Experts with 40 years of experience are scarce. Today’s guest is John Maxwell, New York Times best-selling author many times over. John Maxwell joins us to talk about his latest book: The Leader’s Greatest Return. In this book, John Maxwell shares decades of insight on leadership. When I read The Leader’s Greatest Return, I was able to connect the dots on my research with fast-growth companies to the heart of leadership. In this interview, John Maxwell shares why he believes leaders must put employees before customers. We talk about where military leadership works and where it doesn’t. I loved reading The Leader’s Greatest Return. Join me in today’s interview with the great and only, John Maxwell.
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John Maxwell: The Transcript
Target Audience: John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 26 million books in fifty languages. In 2014 he was identified as the #1 leader in business by the American Management Association® and the most influential leadership expert in the world by Business Insider and Inc. magazine.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
I think people can sound a lot better than they really are. If I’m prolific, it’s only because I’m constantly growing. And if you’re constantly growing, you always have something new to say. People that aren’t growing, have something old to say. And old, it doesn’t help you write the books. And so, the entire edge I have over most people, I believe, is that I not only grow continually, but I’ve systemized my growth. And I’ve learned how to categorize my growth that I’ve learned how to take it and and get return out of what I’m learning. With my filing system, with my own lessons that I’m doing, which eventually become books. But every book I write is for one very simple reason I write because I’ve learned something more and there’s something and when you learn something new you say oh, I have got to share with people.
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [1:13]
When you invest in others, they will give you back more than you can imagine. Where does this come from? Well, years and years of experience in leadership tells me that if you invest in others, you help them get what they want. You help them develop the skills and increase their confidence and encourage and you give them a place to grow like that. You will see the return tenfold easily. Now, I’m not the only one who thinks like this. Our guest today is a very special one. He is the one and only John Maxwell. John has had more than 40 years of experience in leadership and we talked about the interview today about his newest book, The Leader’s Greatest Return. This is a powerful book. I’ve been reading this over the last few days. really love the fact that he talks about all the different aspects of identifying, selecting and attracting leaders about how do you develop and grow them? How do you coach them? And inside today’s interview, we talked about some of those very exact moments of leadership that are very important. We talked about different things about military-style leadership, we talk about, you know, how do you get people to take ownership, which has a high sense of buy into what they’re doing. Now, all of this sounds familiar, because it’s very similar to my work in my leadership development with fast-growth companies. So make sure you tune into today’s interview with John Maxwell.
Thanks for tuning in here to Growth Think Tank. Really excited about sharing this with you. And before you run, I have done so many interviews in the last few weeks. I have such an exciting time to share with you these interviews have been organized into the 12 core principles of fast-growth companies. So all you have to do to get that is going to genehammett.com/worksheet. You can get the 12 principles and I’ve been able to go in there and find which episodes will align with each individual episode. When you subscribe to Growth Think Tank, you will find exactly what you need so that you can move forward. And many of them haven’t been published yet, depending on when you’re hearing this, but you can tune in to the date that means the most to you, So here’s John.
Gene Hammett [3:20]
Hi, John, how are you?
John Maxwell [3:22]
I’m great. How are you doing today, Gene?
Gene Hammett [3:24]
I am fantastic. I really excited to have you on the show. You don’t need an introduction. I’ve already told our audience a little bit about you. But what would you like to share with us about you know, this version of John Maxwell?
John Maxwell [3:38]
Well, when I wrote the book, The Leader’s Greatest Return. It’s a book that could only be written after about 45 years of leadership. So there are certain things that you know immediately about leadership, but there are certain things that take time and the leaders’ greatest return the reason I can write it with such confidence today is that I have been pouring into leaders for 45 years. And now I’m getting a huge return on mentoring and development of people today I get to see people that I have poured into and top leadership principles who are really doing incredible things. And it’s kind of like some things have to be tested before they can be taught. And the leader’s greatest return is I’m helping the new reader, even the new leader, the person just starting off in their company wanting to build something. I’m helping them with a picture of what it’s going to be like 20 years down the road, if they’ll just now invest in developing mentoring, equipping leaders right now. They’re not going to see the return. Now. It’s kind of like, I don’t promise you with this book that is going to be easy, but I do promise you it’s going to be worthwhile. Yep. And so just trust me on this huge start developing caring for pouring into leaders 15 2025 years from now, you’re going to start getting a return. That’s absolutely ridiculous. So just do what you’re supposed to do. And someday, you’re going to thank me.
