Leadershift: Practical Takeaways
Shoals Sphere Book of the Month: June 2021
“Change or Die.” – Thomas Edgley
Maxwell opens his newest book with this quote to emphasize the importance as a leader to acknowledge and learn how to enact change. Leadership, for years, was associated with management techniques and the reliance on the known and dependable. True leadership, as we know it defined today, should focus more on the ability to A D A P T.
“Leadershifting is the ability and willingness to make leadership change that will positively enhance organizational and personal growth.” – John C. Maxwell (pg. 5)
The capacity to change, to adapt, to shift is a distinction that sets apart profound leadership, and most of us have experienced the difference good leadership makes in any setting, personal or professional. The world is moving faster than ever, changing almost hourly, so your capacity to be growth-oriented and adaptable to new opportunity and change will set you apart and allow you to thrive in any leadership role you may hold.
Leadershift is an excellent, easy read for anyone who is looking to understand what it means to be a growth-oriented leader; someone who empowers the people around them to be successful in their own rites; someone who is willing to rely more on their intuition, values, and principles to innovate and create something better than the way you found it.
Let’s take a brief look at some of the “leadershifts” Maxwell discusses in this book and be sure to snag a copy of your own so you can dive deeper into this excellent leadership resource.
First though, let us quickly look at Maxwell’s foundational guide to how you “leadershift”:
1. Continually Learn, Unlearn, and Relearn
2. Value Yesterday but Live in Today
3. Rely on Speed, but Thrive on Timing
4. See the Big Picture as the Picture Keeps Getting Bigger
5. Live in Today but Think About Tomorrow
6. Move Forward Courageously in the Midst of Uncertainty
7. Realize Today’s Best Will Not Meet Tomorrow’s Challenges
The Focus Shift: Soloist to Conductor
“My increased effort to first focus on others and ADD VALUE to them increased the energy of those I led – and it increased my energy while I was leading them.” – Maxwell (pg. 20)
The focus shift is centered on the idea of empowerment, that your success as a leader and an organization is dependent on the success of your employees and followers. In order to move an organization forward, excellent leadership requires the ability to see people’s potential, inviting them to the vision table, and understanding what motivates and encourages them. Leaders who understand this concept add value daily to their follows, believing in their own capacities to execute vision and allowing them space to be the best versions of themselves.
The Personal Development Shift: Goals to Growth
“Goals helped me to do better, but growth helped me to BECOME better.” – Maxwell (pg. 43)
Growth is not a destination; it is a constant and evolving journey. Goals have finish lines, timelines, and focus on personal achievement and status. When learning to implement this leadershift, not only is a humble mindset necessary, but an orientation toward stretching the boundaries of possibility. Goal-oriented leaders tend to avoid challenges and fear setbacks, as these would dampen achievement. However, growth-oriented leadership embraces opportunity to overcome challenges and learn amid the hardships. We all have heard how a diamond is made – its rarity and value is defined by its beautiful ability to goal from black coal to the gem we covet. The same is true of you and me in leadership; our value as a leader is not because of the status we have attained by the world’s standards, but our story of overcoming adversity that allows us empathy and courage.
The Cost Shift: Perks to Price
“What sets great leaders apart from all other leaders is this: they act BEFORE others and they do MORE than others.” – Maxwell (pg. 69)
It does not take a whole lot of common sense to know that anything worth having is worth working for, and Maxwell notes that good leadership recognizes and appreciates this same concept. A major part of moving forward is understanding that you must be willing to make sacrifices – often financially – along the way. To grow bigger, you have to invest bigger, and you have to prepare bigger. Leaders who are willing to forge the path ahead understand that the cost can be significant to innovate, create and lead first, but they also know that their consistency and inspiration to guide their followers up the hill is worth the investment. Good leaders know that failure is an option, but it’s their reputation to get back up that sets them apart.
The Relational Shift: Pleasing People to Challenging People
“To get the best out of people, leaders must ask for the best from people…. You never know if people are really with you until you ask them for commitment.” – Maxwell (pg. 84 / 86)
As a leader and a follower, I know I personally appreciate when expectations are set up front; part of this speaks to my enneagram 3 personality, and part of this speaks to my capacity to communicate honestly with my team members. When expectations are set, the conversation shifts from “about me & you” to “about the big picture.” Leaders and followers who desire to grow, are prepared to change, and can take on responsibility are the movers and shakers that will take an organization to the next level. When conflict arises, leaders take the first step in reconciliation by providing the right attitude and space to protect the relationship when possible.
The Abundance Shift: Maintaining to Creating
“Creativity is the joy of not knowing all the answers but knowing the answers are out there.” – Maxwell (pg. 116)
You hear athletes talk about zones all the time, they are taught in many athletic arenas to work their zones and they practice diligently to learn how to read and understand their zones. However, they also know how to read an audible, how to make the quick and necessary change to their initial plan to overcome this new challenge. The same is true in leadership; if we as leaders are bogged down by the mental blocks of maintaining the status quo or coasting through to the finish line, then how do we expect to flourish in a world full of audibles? Creativity inspires, it creates humility and encourages courage from team members; it creates space for failure while providing a ladder to fall up and forward. “Creativity thrives when one subject is approached from many different perspectives.” – Maxwell (pg. 119) As Maxwell mentioned before, the more voices invited to the table, the most opportunities for growth and success.
