The Process of Leadership Development (Law 3)

Marathon training like the Leadership Process

Leadership develops daily, not in a day.

Law 3 of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is The Law of Process. Learn with me as I describe the law and reflect on its application with developing leaders.

Introducing The Law of Process

This law reinforces the primary purpose of the Leaders Journey and is a process I’ve been (mostly) involved in since college – but has really picked up over the last couple years as I have seen value in personal growth. The general lesson is that we need to focus on the long-term process of developing ourselves through reading and being trained so that we will develop into leaders. Whether it is “general leadership” or technical/specific leadership – it takes intentional, disciplined effort through a process to gain a level of ability to provide leadership. 

Marathon Training as a Process

I grew up playing soccer – so I ran a good bit – but didn’t begin seriously running until I was challenged to run a 10K (6.2 miles) about seven years ago. Then I ran my first half-marathon and have run four more and several 15Ks and shorter runs.

 

I have learned that you cannot prepare to run a long distance in one day. It takes deliberate training and a strict diet over the course of a couple months to seriously prepare for a half-marathon – and much longer for a full marathon. Your body cannot handle the strain without intentionally building up toward the final distance of the race.

Daniel David Running a 15K

I realized this in my latest 15K this past March (right before COVID hit). My training was interrupted by a one week cold (I think) that weakened me and put me off my schedule and reduced my pace. I felt pretty good on race day so I decided to run with a group above my pace so I would be challenged. I hung with them until mile 6… then I got slower and slower and ended up with a slower time than the prior year. 

 

In much the same way, we have to engage in the long process of leadership development to gain the ability to be a strong leader. Start now with big goals so they can be realized in the future.

What Distinguishes a Leader?

John Maxwell shares the results of a leadership study – “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers.”

Successful leaders are learners. And the learning process is ongoing, a result of self-discipline and perseverance. The goal each day must be to get a little better, to build on the previous day’s progress ... If I want to improve, then I’ll engage in a process and stick with it.

John Maxwell - 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tweet

Phases of Leadership Growth

  1. I don’t know what I don’t know.  Many people fall into this category, thinking (or not thinking) that learning and developing as a leader is not important or that it is only for those people at the top. They never develop because they don’t know or don’t try and remain ignorant.
  2. I know that I need to know. Then, many people recognize that they need to know something to improve or grow as a leader. They at least recognize that there is a missing piece. 
  3. I know what I don’t know. Recognize what you need to know and develop a plan to get there – even if it takes years and financial investment.
  4. I know and grow, and it starts to show. Put your personal growth & leadership development plan into action over the long haul and leadership will come naturally and your influence will grow.
  5. I simply go because of what I know. This is when you reach the phase you worked toward in phase 4. “That’s when the payoff is incredible. But the only way to get there is to obey the Law of Process and pay the price.”

He closes the chapter with a story about President Theodore Roosevelt. He was a thin, sickly kid but through the challenge and example of his father and others he became strong, knowledgeable, and a great leader due to a determined effort as a life-long learner to improve and develop his leadership ability.

Application

  1. What is your personal plan for growth? What areas are you intentionally developing?
  2. Where do you see yourself in the five phases of leadership growth?

Book Reference:

Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

Photo Credit: Link to the original photo and the license.

Recommended Reading:

Leadership is Influence :: Law 2 of John Maxwell’s 21 Laws

Leadership is Influence

Every person has a measure of influence over others. Our leadership ability is measured by how much (and what kind) of influence we have on those whom we lead. 

I found this Law to be impactful because he gets right to the heart of what leadership really is – and isn’t. It challenges me to think about areas where I am leading (or tried to lead) and had influence over the group (and when I clearly didn’t). A position doesn’t provide a measure of leadership ability – your influence does.

The Law of Influence

The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less

John Maxwell - The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tweet

He closes the chapter with these sentences, which provides a good summary of this Law. “I love the leadership proverb that says, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” If you can’t influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won’t follow, you are not a leader.”

Mother Theresa as a Leader with Influence

John opens with a depiction of how Mother Theresa was such a great leader. She was small in stature but had incredible influence because she had faith, vision, and passion – and then worked tirelessly to further her cause. He explains how, after founding an organization and leading a team of over 4,000, she was invited to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in D.C. in 1994. Her speech was pointed and stepped on many toes but, instead of boos, she received respect and applause. John commented – “When a real leader speaks, people listen.”