Gene Hammett [5:13]
Well, I make a distinction between managers and leaders. And I write for ink magazine. Of course, you know that the audience probably knows that. But it was probably my number three article ever for the magazine where managers are a dying breed, but we need leaders instead.
John Maxwell [5:30]
Gene Hammett [5:31]
Do you make a distinction between managers and leaders?
John Maxwell [5:33]
Oh, I certainly do. I mean, just the type of person, there are differences. If for example, a manager really thrives on stability, they love for things to be in order and in place and in sequence, where natural leaders thrive on the uncertain and, and so they they’re ready to explore. They’re ready to try that, hey, they’re much more ready to even fail and learn from that failure. And so, you know, managers I’ve often said, and I think this is huge, and I talked about it in the book that leaders greatest return. Managers not only want everything to stay the same, but they also want to lead everybody the same. And leaders understand that there are different motivations of people, and you have to find them before you can lead them. A manager basically says we’ve already found the process in the system. So let’s get going. Let me find where you are. And then let me build something that will help you really reach your leadership potential. So back in the 1980s Jean, very simple, they were all management books. But by 1990, the speed was going so quickly as far as to change that they had to get in front of it, not be managing it right at it. And so this leadership began to replace management back then and of course today, leadership Books are what 50 to one for every management book, because you have to constantly stay on the front.
Now let’s pause here for a second. John just talked about leaders versus managers. Now, one of the really big reasons why we want to develop more leaders is because they’re able to see a vision that we’re where we’re going. And they’re able to align people to that decision. And they’re able to get them to create buy in to get their managers to have trouble seeing the vision of because they really want that’s the stability that john talked about. But leaders will be able to see something that’s never been done and create a way to get there. And back to the interview with John.
Gene Hammett [7:41]
I love the distinction you made there about you know, all the different parts of that but really specifically the one where leaders will see people as individuals and lead them differently. And manager I to lead the group. When you know you’ve been around for a long time I saw you for the first time speak not too long. ago I was at the leader cast in Atlanta.
John Maxwell [8:03]
Gene Hammett [8:04]
I was impressed with here. But on stage you really brought it. So when you think about speaking now what are the things that kind of light you up to bring that level of energy?
John Maxwell [8:17]
Well, what lights me up is what I’m learning right now. People become boring when they’re not growing and they’re not learning. And so what happens if I’m not growing and I’m learning, not 30 I’m still back teaching gene things that, that I have that I know. But they’re no longer live within me. And so whatever like for I have learning lunches consistently with people that are bigger, better faster than me. And one of the questions I asked them is, what are you learning right now? Because that’s where the passion is, the passion is and what’s happening to me now and what am I experiencing and, and, and how am I growing?
John Maxwell [8:57]
And so when people say how it 72 John, can you go on a stage? Or can you write another book, and you’re just all in all excited about it? It’s very simple. Because I’m learning right now and growing right now. And what I try to do as a communicator, and also as a leader, is the moment I’m learning something, I begin to pass it on to others. I don’t wait to perfect it. I don’t even wait sometimes to understand it. In fact, what I do is, I’ll sit down with somebody like you Gene, and I’ll say, Look, I’m learning this right now. Let’s talk about it. And I put myself in the same seat you are, I don’t even come into you as a teacher. I come into you as a fellow learner. And here’s what I’m learning what you think, does this make sense to you? Give me some feedback. And we, we kind of grow each other. I think the greatest platform for growth is when you can get around other people and begin to share what you’re learning together. And all of a sudden, what is a good thought becomes even a better thought and there begins to be an energy and synergy that happens in that room because of it.
Gene Hammett [10:05]
And our job as leaders is to create that environment inside of our workplace. Right?
