I was privileged to spend last week with the John C. Maxwell team in Orlando, Florida for our semi-annual training event. Leaders from around the world converged to learn how to be better leaders – so they can return to their people recharged and ready to move forward with new and better ideas for growth.
Personally, I always enjoy the week because I get to spend time with one of my all-time favorite mentors, John C. Maxwell, and because I get to invest in growing new leaders there as well. There are some things I’ve learned from my vantage point – between one of the greatest leaders of our time and those who aspire to become great leaders.
Here are 4 Important Leadership Lessons I’ve learned from this experience.
1. To teach others, you must continually be learning.
It is not about completing your college education. It is not enough to become certified in your chosen field of expertise. You must be a lifetime learner. To survive in business or to progress in your career, you must stay ahead of the curve. And it is important to take on the responsibility of keeping your material new, fresh, and relevant – while also keeping the principles sound. Many great leaders did not complete college; some did not even finish high school; but they were continual learners.
2. To reach others, you must continually be looking.
We would all like to think that opportunities will just come our way and that the moment we hang our placard or go live with our website, we would find instant success. The fact is, you have to be out there actively seeking opportunities and putting forth the effort it takes to GET the work – before you can even begin to DO the work. One of the leaders I spent a good deal of time with this week has done just that. He has worked very hard over the last year, step by step, contact by contact, to build his business. So while it appears to have suddenly taken off, I know how much work and dedication has been invested to make that success happen. And because of that, I know he has what it takes to be a great leader.
3. To speak to others, you must continually be listening.
Just about everyone in the group aspires to be a speaker. One lesson John Maxwell teaches is that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. As an aspiring speaker or teacher, ask yourself some important questions to see if you are qualified. When you are in a crowd, are you focused on you or those around you? Are you constantly talking about yourself, your ideas, your business, and your goals…or are you looking and listening for needs expressed by others? Let’s face it, if you are doing all the talking, you can’t hear opportunity knocking. Listen before you speak. That helps you speak in a way that connects with your audience.
4. To lead others, you must continually be serving.
This may just be the biggest one of all. There are three degrees of leadership.
– Bad leaders. These are those who make others follow them in order to serve their own desires and ego. There is no doubt Hitler was a leader…but he was a very bad one.
– Better leaders. These are those who can get people to follow them because they get things done. Or they lead by position. And though this isn’t bad, it is does not reflect the highest level of leadership.
– Best leaders. These are those who serve. If you think about it, the truly great leaders in our history were those who were focused on a mission to help make life better for their people. Great leaders care deeply about their people and the mission, which at its source is rooted in serving others. Great leaders have extremely loyal followers, not by demand but by default.
So ask yourself in whatever position you are today, are you…LEARNING, LOOKING, LISTENING, and SERVING? Don’t worry about the leading part so much as these, because if you do these four things, the leadership will happen by default.