The Five Myths About Leadership

Leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned.

  1. The Management Myth – “leadership is about influencing people to follow, while management focuses on maintaining systems and processes.” “Managers can maintain direction, but often can’t change it.”
  2. The Entrepreneur Myth – They are not necessarily leaders. They go after opportunities.
  3. The Knowledge Myth – Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.” But… knowledge alone does not produce a leader. A scientist in a lab might be brilliant – but they aren’t leading anyone anywhere.
  4. The Pioneer Myth – “To be a leader, a person has to not only be out front, but also have people intentionally coming behind him, following his lead, and acting on his vison.”
  5. The Position Myth – A title or office doesn’t mean that people will follow you (at least not willingly).

Leaders Who Are Respected

To find a leader in an organization, look for who is respected and to whom people listen when he or she speaks. There are some helpful characteristics or factors that help a person gain influence and become a leader.

  • Character Who they are – begins with the inner person – the genuine person (like Billy Graham).
  • Relationships Who they know – building real relationships develops influence
  • Knowledge What they know – doesn’t make you a leader but information is vital to be able to lead.
  • IntuitionWhat they feel – “recognize and influence intangibles such as energy, morale, and momentum.
  • Experience Where they’ve been – gives people more reason to give you a chance.
  • Past SuccessWhat they’ve done – a good track record helps build respect and followers.
  • Ability What they can do - “the bottom line for followers is what a leader is capable of.” On to victory!

Abraham Lincoln as a Leader with Influence

He closes the chapter with a story about how Abraham Lincoln struggled in his early life as a leader without skills and knowledge. He blundered through multiple attempts to lead, only to be met with failure and disappointment. But he was persistent as a leader and his abilities grew so that he was able to influence the nation as the 16th President.

The featured image is a picture I took of a statue of Abraham Lincoln in London. He was so influential, that even the English chose to honor him “across the pond!” 

Application Challenge

Review the above list of leadership factors and rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 to see which one you usually rely on the most to persuade people to follow you. Which factors could you further develop to become a leader with greater influence?

Reference: Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

To learn about the first law of leadership – The Law of the Lid.

To watch a video of John Maxwell teaching on the Law of Influence – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrZkVgl6U2c&t

Hamilton :: 5 Leadership and Life Lessons from the Musical

Hamilton Theatre

What are the leadership and life lessons we can learn from Hamilton?

Hamilton has hit our country by storm since its arrival as a film on Disney+. The musical is phenomenal and original on its own, but the timing with current events makes it all the more compelling and relevant. As I reflected on the film, I recognized a number of leadership virtues and life lessons that can be learned.

My hope is that you gain value from my reflection on the musical. I would love to hear all the virtues (and vices) that you would contribute to this list!

Have a Definite Purpose – “Not Throwing Away My Shot”

Hamilton was driven through life with a definite purpose toward big goals. He had invested in his studies and personal development. He chose not to be a victim to circumstances which would lead many to a life of poverty and insignificance. He knew that he had a shot at living a significant life – and was “not throwing away [his] shot!”

He was resolved to do everything he could to secure independence from England and successfully establish the United States as a strong nation. He surrounded himself with men who were equally driven with the same desire and resolve toward their extravagant goals. They were proactive, relentless, optimistic, and ready to jump on opportunities and strive for progress.

Why do you write like you're running out of time? …Ev'ry day you fight, like you're running out of time.

- “Non-Stop” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

I have been going through a journey to discover my own “definite purpose” in life so I can proactively strive toward big goals with excellence. A step in that journey is described in this post about developing a life plan.

Leave a Legacy – “Blow Us All Away”

The closing words of the musical are “Who tells your story?” This final song highlights that each of us leaves some form of a legacy and we cannot control how our story will be told and who chooses to tell it. Alexander Hamilton had a drive to protect his reputation and build a lasting legacy.

Hamilton and Burr share a split-stage song (“Dear Theodosia”) where they separately sing for their respective new-born children. Each of them dotes over his child and dreams of how he or she will carry on the legacy of the father. They exclaim that their respective children will “blow us all away.”

If we lay a strong enough foundation - We'll pass it on to you, we'll give the world to you - And you'll blow us all away

- “Dear Theodosia” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

Contemplating your own legacy is a vital part of becoming the strong person you are created to be. If we begin our journey with the desired end in mind, then we know which steps to take in order to reach that end. Choose your legacy now so it isn’t left to others to “tell your story.” This is an important part of building your life plan.