John Maxwell [10:10]
Continue that, in fact, the book, The leaders’ greatest return really is about how do you develop leaders? culture? I mean, that’s it. Thanks for a hold that book up. It looks pretty good. It looks pretty good. And what if somebody says, Well, how do you develop that leadership culture, you develop a leadership culture, when you evaluate leadership and get people in that culture a chance to lead. And it’s that simple. You value leadership, you know, everything rises and falls on it. And then you take your team, and you find places for them and opportunities for them to go out and practice leadership because the way you develop leaders is to get them to practice leadership. It’s more than understanding how a leader thinks or what a leader does, it’s going out and doing things that leaders do And learning from that experience and a leadership culture really allows that to happen. And I’m hoping for everyone of every one of the people that follow you or yours. I’m hoping that by the time this podcast is over, they’re going to say something like this. I want to develop a culture that basically says leaders made here. I mean, with this, this is the place we make leaders here. And that’s kind of what the leader’s greatest return is all about. Just developing that kind of culture that you lead better, but the people around you lead better also.
Gene Hammett [11:36]
I want to share with you some of my research and I know I gave you a little bit before we cut on the recording, but I study fast-growth companies, these founders you know, some of them are growing five times per year, some of one of the top companies that have found the podcast 36,000% growth in three years.
John Maxwell [11:55]
Gene Hammett [11:56]
Impressive right? Building a fantastic team. They’re more proud of their team than they are their growth numbers. But the one big question I asked all of these leaders is this, as a leader of a fast-growing company, what’s more, important customers, or employees? You share me with me what your thought is on it. Why do you think they so often say, its employees?
John Maxwell [12:21]
Well, I think because they realize that as you invest in the people around you, the return is that the people that you pour into, are the ones that will then deliver to the customer. And when I was 40 when I was 40, Gene, I evaluated where I was headed, I didn’t have a midlife crisis, but I did an evaluation mid-life. And I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t spending enough time investing in my team. I was investing in me strongly, but I really wasn’t doing that. In fact, in my book, The 21, irrefutable laws of leadership The law, the inner circle those closest to you determine the level of your success. It was birthed out of my 40 year kind of evaluation. And I came to the conclusion about the rest of my life. I would spend more time with my people, my leaders, my employees, the people that that was going to literally make the difference.
John Maxwell [13:19]
I would that would be my number one priority, as far as money investment and time investment, emotional investment, social investment. They were the ones I was going to pour myself into. And I wrote that at 40. I’m 72. Now I could write the book, The leaders’ greatest return because I’ve had 32 years of investing in leaders. And some of them they’re bigger than I am now. They’re better than I am. They’re faster than I am. And what’s beautiful is all the investment you have in these people just brings you to return. I tell people what I started off as a leader. I wasn’t as bad as people thought I was today. I’m not as good as people think. Why do they think I’m so good today? Not because I’m that great. It’s because I’ve invested in many, many leaders. And those beautiful people have just lifted me as they’ve lifted themselves as a leader.
Gene Hammett [14:16]
Well, I love this conversation, to take it a little bit deeper, that research a fast-growth company 94% of the founders of these really fast-growing companies will say it’s an employee first. And as you are really kind of uncover this, that what they really looking for inside their culture is for people to have a feeling or a sense of ownership of their work of that client experience of everything going on. Even if they’re not financially rewarded, right we can feel options that people and profit-sharing and you can put external on that, but leaders get them to internally be inspired to feel that sense of ownership. Have you seen that in your work too?
John Maxwell [15:01]
Oh, yes. In fact, I’m so glad you brought that up because. Maybe my favorite chapter in the book is chapter two, where I talk about attracting leaders. And I talked about inviting them to sit at the leadership table. And, you know, this is a phrase that’s not heard of a lot. But what I basically say about inviting them to sit the leadership table brings them around you and allows them to be part of leadership discussion. And let them ask leadership questions. And it’s at that leadership table, that you begin to find out the people that have a propensity to leading a very quickly you’ve written six or eight people around the table and have an hour leadership discussion, and let interaction questions evolve.
