With the dynamic changes taking place all over the world in terms of the work culture, environment, and the shift in the roles and responsibilities of the working class, the need for a change in leadership has become crucial. While managers are sufficient for an organization in times of stability, dynamic changing times require strong leadership.
This translates to two crucial necessities, firstly, the need for strong leaders is even more essential for organizations, and secondly, today’s leaders need to keep reinventing themselves to adapt for success in these times of change.
Leadershift (2019) by John C Maxwell shows leaders and managers the way to adapt to this change by inculcating a strong desire and ability to succeed, to develop the right mindset and create positive up-to-date thinking to continue to be productive, not only for themselves but also for their team and the organization as a whole.
John C Maxwell takes us through his own journey of leadership and shows how he charted his ‘leadershift’ to succeed and create an impact on the world.
Leadershift – From Me to We
Many managers consider a position of leadership as a step towards charting their own star-trails. They work keenly towards their own goals and aspirations, without realizing that leadership is not about their own success, but about how they can steer their teams, colleagues, and the organization towards success.
Leadershift firstly requires a leader to change their focus from ‘me’ to ‘we’. Maxwell gives an example of how leaders should work more like the conductor of an opera, rather than a soloist. Just like a conductor uses opportunities to draw out potential from a group of musicians, a leader should first work towards understanding the needs of the people around him in order to draw out their best.
Maxwell compared leadership to the dance tango, wherein it is the responsibility of the leader of the pair, to lead the team to a stellar performance. A leader, just as the lead of a tango dance, should not only understand what it means to lead but also be aware of what it means to be led.
It is essential that a leader should focus on making others in his team shine, by developing positive relationships and by paying keen attention to the needs of subordinates. A leader creates a vision and invites his team to help achieve it.
Leadershift – Moving From A Goal Mindset To A Growth Mind-Set
Leaders need to set certain goals and strive to achieve them. While a goal mindset has been at the crux of leadership since the beginning, leaders need to shift the focus to a growth mindset.
Maxwell realized the positives of a growth mindset during his days as a young church leader in Ohio. He began by setting a goal for himself to make his church the largest in the state. In a single year, he was able to double the size of his congregation making it the fastest-growing church in Ohio. He later realized, that his own achievements, personal growth, and his understanding of leadership were far more valuable than the numbers he achieved.
He saw that a goal mindset led to personal achievement and status growth, however, a growth mindset led to the development of every shareholder in the congregation.
The key to a growth mindset is to inculcate a teaching spirit. A leader should not only have the need to learn but feel the need to ensure that he passes on his learning to help improve others. Passing on the knowledge to others entails a leader practicing what he has learned.
Leadershift – From Climbing The Ladder To Building The Ladder
Many leaders aim at being on top of the leadership ladder. They aim towards a goal and work towards achieving it. In the corporate world, it is essential for a leader to aim for the top of the corporate ladder. However, real success comes only when a leader helps to build ladders for others at the same time.
Leaders should ideally aim at being within the top 10% of their chosen field to stand out. Once they reach the top 10%, they should start viewing their success as a means to help others reach their goals. For leaders to become a successful resource for helping others means to start mentoring others in their team.
Mentoring isn’t an easy process. A leader should assess whom to mentor. They should be able to sift from the crowd to find those who are passionate not only about their own personal growth but those who reflect the values and principles of the leader himself. Additionally, leaders should look for those who are not only hungry for success but also who have a strong potential to carry on the legacy of leadership.
Leadershift – Connection, Not Direction
Shifting the focus of leadership does not only mean directing subordinates and telling them what to do. It entails creating a connection by helping them connect with their own way to success.
Maxwell understood this form of leadershift from Pat Summit, the coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball team. At halftime, rather than giving the team a pep-talk about what had transpired on the field, she made them analyze their performance by asking 3 questions – ‘What did we do right? What did we do wrong? and What should we change?’
Only after the team had discussed these, Summit spoke to them. She heard the team out and then made a few observations before sending them out for the second half of the game.
Maxwell understood that leadershift embraces connection rather than direction, collaboration instead of authority and that listening is far more valuable than talking. To be able to develop listening skills, leaders can follow a simple routine,
- Use a notepad during meetings. Write a big ‘L’ on the top to remind yourself to listen first.
- Use your growth mindset. Ask your peers, family members, and friends to rate your listening skills on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Act on the feedback given by them.
Shifting from direction to connection helps build better relationships by generating a two-way flow in communication as well as in ideas.
Leadershift – Valuing Diversity
As a young pastor in Ohio, Maxwell noticed that that within his environment, the community and the leaders of the protestant church were all white Americans. Everyone looked and behaved in a similar manner. However, he realized that the most important insights and lessons came from outside the ‘white’ group.
As a pastor, conformity and tradition were drilled into him. Later on, due to his discussions with another Catholic Priest, who helped him reinforce his faith, he moved to Atlanta, a city rich in African-American culture, completely different from where he grew up. He understood the difference that resulted from the diversity could bring out positive changes in the organizational structure as well.
Leaders need to understand that diversity in teams can bring about different perspectives and effectively fill the gap of knowledge. A leader cannot possibly claim to know everything and manage it all. Additionally, if a leader is surrounded only by like people, the flow of knowledge becomes restricted.
Trusting diversity in a group is a lesson that is best shown in how Abraham Lincoln built his cabinet. His members were sworn political rivals, and this helped bring in different perspectives to Lincoln’s leadership.
In order to bring in diversity, a leader should take a good look at his team, his friends, colleagues, and the people that surround him. Leaders should take efforts in learning from different groups, cultures, races, and ages, to be able to gain different perspectives.
Leadershift – Moral Authority Over Positional Authority
A title does not merely make a leader. Maxwell learned this important lesson as a young and fresh-out-of-college pastor. As the leader of his church, his first church board meeting started off with another respected member of the church, Claude, taking command of the meeting. Claude asked Maxwell to start off with a prayer and politely asked him to end the meeting with a prayer. Maxwell hadn’t said a thing in between during the meeting. It was a completely unexpected outcome.
Reflecting on that particular meeting, Maxwell thought about what made Claude so influential? He realized that though Claude wasn’t rich, well-educated, or impressive in any way, he had a strong moral authority of being good, honest, and fair. Claude was never a leader, however, his values and consistent belief in them made him a leader in every way.
Therefore, how does a leader truly become a leader? The answer lies in upholding one’s own moral authority by developing integrity. Integrity refers to the ability to stand by one’s values and principles consistently. Integrity makes a leader trustworthy and dependable. Additionally, if a leader is courageous to follow and lead with integrity, he will be able to successfully influence people and gain their trust to follow him.
Leadershift – From Career To Calling
Leadershift finally involves a person to shift focus from career to calling. This essentially means that leaders should find their calling in life.
How does one’s calling differ from a career goal? While a career goal is a personal end result for a leader, a calling focuses on finding something that is far larger to pursue. A calling means pursuing an enriching goal, that one could do forever, to help others succeed. A calling refers to a clear purpose and a reason for living, a way to find one’s own, yet be able to make a positive difference in others’ lives.
A calling also refers to something that one is passionate about. It entails giving, thinking, and serving others, passionately! Finding a calling in life enriches, and gives one’s personal career goals a true meaning of accomplishment.
Leaders today need to shift their focus from mere leadership to leadershift. They need to adapt to change around themselves to truly succeed. They need to show others the way forward, by helping them adapt to these changes. To be truly successful leaders they should direct others with connection, apply a growth mindset to help others succeed, build opportunities, and ladders for others to grow, and finally exercise their calling with moral authority.