Have Patience – “Smile More, Talk Less”

Aaron Burr provides a constant word of caution to Hamilton, which he mostly ignored and disrespected, that would have provided some wisdom for his overzealous pursuits. Alexander would have made less enemies and created more unity if he had heeded Burr’s advice to be patient and friendly.

All of us could learn to smile more, talk less, and begin to truly hear people as we recognize and validate their worth and potential. This does not mean that we should be idle and passive, especially in urgent times that call for action, but it is usually unwise to brashly march ahead into “battle” without counsel or unified support.

Sometimes we need a paradigm shift in how we perceive and relate with others. Recognizing the worth of others is a valuable virtue in any leadership role.

Invest in Your Inner Circle – “That Would Be Enough”

A repeated theme in the musical is the cry for Hamilton to be content with spending time with his family. His wife Eliza clearly yearned for her husband to be home with her more often, especially during her pregnancy and the birth of their son, Phillip. Alexander was away from home so much during the revolution and the early years of the country that he failed to invest time and love into his family. The evidence of this came in two of his major life failures – his adulterous affair and the death of his son. He did not take seriously his responsibility to be a steward over his wife and children, and he paid dearly for his mistakes.

One of my great passions and life purposes is to be responsible in my role as a husband and father. I will continue to invest in my “inner circle” – my family, friends, and church community. Through my career and academic pursuits, I have found it necessary to often tap the breaks on my desires so that I can be present and strong within my close relationships.

Choose Forgiveness over Revenge – “Forgiveness. Can you imagine?”

There are moments that the words don’t reach - There is a grace too powerful to name - We push away what we can never understand - We push away the unimaginable - They are standing in the garden - Alexander by Eliza’s side - She takes his hand - … Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

- “It’s Quiet Uptown” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

The most moving part of the musical for us was when we experienced Alexander and Eliza grieving the death of their son. Hamilton had done so much to hurt his wife, but she chose to forgive him and reconcile their marriage through the journey of grieving together. They accomplish the unimaginable together because of her choice to forgive him. Her genuine forgiveness is evident in the final song as she describes all the work she did to further Alexander’s legacy after his death.

Aaron Burr and Phillip Alexander both chose revenge instead of forgiveness and that choice ruined and ended their lives, respectively.

Choose to Forgive

We have the choice on a regular basis to hold grudges and take revenge on others who have wronged us – OR to extend grace and forgive them. Revenge produces destruction. Forgiveness opens the door to healing and reconciliation. Holding a grudge hurts yourself more than the other person. Choose forgiveness and free yourself of the burden of anger and revenge.

If this is a topic you would like to further explore – please email me at thestrongwork@gmail.com

Your Opportunity to Contribute

I realize that the life of Alexander Hamilton provides many more lessons of virtues and vices. Reflecting on the lives of significant men and women enables us to learn from their success and mistakes. Please provide your own examples of lessons from the musical through the comments section below this post. Two ideas to start with are – 1) Have a Character of Loyalty and not Deception and 2) Take Responsibility for your Mistakes.

Reflective Questions:

  • Which of these virtues is most valuable to you?
  • Did you see yourself in one of Hamilton’s vices? Is that a potential area of growth for you?

Links to Images Used:

The Law of the Lid :: Law 1 of John Maxwell’s 21 Laws of Leadership

Law of the Lid

I have heard it said that if you think you are leading but nobody is following you – then you’re really just out on a long walk. Have you encountered a moment when you realize that nobody (or very few) are following you? Or that you don’t quite have the leadership ability or authority that you need to influence others? John Maxwell’s book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – starts off with the concept of the “Law of the Lid,” where he explains that each of us have a ceiling on our leadership ability. Recognizing your lid is the first step to raising your leadership ability and becoming a stronger influence in others.

The Law of the Lid

Leadership Ability is the lid that Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness 

John Maxwell

Maxwell introduces the concept by telling the story of Dick and Maurice McDonald – who founded McDonald’s. They had the foresight, ingenuity and drive to open the first restaurant in 1937 and expand to a bigger one in 1948 and develop their “fast food” model. However, when they started trying to open new restaurants or sell franchises – they floundered or failed due to the limitations in their leadership ability. They hired a businessman named Ray Kroc who had a much higher “lid” and was able to make McDonald’s the massive chain restaurant it has become.  

