By J. C. Maxwell,
Nashville, TN: HarperCollins Leadership (2019)
Reviewed by SAMUEL NZOIKORERA
The Harper Collins Leadership and John C. Maxwell have made an amazing contribution in today’s world of leadership, and they also offer practical thoughts on how to shift our leadership style as the world shifts. “The more nimble, adaptable, and flexible we are, the more quickly we can move and change” (p. 3). Maxwell uses the analogy of a cheetah, explaining the speed and flexibility that this wild cat must adapt to catch its prey. Understandably, this generation of leaders needs to operate like a cheetah. Modern leadership must expect fast-paced changes and learn to adapt to them as quickly as possible. “The key is to learn how to continually make leadershifts. What is a leadershift? It is an ability and willingness to make a leadership change that will positively enhance organizational and personal growth” (p. 4). Maxwell clarifies that “you cannot be the same, think the same, and act the same if you hope to be successful in a world that does not remain the same” (p. 7).
The benefits to gain from this book are plentiful. Maxwell offers numerous examples of what leaders should or should not be. One prime example he uses is that a leader should not be like a soloist. A soloist is one who plays an instrument by himor herself. Unfortunately, many leaders operate like a soloist. That kind of leadership does not match the meaning of the word. Being a leader means that one must have people to lead. Therefore, instead of leading from a soloist standpoint, one should lead from the conductor’s standpoint. A conductor conducts an orchestra— that is, a group of people. “You’re a leader only if you have your people with you” (p. 22).
Maxwell was an ambitious leader in the early stages of his leadership career. He thought that setting goals and meeting them was the way to go as a leader, but he quickly realized that that was not the way because he did not feel fulfilled. That is when he realized that he was focusing on the wrong thing. Setting goals and accomplishing them did not satisfy Maxwell. He felt like there was more to life than just accomplishment; he needed to grow personally. He puts it this way: “Goals helped me to do better. But growth helped me to become better” (p. 42). Being better is more important than doing better. There are so many successful people out there that have accomplished much, but they are not necessarily good people.
Some characteristics reflect a leader who has grown inwardly. When a leader has grown inwardly, pleasing people becomes a thing of the past. Instead, s/he challenges people to be better. One is not satisfied with a thing’s status quo; rather, s/he comes up with new and creative ways of doing things. A mature leader is not happy with his or her achievements, but helps others grow into their own achievements. S/he is driven by the desire to see others grow. This is the case for John C. Maxwell. He experienced the different types of authority that leaders can achieve; one common authority many leaders strive for is the positional authority. However, it is not the positional authority that a mature leader should strive for, but moral authority. Maxwell writes, “Lack of moral authority in leaders breeds distrust, creates cynicism, and kills initiative throughout the organization” (p. 197). If people cannot trust you, then how can you lead them? To build that trust requires time and consistency in all that one does as a leader.
Another leadership characteristic worth noting is the ability to transform lives. If one is a leader but the people s/he leads are not changed by his or her leadership, then that leadership is not effective. “If your actions inspire people to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, then you are a transformational leader” (p. 215). To achieve this, you have to go the extra mile, which you cannot do unless you view your career as a calling. When you view your career as a calling, it means that your life revolves around that mission. Even if you are not getting paid, you cannot help but do what you have been called to do. Maxwell put it beautifully: “A calling moves us from the center of everything in our world to becoming the channel through which good things come to others” (p. 243).
According to my analysis, I find no points of weakness in this volume. There are positive and strong points that are worthy of imitation. The personal stories and the research Maxwell shares about leadership puts a nail in a sure place that as a leader, he has grown and learned what it means to be adaptable, flexible, and prepared to change as the world shifts.
This volume is quite extensive in describing leadership changes that one must make to reach the different types of people groups. I personally will strive to apply these principles as much as I can. I feel that I lack personal growth; I am not sure if I am as transformational in my leadership as I ought to be. Although any leader can benefit from this book, I would especially urge Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders to take a special advantage of this volume. Most church leaders often appear to be operating from the old model of leadership—the traditional kind. Unless the leaders make these “leadershifts,” they will continue to play catchup.
I give my highest recommendation to this book for all those whose vision of leadership is transformational. Those who are eager to make a difference in individual lives, especially in today’s world that never stops shifting, will want to leadershift by subscribing to John Maxwell’s eleven essential changes that they will have to embrace. As Maxwell puts it, “Good leaders adapt. They shift” (p. 5).
SAMUEL NZOIKORERA works as a pastor for the East Central African immigrants in the Northern New England Conference, covering Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, USA.