just communication, recognition, and influence.

I began thinking about how I could develop a model that would help others understand how influence works, and more importantly, how to develop influence in their own lives. I knew that if the people I helped invested in their influence, they would be able to make a positive impact in their world, wherever that happened to be.

I began studying influence more carefully, and I also drew upon my own leadership experience and what I observed in leaders I respected and admired.

What I discovered is that influence can be developed in five stages. I turned those stages into a tool that I call the 5 Levels of Leadership. It provides a model of influence that can help you better understand the dynamics of leadership, and it also creates a road map you can follow to develop influence with others.

I’ve been teaching this model of leadership for more than thirty years, and I can’t count the number of people it’s helped. I hope it helps you in the same way it has others. The 5 Levels of Leadership Let’s examine each of the levels. You’ll quickly get a handle on how they work.

The most basic entry level of leadership is the Position level. Why is this the lowest level? Because Position represents leadership before a leader has developed any real influence with the people being led.

In generations past, people would follow leaders simply because they possessed a title or position of authority. But that is not very common today in American culture. People will follow a positional leader only as far as they have to. When I took my first job as a leader in 1969, people were respectful of me.

They were kind. But I had no real influence. I was twenty-two. They could see how little I knew, even if I couldn’t. I found out how little influence I had when I led my first board meeting. I started the meeting with my agenda in hand.

But then Claude started to talk. He was just an old farmer, but everyone in the room looked to him for leadership. Whatever he said held the most weight.

Claude wasn’t pushy or disrespectful. He didn’t do a power play. He didn’t have to. He already had all the power. He just wanted to get things done. It’s very clear to me now that in that first job, I was a leader living on Level 1.

All I had going for me at first was my position—along with a good work ethic and a desire to make a difference. I learned more on Level 1 than at any other time in my early years of leading. I figured out pretty quickly that a title and position won’t get a person very far in leadership.

People who have been appointed to a position may have authority, but that authority doesn’t exceed their job description. Positional leaders have certain rights. They have the right to enforce the rules.

They have the right to tell people to do their jobs. They have the right to use whatever power they have been granted. But real leadership is more than having granted authority. Real leadership is being a person others will gladly and confidently follow.

Real leaders know the difference between position and influence. It’s the difference between being a boss and being a leader: Bosses drive workers; leaders coach them. Bosses depend on authority; leaders depend on goodwill. Bosses inspire fear; leaders inspire enthusiasm.

Bosses say, “I”; leaders say, “We.” Bosses fix the blame for any breakdown; leaders fix the breakdown. Bosses know how it is done; leaders show how. Bosses say, “Go”; leaders say, “Let’s go!” Position is a good place to start in leadership, but it’s a terrible place to stay.

Anyone who never leads beyond Position depends on territorial rights, protocol, tradition, and organizational charts. These things are not inherently negative—unless they become the basis for authority.

They are poor substitutes for leadership skills. Position is a good place to start in leadership, but it’s a terrible place to stay. If you’ve been in a leadership position for any length of time, how do you know whether you are relying too much on your position to lead ?

Here are three common characteristics of positional leaders:
Positional Leaders Look for Security Based on Title More Than Talent There’s a story about a private during World War I who saw a light in his trench on the battlefield and shouted, “Put out that match !” Much to his chagrin, he discovered that the offender was General “Black Jack” Pershing.

Fearing severe punishment, the private tried to stammer out an apology, but General Pershing patted him on the back and said, “That’s all right, son. Just be glad I’m not a second lieutenant.”

The higher people’s level of ability and the resulting influence, the more secure and confident they become. A new second lieutenant might be tempted to rely on his rank and use it as a weapon. A general doesn’t need to. Positional Leaders Rely on Their Leader’s Influence Instead of Their Own

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INTRODUCTION Are You Aware of Your Full Potential ?
If you’re like most people, I bet you’d like more out of life than you are currently experiencing. Maybe you’re not succeeding in all the ways you desire to in life. Perhaps you’re less than fully satisfied with your progress.

Are you getting done all that you want to do ?
Or do you want to see more, do more, be more ?
What’s getting in your way ?
What’s limiting you ?
Do you know ?

If you don’t know what’s limiting you, how will you remove it ?
You’ve probably heard the saying “If I always do what I’ve always done, I’ll always get what I’ve always gotten.”I want to help you do something new—and get somewhere new. As we embark on this journey, I want to give you two thoughts:

1. Change doesn’t always have to be drastic to be effective.
2. Change is necessary for you to reach your potential.

As you read through this book, be on the lookout for where you need to change your focus to become more aware of your potential. In part 1, on ability, you will be asked to work on some things that may not be natural strengths.

You will find that difficult. Growth in skill areas, if they are not natural, is often slow and small. That’s OK. Every little bit of positive change helps. However, when you get to part 2, which is about choices, you will find it to be easier.

In matters of choice, changes can be achieved much more quickly. All of these changes, whether difficult or easy, need to be made if you desire to reach your full potential. I want to help you expand your thinking and your ability.

I want you to accept the challenge of releasing the power of your potential and changing your life. Are you willing to do that? If so, the process begins with awareness, with learning…1.

Your Potential Isn’t Set Have you given much thought to your potential ? Most people think theirs is set. We hear one person identified as “high capacity”and another as “low capacity,”and we just accept it.

What’s your capacity ?
Have you defined it as high, low, or average ?
Do you think it’s set ?

