Developing the leader within you…

Book: Developing the Leader Within You

By: John C Maxwell

February To a culture confused over the difference between management and leadership, New York Times bestselling author John C. Maxwell demonstrates what sets “leader-managers” apart from “run-of-the-mill managers.”

Already a leadership classic, “Developing the Leader Within You” shows you how positional leadership-leadership by title-is only the entry level of The Five Levels of Leadership.

Level 1: Position – People follow because they have to
Level 2: Permission – People follow because they want to
Level 3: Production – People follow because of what you have done for the organisation
Level 4: People Development – People follow because of who you are and what you represent.


As you grow on each succeeding level with other people, they will allow and even assist you in making the necessary changes, recognising you as a leader who inspires others to do their best.

If you have a desire – or maybe a calling – for leadership, John Maxwell will help you develop the vision, value, influence and motivation required of successful leaders.

Book Review by Waithera Kabiru, Head of Digital Media, Capital Group Ltd, Kenya

I first read Developing the Leader Within You about ten years ago when I had just taken up my first entry level managerial job at AT&T in the United States. In that role, I was required to supervise a team of 20 sales agents in the telemarketing department.  For most of my staff, it was their first job fresh out of high school or a part time job while in college, and their ages ranged between 18 and 24 – I was only 24 at the time! My mentor and manager at the time recommended this book to me which I read cover to cover in just one day. I found it so informative and with practical examples that related to what I was going through as a leader. At that stage in my life, I was definitely at Level 1- Position, where my staff followed because of my title.  My challenge then was to get to Level 2- Permission, to get my staff to follow because they wanted to.

I picked up this book again a few days ago from my home library, as I was getting ready to go on a business trip out of the country. Once again I read it cover to cover on my seven hour flight. It’s not that the book was shallow, in contrary, it has so much substance and depth that gets you reflecting after almost every page. However, the book is written as an easy read – no jargon or MBA type lectures. Instead, Maxwell uses a lot of practical examples entwined with a bullet point type of layout to bring out his key ideas. I would strongly recommend you keep a pencil and highlighter next to you as you read the book so you can make notes in the margins and highlight areas you would like to refer back to. I certainly did that both times I read the book and now my copy looks like a text book I had when I was studying for my KCSE exams!

A lot has changed since I first read the book in 2000. For one, I have left AT&T and have held several different positions since, all in different environments.

I have now gone full cycle and I am back to managing a team of about ten young staff members whose ages ranged from 19 to 28 years. As I was new to the organisation, most of the staff followed me as a leader because they had to, level 1- position. So reading this book again reminded me of the principles and practices I need to do to develop my leadership skills in the organisation to get to level 5!

What stuck out for me in the book this time around was in Chapter 7, Developing your most appreciable asset: People. This chapter focuses on how a leader can develop people and in so doing, the people assist the leader in implementing the leader’s dreams! It sounds like a no-brainer, but in many organisations I have observed situations where so called leaders want to do everything themselves or those who want to take the credit for doing everything. This never works because in the process, you ignore your most appreciable asset – people. Maxwell explains three levels of people skills. There is level 1, where a person who works better with people is a follower; Level 2, where the person who helped people work better is a manager; and level 3, where the person who develops better people to work is a leader. It is wise to reflect on these three levels to determine where you are currently, and where you want to be. Do you want to remain a follower, become a manager, or a leader?

Further into the chapter, Maxwell focuses on the aspect of motivating people, which is key when developing your staff. He outlines five things that contribute to motivating people. First, people want to see that they are making a significant contribution to the organisation. Second, people want to be part of the goal setting process as they tend to support what they create. Third, is the issue of positive dissatisfaction. Funny enough, Maxwell points out that dissatisfied people are highly motivated as they see a need to change. Fourth is quite obviously recognition. People want to be appreciated and recognised for their achievements. Finally, people need to have clear expectations of what is required of them.

Maxwell covers principles and values that leaders have to develop, such as knowing your priorities, having integrity, creating positive change, problem-solving, attitude, vision, self-discipline and staff development. The ultimate leader, he observes is one who has reached Level 5- respect, one who has loyal and sacrificial followers, one who has spent years mentoring and moulding others to be leaders, one who transcends the organisation, amongst other things.

Maxwell will be in Nairobi on Monday, March 8th to deliver a seminar on Value-Based Leadership, hosted by Training Solutions, Ltd. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear from an expert leader who has authored over 50 books, including, The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, Developing Leaders Around You, and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and Failing Forward.

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