John Maxwell [15:53]
And you’ll very quickly tell, let’s say of those, maybe have three or four new ones there. You’re going to very quickly tell those who haven’t listened. leadership. And so the leadership table is the first place where you just invite them all in. Come on, let’s talk about it, then they begin to pull themselves out of the pile. And all of a sudden you say, you know, to those people love this discussion. Let’s go put a little bit more time and effort, the energy of it and it’s, it’s almost like in the pros in baseball having a farm team and, and you know, and they finally elevate themselves up to the majors. Well, I think that the leader’s greatest return is having an environment and a culture so that everybody can sit at the table. And then you can find those that have the greatest leanings that you can begin to really pour into to develop the real good find leaders that you want to have in your organization.
Now, let’s hold on for a second here. John just talked about inviting people to have a seat at the table. What this really is, is a part of my research, of creating ownership culture. is really including people. When you exclude them, they don’t feel that sense of ownership. But when you include them in these key meetings, the key decisions, when you give them a voice, when you allow them to participate, they will step up and have more buy into whatever’s going on. They feel like they were a part of it. And so if you include them in that, it really does give you a higher sense of ownership as a leader. No back to John.
Gene Hammett [17:28]
I find that too many organizations don’t take the time to talk about the aspects of leadership. They’ll talk about the projects going on. They’ll talk about hitting the numbers and the goals and things like that. But if you take something like this, let’s go into this word empowerment. What is empowerment to you? And how that you know, having those kind of conversations across that boardroom with not just the leadership team, but you know, anyone in the company that really you’re trying to invest in because you want empowerment, two-way street right leaders, you have the empowerment, but employees have to step up and say, I’m committed to stepping into that role. But why aren’t corporations and companies taking the time to talk about the meta aspects of leadership?
John Maxwell [18:14]
Well, because they think that they are primarily information people, instead of leading people. You see, you sit down and you say, Okay, let me tell you the projects we have going if I’m sitting in that room, and these are projects about my company, but I’m not involved with them or I’m not feeling like I’m contributing to them. That then the vision is not we the vision is still me that coming from the top, but empowerment means involvement. Empowerment means opportunity. Empowerment means that while I’m talking about the project, I’m including you and the project and how you are making the project better and how you are expanding the project. How you are creating the project and helping us form it. There’s a huge difference it and so many times I think companies lose their way when they get more excited about the project they are doing that the people that are doing the project.
Gene Hammett [19:16]
John Maxwell [19:18]
And that’s the difference. And again, in the leaders in the leaders great, there’s Turn, turn, I keep talking about the fact that the people, the people, there are the ones that are going to carry the day for you. And so if you will equip them, train them I talk about mentoring if you do all these things with them. They’ll carry the day and you said it was so true Gene, ownership is everything. ownership is everything. And when people walk out of a room, and they say oh, look what they are doing. You have not accomplished the role of the leader. But when they walk out of the room, and they say look what we are doing. And so I tell leaders all the time, quit talking about what’s important to you. Talk about what’s important to the people. They don’t give you everything you need for success. But it’s not about you. It’s about them. And your leaders raise return says, if you’ll invest in your people that invest, but is what’s going to give you a great return. And what I love about the book is that once you invest in a leader and they invest in someone else, the compounding gets ridiculous. That’s why it’s always been my theme. We add value to leaders who multiply value to others. You see, when you add value to the leader, there’s always a compounding result. If you just add value to followers and let them only be followers, there’s not the return is investing in believing in empowering the leaders that are on your team.
Gene Hammett [20:59]
Now I know you have a chapter in here about coaching leaders. I want to give you a chance to talk about this because it’s a really hot topic, where I’ll say evolved leaders truly are coaching them. They’re not telling employees what to do next. Because if you tell someone what to do, the next time something needs to be done, they’re waiting to be told.
John Maxwell [21:18]
Gene Hammett [21:19]
And there’s coaching. And one of them, you know, one or two key aspects of coaching leaders to rise to that next level?
