Column: An interview with John Maxwell, author and leadership coach

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Whenever I discuss leadership with business executives, the name John Maxwell is sure to be part of the discussion, and with good reason. In 2014 John was identified as the No. 1 leader in business by the American Management Association, ahead of leadership experts Jim Collins, Jack Welch and…

John Maxwell

Whenever I discuss leadership with business executives, the name John Maxwell is sure to be part of the discussion, and with good reason.

In 2014 John was identified as the No. 1 leader in business by the American Management Association, ahead of leadership experts Jim Collins, Jack Welch and Ken Blanchard.

Maxwell is also a New York Times best-selling author and speaker who has sold more than 26 million books and in 2015 reached the milestone of having trained more than 6 million leaders from every country in the world.

Maxwell will be the keynote speaker at The High Center’s Family Business Forum on Tuesday, March 22, at the Lancaster County Convention Center.

To gain some insight into Maxwell and his thoughts on leadership we asked him a few questions prior to his visit.

If you could give our readers one piece of advice on leadership, what would that be?

You never arrive. Leaders are learners. If you want to be a good leader, whether you’re just starting out or the CEO of an organization, do not have an arrival mindset. Always operate from the belief that you can always grow and get better as a leader and as a person.

Is it more difficult to be a leader today, why or why not?

No. Leadership is leadership. It involves the same principles, no matter the time frame. Now, individual challenges can make things more or less difficult. But I think every era has opportunities for great leaders to emerge, and great ones do. Pick any time in history, and you’ll find a challenge and a leader who rose up to take it on.

What do you see as the biggest stumbling block for leaders?

Thinking that their leadership is for themselves. Leadership by nature needs to be unselfish, to add value to others. Anytime a leader starts to think that the position, the influence, or the benefits are for them, they’ve got things upside down.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

The hardest thing for me is to realize that not everyone continues on the journey with you. Saying goodbye as I move forward and others stay behind is very sad. But it’s important for every leader to learn that sometimes people either can’t, won’t or shouldn’t go the whole distance with us.

What advice can you give young leaders?

Pay the price for growth. People won’t give you credit when you’re early in your journey, but keep growing, learning, leading. The return doesn’t often come till years later, but it’s worth the price.

What is the most different job you’ve had and how did it help you?

One of my first jobs was in a meat- packing plant. And being the high-energy, curious person that I was, I wanted to learn everything I could about what we did.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the general attitude at the plant. They actually told me to slow down at my work and stop asking questions. As one worker told me, “Look, I just kill the cows and go home.”

From that experience, I realized that I wanted to be in work that was mentally stimulating and engaging with people.

Are you looking forward to your trip to Lancaster?

Yes, I have many fond memories of family vacations in the Lancaster and Hershey area. I am also looking forward to sharing thoughts about my new book, “Intentional Living.” I think it is the most important book that I have ever written and I share my lifelong personal journey of significance.

• Michael Mitchell is executive director of The S. Dale High Center for Family Business at Elizabethtown College. For more information on The High Center’s Family Business Forum, visit thehighcenter.com.


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