The Reproduction Shift: Ladder Climbing to Ladder Building
“Since the word MENTOR is both a verb, something you do, and a noun, something you are, a good mentor must exhibit ability in both areas.” – Maxwell (pg. 136)
“If I have seen farther than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton (pg. 127) This concept is not new for Maxwell fans, and even if this is the first time you have been exposed to his writing, you will see this underlying concept weaved throughout his whole narratives. Leadership is not about your success as a leader, it’s about how you can empower your followers toward their own success. In this chapter, Maxwell uses the analogy of building a ladder and creating new extensions for your followers and your organizations to reach new heights. If you’ve ever used a ladder though, you know the most important thing to have is stability, solid footing, and a smooth foundation. As a leader, it is important that you are the one providing this for your followers, your mentees, your team members; they are relying on your availability and stability to help them go to the top.
The Communication Shift: Directing to Connecting
“God gave me a dream bigger than myself. It was so intimidating that I had only two choices: give up or get help.” – Maxwell (pg. 154)
As business leaders, we all know the importance of connection and networking. If you have ever heard of Strategic Doing, the entire concept relies on your ability to connect and leverage resources. For those who have worked in a small town, you know that connections run deep and often are necessary to enact any type of change. Even in bigger cities, I know I learned from working in Nashville that networking and “knowing someone” was the only way to take your next career step. Often, this networking aspect of leadership receives a negative connotation, that it is a “good ole boys club” or “elitist.” While this unfortunately true at times, the ultimate goal of connection is to grow community, to invite more people in, and through connection to broaden mindsets and opportunities. Even those who have achieved significant status in their most honest conversations will admit they could not do it all alone. We as good leaders must understand that we must listen, ask questions, be held accountable, and create two-way streets for communication. Leaders who achieve this leadershift know the value of encouragement and seek to incorporate daily encouragement into their communications. “A person first starts to live when he can live outside of himself.” – Albert Einstein (pg. 160)
The Improvement Shift: Team Uniformity to Team Diversity
“People different from me could make a positive difference in me.” – Maxwell (pg. 172)
GET OUTSIDE YOUR BUBBLE. Gosh, there is so much goodness in this chapter to even begin to sum it all up. Diversity and inclusion are more important than ever, and generationally speaking, the younger generations see the intrinsic value or not just bringing people together but allowing voices to be heard that will have a tangible impact on business. As good leaders, we cannot fail in this area; we have to rebuke arrogance and embrace diversity by broadening our perspectives. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
The Influence Shift: Positional Authority to Moral Authority
“A leadership position does not give someone leadership authority.” – Maxwell (pg. 195)
I think we’ve all experienced a time when your boss or supervisor was checked out or there was another “leader” within an organization, even if they didn’t have the appropriate corresponding title. So, where does authority begin? Moral authority is the highest level of influence; once followers have recognized authenticity and trust sustained by successful leadership endeavors, followers are more inclined to grant authority to this new leader. “Competence is the core of moral authority” because people follow people, they do not just follow positions. When you inspire someone, you have the power to transform their lives and empower them to become the best versions of themselves. (pg. 199) Moral authority is not some grandiose, unattainable position of power held only by religious leaders; moral authority is fundamentally driven by authenticity and your capacity as a leader to remain humble, courageous, and consistent. “Leaders of integrity do the right thing, even when it’s hard, even when it’s not best for them personally.” – Maxwell (pg. 209)
The Impact Shift: Trained Leaders to Transformational Leaders
“If your actions inspire people to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then you are a transformational leader.” – Maxwell (pg. 215)
Transformational leaders are the ones who find themselves in history books, they are the ones who have inspired people along the way, the ones who have made a lasting impact, the ones who have changed the world. Transformational leaders, like Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Walt Disney, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, and so many more, all impacted the world differently, but it was their innate ability to inspire people to think bigger and see outside the box that cemented their legacies. Maxwell even says, “Of all the chapters in this book, this one is the most important.” (pg. 215) In order to make a difference, to make a change, good leaders have to personally experience their own transformations. As leaders, we have to commit to equipping new leaders, making a difference in our own communities, and create environments around us that promote positive change. We must be full of good attitudes, authenticity, understanding, and we have to set the example for working hard. We must be passionate about creating space for someone else to transform and reach their potential, and we have to invite in others to help with the process.
The Passion Shift: Career to Calling
“When it is your calling, you won’t have to chase it. You will be CAPTIVATED by it.” – Maxwell (pg. 241)
As leaders, when we understand that we are built for more than just a career, our mindset shifts from heavy responsibility of achievement to exciting opportunities and possibilities. Many leaders feel a deep desire to make a difference in the world, to leave their legacy and impact; this is a nudge toward your calling, because your calling gives you purpose. Purpose leads to fulfillment, and at the end of the day, do you want to go home drained from achievement or motivated to keep going? “A calling lifts our hearts and expands our options. It can make even the mundane meaningful. It drastically changes our perspective for the better.” (pg. 246) As we talked about at the very beginning, there are no timelines, no finish lines with growth, and so is the same truth with your calling. You are writing a story with your life, and though it is impossible to know where you will end up in twenty years, you can determine the steps you take today. “Where our talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies our vocation.” – Aristotle (pg. 239)
I know this was long, but I hope you take away that not only is this book worth your time investment as a leader, but that you have the capacity to do more, be more, and see more as a leader in your area. Just keep this in mind: “If you’re willing to commit to changing yourself, inviting a small group of people to join you in the process, and preparing other leaders to become agents of transformation, you can change your world.” – John C. Maxwell