John Maxwell [21:26]
Well, I’m so glad you asked that question. In fact, you know, I have a coaching company called the John Maxwell team. And we have 30,000 coaches at 162 countries, the world and we’re the largest, fastest-growing country coach capita in the world. And so coach it and I was I wanted to put a chapter in here on coaching because coaching people means I come alongside of you. It doesn’t mean that I’m from the top delivering to you the principles to be successful in life. I’m walking with you and practicing the principles with you. How to be successful and like there’s a lot of difference gene between me sitting down and say, Okay, take good notes, I’m going to tell you how to be a good coach or how to be a good leader, then sitting down with you and say.
John Maxwell [22:12]
Hey, Gene, let’s do this together. I’m still learning. In fact, can I tell you something? We do this project together. You’re going to tell me some things and show me some things. I don’t know. You’re going to help me and I’m going to help me. I think coaching always has a synergy to it. Because in reality, both the coach and the player make each other better. Yeah. I’m telling you right now, Lou Holtz somewhat time you said Johnny said, I’ve coached good players and I’ve coached bad players and I’m just a better coach, good players. Well, in coaching, you realize the value of the person you’re coaching, but because of your spirit and attitude that we’re learning together and it’s not like you know, it all they know nothing. They catch the spirit of that as they know the value of having you to come alongside them to reinforce what you’re thinking and what you’re doing. So coaching is always I look at coaching more, instead of teaching more like teamwork, we both have something to contribute to the table. And the more we value what the other person contributes, the more value we put into the conversation.
Gene Hammett [23:22]
I’ve noticed this with some of my clients that, you know, there’s a lot of leadership books, in the military-style of leadership. And, you know, and I could be wrong on this and you can maybe shed a light on it, but I kind of feel like the military-style has this, you know, do it this way. This is what we’re doing. And modern leadership is something that’s more collaborative like you said, you know, I’m going by side with you. Are you seeing some movement inside of leadership away from the leadership of the military-style?
John Maxwell [23:57]
Well, I am first of all I’ve spoken at West Point. So I appreciate the military, let me tell you something, you better have a military-style of leadership if you’re charging the hill and lively. So can I say something? When the moment strikes in the disasters there, you don’t have time to collaborate and kind of get everybody’s opinion.
Gene Hammett [24:19]
John Maxwell [24:19]
So there’s a place for a military-style leadership, the problem is it the places in the military. I see it. When I see it in companies. I say, oh, excuse me, I’m so sorry. I thought we were now in a company here and trying to build a business that not you know, basically trying to beat up the enemy. It and so the difference is that very simple. When I started off as a young leader, I knew what I wanted to accomplish. I was strong on vision. And so I was a directional leader. I just say, Okay, guys, here’s where we’re going, here’s what we’re going to do get light, let’s go. But as I matured over the years, I realized that if you are a directional leader, you lead by assumption. That’s the Achilles heel of a high directional leader, they assume that people are with them, they’re assuming that they know what the people and what their motives are and what their heart is. And so over the years, I’ve totally changed from a directional leader to a leader that asked questions and listens. And what I discovered is, you have to find the people before you can lead.
John Maxwell [25:33]
Too often we want to lead them we haven’t found them yet. So we’re leading and we’re moving in a direction. And if they’re going with us, they’re not going with this with their heart. Remember this. Just because a person is moving with you doesn’t mean that they’re moving correctly. You want them to move with you not because you’re the boss. You want them to move with you, because they have ownership in the idea and the thought the most that they think is their idea, the more that they move on their own, and then it begins to be an incredible perpetual, self-sustaining type of a movement. And there’s a lot of difference between that and leaders that are effective.
John Maxwell [26:16]
The people that are moving with them are doing so because they have considered them collaborated with them, you know, cooperation is the fact that we, that we agree, but collaboration is we agree aggressive. And there’s a difference between that a green aggressively comes from a leader that is constantly understanding, learning and finding these people and that’s why g in chapter four, I talked about the seven motivations of a person because leaders understand you motivate purse people according to their interest. You see managers again, they motivate try to motivate everybody, the same leader by the same leaders lead differently. And I put that whole chapter in there because basically I said as a leader My first responsibility is to find what motivates you. And then when I find what motivates you, we stay right in that sweet spot for you. And you will continually stay motivated because that’s what makes you want to come to work every day.