Maybe you haven’t put a label on it, but you’ve probably settled into a level of achievement that you believe is what’s possible for you. That’s a problem. Too many people hear the word capacity and assume it’s a limitation.

They assume their capacity is set—especially if they’re beyond a certain age. People give up on the idea that their capacity or their potential can grow. All they do is try to manage whatever they think they’ve got. That’s too confining.

Instead, we need to define our world and ourselves in terms of our possibilities. While I believe 100 percent that people can grow, change their capacity, and increase their potential, I also acknowledge that all of us have caps on our capacity. Some caps are fixed, but most are not.

We can’t allow these unfixed caps to keep our lives from expanding. We can’t let caps define our potential. We need to look beyond the caps and see our true potential.

2. You Can Become Aware of the Possibilities
That Can Make You Better All lasting growth requires awareness.

Unfortunately, if you lack awareness, then you don’t know that you are unaware. It’s a blind spot. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you can’t see that you are unable to see. That’s a catch-22. Self-awareness is a powerful skill.

It enables you to see yourself clearly. It informs your decisions and helps you to weigh opportunities. It allows you to test your limits. It empowers you to understand other people. It makes partnerships with others stronger.

It allows you to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. It opens the door to greater potential. Here are some things to think about as you work to become more aware of your possibilities:

We naturally tend to see things as we have always seen them. If we want to increase our potential, we must see differently. We need to be willing to look at ourselves and our world in new ways. We need to pay attention and look for what we need to know.

TO KNOW What stops people from reaching their potential often isn’t lack of desire but lack of awareness. Unfortunately, people don’t become self-aware accidentally. On top of that, factors such as excuses, success fantasies that are ungrounded in reality, talking without listening to others, unresolved negative emotions, habitual self-distraction,

Absence of personal reflection, and unwillingness to pay the price to gain experience all work against us and prevent us from developing greater self-awareness. Most people who have developed self-awareness have had to battle one or more of these factors to get where they are.
They’ve had to work very hard.

It takes desire to make self-awareness discoveries. It takes discipline to look at yourself and reflect on your experiences. It takes maturity to ask others to help you with your blind spots. Becoming self-aware also requires help from other people who can see you more clearly than you can see yourself.

You need to find someone—a trusted friend, colleague, mentor, or family member—who can help you, direct you, and provide you with repeated honest feedback. DISCERNMENT:

As you discover things about yourself, you must try to discern where to focus your attention. You can’t do everything, so focus on your strengths. When we focus on our weaknesses, the best we can do is work our way up to average. Nobody pays for that.

No successful person hires someone to do a merely adequate job. Successful people desire excellence. Excellence comes from focusing on your strengths. Whatever you do well, try to do it better. That’s your greatest pathway forward to increased potential.

In my book Intentional Living, I discuss the major difference between good intentions and intentional living. The former may make a person feel good, but it doesn’t actually do anything positive for that person or for others.

The key is action. We get results only when we take what we’ve learned and put it into action. You need to become aware that you are currently living below your potential if you’re going to do anything to improve.

Even if you’ve been a highly productive and successful person, you can improve. You can increase your potential. You have more in you that you have never tapped. And there is a path forward to greater potential if you are willing to take it.

3. You Can Remove the Caps from Your Capacity
The next step in increasing your potential involves removing the caps that are holding you back. We often believe that some of the restrictions we experienced earlier in life are permanent,

Or we’ve been told we have limitations that we actually don’t possess, and these things keep us from taking the journey in life that we long for. These are the chains we need to break. Awareness changes everything.

As soon as we become aware that some of our “limitations”are artificial, we can begin to overcome them. We can blow off these caps on our capacity, which opens the way for growth. I’ll talk more about this later.

4. You Can Develop the Potential You Already Possess
Everyone has potential based on their natural talents. Some areas of potential require very specific abilities, such as those found in symphony musicians, professional athletes, and great artists.

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Other areas are more general in nature and rely on multiple skill sets. In part 1 of this book, I’ll identify and examine seven of those areas, and I’ll teach you how to maximize the talent you have so that you can increase your potential in each of these areas.

5. You Can Make Choices That Maximize Your Possibilities You also have other areas of greater potential that rely more on your choices. While it’s true that talent is still a factor, it is less important in these areas.

I want to help you identify the choices you can make to increase your potential. In part 2, I’ll teach you how to do that. And when you pair the development of your potential with the maximization of your choices, you start to develop personal momentum.

Momentum is not the result of one push. It is the result of many continual pushes over time. How Far Can You Go ?
Maybe as you start this journey you should tell yourself that you’re at only 40 percent of your potential.

What would happen if you assumed that you had at least 60 percent more capacity than you ever believed ? There’s more in you that you’ve never tapped.

What if it’s not 60 percent ?
What if it’s only 40, or 25, or even 10 percent ?
Wouldn’t that still change your life ?

Believing there’s more and working to tap into it could be a first step in reimagining your potential and embracing a no-limits life. Caps You Can’t Remove I believe you can live a life with no limits, that you can go further than you believe and can do more than you’ve ever dreamed.

But that doesn’t mean that you don’t possess limitations. We all do. Some caps cannot be removed. Think about some of the caps in your life that you need to acknowledge and accept: Birth caps:

You had no control over where or when you were born, nor can you go back in time and change these things. You don’t get to choose your parents, birth order, siblings, or upbringing.

Good or bad, you have to live with these circumstances and make the best of them. You cannot change your genetic makeup , your race, your bone structure,
or your height.

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