I just finished reading an amazing book. I had picked up Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell expecting it to offer up some tips and strategies on how to get people to work with you. The book was that and also completely something else. I would say that more than 80% of the book focused on how you need to first work on yourself as a person, in order to effectively lead others. Makes sense, doesn't it? It just wasn't what I had expected.
Maxwell is incredibly blunt and concrete in his examples, discussions, and points. He makes bullet points on things you need to have, need to consider, need to be. His theory is that first you need to work on yourself as a person to embody all the necessary qualities, and then you can work on your people relationships, and then you can consider introducing changes. In that order.
Some memorable quotes (they tie in nicely as well to education, character ed, and a lot of other things that have been on and off my mind):
"The dictionary defines integrity as 'the state of being complete, unified.' When I have integrity, my words and my deeds match up. I am who I am, no matter where I am or who I am with. [...] Integrity is not what we do so much as who we are. And who we are, in turn, determines what we do. [...] We are all faced with conflicting desires. No one [...] can avoid this battle. Integrity is the factor that determines which one will prevail. We struggle daily with situations that demand decisions between what we want to do and what we ought to do. Integrity establishes the ground rules for resolving those tensions. It determines who we are and how we will respond before the conflict even appears. [...] It is the pivotal point between a happy person and a divided spirit. It frees us to be whole persons no matter what comes our way."
"Note the difference: In the beginning the skills of a leader are essential. No change will ever occur if the psychological needs are unmet. Once change has begun, the skills of a manager are needed to maintain needed change. [...] A change can make sense logically, but still lead to anxiety in the psychological dimension. [...] So before introducing change, we have to consider the psychological dimension."
"Leadership leaks should be planned and positive, preparing the people for the meeting where the change will be formally presented." --> KSI'ers, this totally parallels what Pearl Kane said about talking to all the key people before a meeting to get their support on a new plan. By the time the meeting rolls around, you should have already garnered support from all the key players or "influencers", as Maxwell calls them.
"Notice I did not say our attitudes determine how we feel. There is a great difference between how we feel and how we handle our feelings. Everyone has times when they feel bad. Our attitudes cannot stop our feelings, but they can keep our feelings from stopping us."
"My father [...] is a leader's leader. One of his strengths is his positive attitude. [...] As he opened his briefcase, I noticed a couple of motivational attitude books. I said, 'Dad, you're seventy years old. You've always had a great attitude. Are you still reading that stuff?' He looked me in the eye and said, 'Son, I have to keep working on my thought life. I am responsible to have a great attitude and to maintain it. My attitude does not run on automatic.'"
"[...] When we tell one of our children, 'Change your attitude,' the message is too general and the change we want is unclear. A more effective approach is explaining behaviors that signify bad attitudes. If we help them change their behaviors, the attitude will change on their own. Instead of saying to our kids, 'Get a grateful attitude,' we ask them to give one compliment to every member of the family each day. As this becomes a habit in their lives, the attitude of gratitude follows."
"People don't care how much you see until they see how much you care. I emphasize again: people buy into the leader before they buy into that leader's vision. Cultivate trust. Be transparent and patient. Start where they are by seeing through their eyes. Seek to find their hopes and dreams. [...] Go for the win-win. Remember, when you help people get what they want, they will help you get what you want."
"You don't have to make every decision, but you should always be accessible. If your people are smart, they will keep you informed, and if you're informed, you're a part of the decision. With that in place, it's easy for you to back your people and that eliminates second guessing."
Love Maxwell! I hope you find his words inspiring as I do. If you have time to pick up this book, I highly recommend it. It reads a bit like a sermon, because he uses anecdotes on every page and his background is religious. But, he definitely cuts through all the fluff and offers great and very detailed advice. Great stuff.