Guest Blog – Marla Saunders on Leadership Gold

I tried to post this over the weekend and for some reason most of the post was lost. Sorry Marla!. Marla Saunders wrote this guest blog after spending a day in a leadership seminar with John Maxwell. She knows I’m a Maxwell junkie, so she offered to share it with us. Thanks Marla!

It Is Not Lonely at the Top

Leadership Gold is the latest offering from leadership expert John Maxwell. This is the book that took 60 years to write. John promised himself that when he turned 60 he would write a book outlining all the best leadership principles: the ones that “bubbled to the top” over his long career in leadership, motivation and pastoring. The result is Leadership Gold, a book that has already sold over 200,000 copies in its first four weeks, a record even for John Maxwell. Today John treated us to a one day Leadership Gold seminar at my church, Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach. This is the church that John Maxwell calls home, and the Leadership Gold seminar was his way of giving back to the West Palm Beach community and Christ Fellowship in particular. I have always appreciated John’s books, and was thrilled to be able to spend a day learning from him in a smaller (1000 people, today) venue.

John Maxwell, as anyone who has ever heard him or read his books knows, just drips leadership nuggets. Every word that comes out of his mouth could make a blog post in itself. But today I was struck with a common theme that ran through all John’s sessions: leaders should not find themselves lonely at the top of the pile. In fact, he said, if you are lonely at the top it probably means that no one is following you! So if you are a lonely leader, and we all are at times, John offers several ideas on how to get yourself out of a rut.

Avoid positional thinking. Leadership is all about relationships. In the past, leaders have thought that they need to distance themselves from their followers in order to “earn respect.” Not so. In fact, the people you are leading will only care to follow if they have a relationship with you. So work on opening your heart and being transparent, and forget about your job title. Great quote from John: “The only people I know who love their titles and positions are very insecure. They don’t need leadership training; they need therapy.”

Realize the downsides of both success and failure. Anytime you start to think of yourself as a success, you begin to distance yourself from the very people you are trying to lead. You begin to think that you don’t need them. This is dangerous. A true leader needs to view himself or herself as a servant. If you find yourself leading in every single situation in life and not serving anyone, you need to check your motives. Failure will cause you to avoid others, and it is in the teamwork of those very “others” that you will find success. Real success says, “Come up to the top and join me.”

And finally, John reminded us that if you are out in front, you are going to get kicked in the rear. As a leader, you will find yourself being criticized. Recognize this as the price you pay for leadership. And if things are going right? You will often get more credit than you deserve. Share the credit to build the team.

The common theme running through Leadership Gold, then, is that people make the difference. How you deal with difficult people, how you love the people on your team, how you teach your people: these are the skills that set you apart as a leader.

No one can really capture the essence of John Maxwell except Maxwell himself. So I leave you with three of my favorite quotes of the day.

“I won’t allow what you think of me determine what I think of you. I won’t allow anyone else to control my attitude.”

“If you are a self-made man, then you haven’t made much! If you are a successful leader, you are there because someone else helped you get there.”

Finally, and perhaps most relevantly, “If you see the Krispy Kreme donut hot sign lit and shining red pull over. It is a sign from God.

If the sign is not lit, pull into the parking lot and wait to hear from God.”

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One comment

  • Marla Saunders May 5, 2008  

    I just assumed you had your editor’s hat on!

    It was a great conference on a personal level. I’m really glad I went.

    Have a great time at the Drive conference! I’m so amazingly jealous that I can’t be there…especially as I’m in Atlanta all the time but just couldn’t get there this week. Enjoy the Ragamuffin meet-up…wow…so fun for you and the other Cross Pointers! Tell me all about it later! Oh…and feel free to send over some of the highlights for Coffee Shop Journal!