No individual has influenced the way I approach leadership more than John Maxwell. As a minister and a business person I can connect with him because he has served as a pastor and a dynamic business leader. I first became aware of Maxwell when I read his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (10th Anniversary Edition). After reading the book I had the opportunity to hear him teach the laws at a conference in Indianapolis. I cannot tell you how much that book changed my approach to leadership.
Two years ago he published another book that I’ve found very helpful. In Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership Maxwell shares the questions he asks himself, his team members, and the ones others often ask him. Let me briefly share just the questions he asks himself.
- Am I investing in myself? This is a question of personal growth, and it’s a key question because if you are not developing as a leader you will soon not be able to lead others effectively.
- Am I genuinely interested in others? This gets at the core reason of why you are in a position of leadership. A true leader will seek to serve others, not to be served.
- Am I grounded as a leader? When things are going well it’s easy for a leader to develop an ego problem. A well-grounded person will be humble and not fall into the trap of thinking everything is about him or her.
- Am I adding value to my team? In other books Maxwell discusses the value of working with a team to accomplish much more than we can by ourselves. For the team to be successful we have to provide them the tools and resources they need to win. Providing these resources is the responsibility of the leader.
- Am I staying in my strength zone? Our greatest effectiveness comes when we spend most of our time working in the areas of our strengths. We must learn to delegate to others those tasks that require different gifts or strengths than we have. This is not done because we feel such tasks are beneath us but because they will be done better by others who are naturally gifted in those areas.
- Am I taking care of today? Leaders must be looking to the future, but we will not be effective if we neglect today. Make today the best day you can. Tomorrow, make that day the best you can. When we string together a lot of best days we will find ourselves on the journey to success.
- Am I investing my time with the right people? One of the things that means for me is to ensure I am spending time with family. Secondly, we need to spend time developing other leaders. Your organization should have a leadership pipeline, and as a leader you have to invest in the persons in that pipeline.
These are powerful questions, and I fear most leaders spend very little time answering them. Frankly, I didn’t prior to reading this book. And, these are just the questions in one chapter! The subtitle of this book hits the nail right on the head: Asking great questions is the foundation for successful leadership.
I read this book last year, and I’m getting ready to re-read it. These questions need to be kept fresh in our minds and answered often. There are so many demands on leaders that if we are not intentional about asking and answering them we can soon start slipping. Before long we’ll find we are not investing in ourselves or adding value to the team or failing to do any of the others things necessary to succeed as a leader.
What questions are you asking yourself? If you don’t have a good list, I would recommend you use the ones in Maxwell’s book.