Maxwell Friday: Cultivating Leaders

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“Can your leadership be reproduced in someone else?”

          –     Paraphrase of John C. Maxwell’s litmus test, citing the greatest leader ever

Unapologetically, Faith is at the center of everything good I’ve ever done, and the closer I stay to it, the more good things occur.  Maxwell is a pastor first, and a leadership expert second.  He cites a certain Jewish Carpenter in this lesson on consciously cultivating next-generation leaders.

The opportunity is here every day for us to cultivate our own next-generation.

How?

Great leaders find next-generation leaders in their everyday world.

We probably don’t walk by many people collecting taxes or fishing with nets off wooden boats — yet we are surrounded by people in accounts payable, client services, HR, building maintenance, cashiers and technicians.  Great leaders look at the person, not the role, and they find the elements in every person that should be complimented / rewarded, and that could be cultivated.

Great leaders hand-pick next-generation leaders.

It’s not enough to “hope Jim or Mary understand their leadership potential.”  We owe it to them to call it (and them) out by name, and ask them to follow us.  We owe it to them to help them invest in, develop and learn more about themselves, even if they choose not to pursue formal leadership titles.

Great leaders call others to lead.

They don’t imply.  They don’t dangle suppositions and wonder if the next-generation will pick up on the hint.  They call them to lead.  In 1989, a mentor said to me, “I am sending you to Ft. Dodge, and I need you to fix things there.”  I said, “Roger, how the heck am I supposed to do that?  Where the heck do I start?”  He said, “That’s why I’m sending you.  You’ll figure it out.”  My mission was clear, as was my understanding that he believed I could get it done — and I also knew he was a phone call away at any time.

Great leaders use language next-generation leaders understand.

Great leaders don’t refer to the “synergistic strategy of aggregating data, developing insights and conducting A/B testing on a variety of possible engagement models.”  Great leaders say, “I am sending you to Ft. Dodge, and I need you to fix things there.”  They say, “In order for us to be successful, we need more activity in the market.”  They say, “Our deal volume and win rate are down this quarter.  Figure out why and let’s talk about your ideas to correct it.”

Great leaders take next-generation leaders on a journey and demonstrate their leadership.

Hy-Vee is a legendary retailer in my home state, local grocery stores that promoted a “helpful smile in every aisle.”  You can tell the first-generation Hy-Vee managers.  They don’t answer “Where’s the Maytag Bleu Cheese crumbles,” with words.  They say, “Great choice!  Let me show you!”  And then they walk you to the Maytag Bleu Cheese crumbles.  Great leaders show the way, not by saying “here’s what you do,” but by doing things in a way that invites follower-ship, and by creating an environment where next-generation leaders can be measured by their progress, not punished for their stumbles.

Leadership is influence.  Titles don’t make leaders.  Leaders are consciously cultivated by the leaders that came before them.  Leaders make a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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