Gene Hammett [27:16]
I want to wrap this up with one question because I feel like this is one of the core aspects of leadership that not many people talk about. But in when I do workshops with corporations, I will use like sort of the flip chart, and I will write down on half of the page, what the company wants, right? The company wants money, the company wants, profits, market share, they want, they want growth and all these aspects. And if you look at it, if you draw a line down the middle and write down what the employee wants, you know, they want a little bit of money, they want flexibility. They want to you know, do some meaningful work. But if you step back at it, you see that there’s not a lot of overlap between what the employee wants in their experience and what the company wants. And one of the big places behind this and I think as leaders really are trying to help our employees create meaning out of their work, because a lot of the younger generation, they don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t provide that level of meaning, what they’re doing. How are you suggesting that we do that as leaders?
Gene Hammett [28:19]
It’s a great question and all of our companies what we’ve decided is that there’s a difference between success and significance. And success is pretty much about me I mean, I make enough money I got you to know, be able to have the home and at but the success is pretty much what I’m accomplishing my career what I’m doing, but the significance is about others. And I think when you have an organization that is in the significance lane, that yes, we have product to sell and, and yes, we, we these are the things that we do in our company, but the big, big picture is we want to add value to people and we start with our own employees. The moment that I want more, hang on is this key, the more that I want more for you than from you. I begin to shift that culture. And that’s what the leader’s greatest return is all about. I want more for my people, so I invest in them. What I didn’t realize 45 years ago Gene was that if I wanted more for my people in the long run, I’d get more from them. I just didn’t know that. If, and so invest in them. And let that be a great return. Many, many years ago, I was speaking for a fortune 100 company. And the CEO introduced me and he said that he said it whereas before brought me up, he said, he looked at I think they’re about the 300 people in this large, large, humongous company and they said you are our greatest assets and they clap they like that I got up. And I said That’s true only if the company is investing in you. People don’t automatically get better. They get better intentionally. And I think that is where the leaders of an organization began. They intentionally pour into invest, add value to those employees, knowing that that’s where the return is. And when the people in your company know that you want more for them than from them. It changes the whole perspective of how people see the organization.
Gene Hammett [30:38]
Love it. You mentioned significance and success. I came up with the concept when I wrote my book, The Trap of Success. Most people, leaders, and founders will think that they get success first and then they go and create significance. Right. It’s kind of a gateway through this and one of the big ideas that came out of this one was… What if it’s not one than the other? What if they actually danced together? What if?
John Maxwell [31:07]
Gene Hammett [31:08]
They really can feed off each other the energy of creating significance and giving to others. I agree with you 100% on that, with the success of what you’re trying to create personally or within the company, they really can feed each other. And I really love your book here just one more time. The Leader’s Greatest Return. You’ll see this coming out. It’ll come out. It will have already been out weeks, but it actually comes out tomorrow. Is that right?
John Maxwell [31:36]
Gene Hammett [31:37]
We’re putting a big push on it. So I will create some special content around this just for the push this week because I’m really excited to have you on the show. I will also mention that if you go to Inc Magazine, you will be able to see a list of books in there. And this is among those really amazing books that I believe are powerful for you to grow as a leader and I really appreciate you being on the show, John.
John Maxwell [32:02]
It’s been my joy. Thanks for having me, Gene Have a good one.
Gene Hammett [32:06]
Wow, we talked about this a lot after I turned off the recorder. But what I really want to share with you is, you know, highlight some of the key aspects of today. One of those is managers have a place inside of our companies, they managed stability, they really do provide some purpose, but we need leaders, we need people who are able to adapt quickly, to be agile, to see a vision and create a pathway to that’s never been done. And managers struggle when it comes to that. leaders will also lead people in an individual way as opposed to managers try to do it from a group remote approach. Now, I love all aspects of this interview. It really does align with the work I’m doing with fast-growth companies. So if there’s any question that I can ask you directly if you wanted to get on the phone with John, I totally get it. But I’m available to you just reach out to me [email protected], as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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