“I believe that success is within the reach of just about everyone. But I also believe that personal success without leadership ability brings only limited effectiveness. Without leadership ability, a person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership. The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership. The greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence needs to be. Whatever you will accomplish is restricted by your ability to lead others.” 

John Maxwell – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

The Logic of the Law:

If you have a low leadership ability (say a 2 out of 10), then you could work really hard and increase your effectiveness some. Or you could raise your Lid by learning to increase your leadership ability – and then exponentially increase your effectiveness in your work and leadership positions.  

He concludes the chapter discussing how sometimes the leadership must change – or improve – in order to propel the organization toward expansion or growth. “When talented teams don’t win, examine the leadership.”  

Short Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmXbrxcnAhM 

Applying the Law of the Lid to your life:  

1) List some of your major goals – and identify which ones will require the participation or cooperation of other people. For these activities, your leadership ability will greatly impact your effectiveness.  

2) Assess your leadership ability – and ask others to rate your leadership.
>> there are tools available in the book for this exercise.    

Read this!! – Strong Leaders Stand for Progress

Reference: Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

(Personal) Independence :: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly!

American Flag: Independence

There are positives and negatives to the pursuit of personal independence. We would do well to learn to strive for the positives and beware the negatives if becoming an “independent” person is our goal.  

There has been a growing trend to desire personal liberty or “autonomy” in American society. See the graph for how Google search trends show a steady increase in searches for the term “autonomy.” People want to “cast off the shackles” of societal or family expectations and be free to do or become whatever they want. We should ask ourselves if this is a band-wagon we should hitch up to.  

  • Will personal independence help us in the strong work we are created to do?  
  • Should becoming independent be my personal goal in life? 
  • And How do I lead in a culture that is driving toward independence and autonomy? 

American Independence as a Case Study

The residents of the British colonies in America felt oppressed, misrepresented, and disrespected by King George and the British Parliament. Representatives from each colony came together and became resolved to declare independence from England on July 4, 1776. Thus, began the new nation of the United States of America. As a case study, what were (some of) the positives and negatives of the American Independence? 

(Granted – these are very short lists, but it is enough to get the point across.) 

The Good of American Independence

  • American people were no longer oppressed or misrepresented. They had the freedom to represent themselves. 
  • They were able to create government with laws according to their own values.  
  • The people felt pride in being their own independent nation, achieving peace of mind from no longer being controlled by British tyranny.

The Bad and Ugly of American Independence

  • The signers of the Declaration of Independence put their lives on the line – and many of them died for their cause.  
  • The nation had to figure out a set of core values as well as how to establish an economy.
  • The people were now separated from their founding nation, England, which before the war gave them strength and protection.
  • The act of separation, which later lead to a declaration of war, was not a peaceful beginning. Many people lost their lives for the sake of their independence.

We can transition from the case study of American independence and relate it to the positives and negatives of personal independence.  

Personal Independence

In his classic work, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey discussed the fact that the pathway of maturity leads you from dependence to independence. A dependent person requires other people to do things for them or even think for them. A baby is a simple example of dependence since they are fully reliant on their parents for their survival. But many adults never fully mature past this maturity stage, so they continue to be dependent on others – financially, physically, or emotionally.  

Covey says that “Independence is the paradigm of II can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose.” (49) 

True independence of character empowers us to act rather be acted upon. It frees us from our dependence on circumstances and other people and is a worthy, liberating goal. (50)

Jordan Peterson is a psychology professor who challenges people to take personal responsibility and focus on fixing yourself first – before you try to fix the world. (Video / Helpful article.) The message is similar. You mature past dependence in order to choose how you live and how you respond to life circumstances.  

The Good of Personal Independence

  • Independent people have the freedom to choose their values, interests, friends, career, etc. 
  • They are not controlled by society and circumstances. Their identity and emotions are not dependent on other people or what happens around them.  
  • Gives the opportunity to have personal pride and grow toward excellence in life. 

The Bad and Ugly of Personal Independence

  • Independence can produce pride, division and isolation from others.  
    • It ends with Simon and Garfunkel’s song I am a Rock where you can say that you don’t need other people and they don’t affect you. (“a rock feels no pain and an island never cries.”) 
  • Someone whose life objective is to be independent does not really care to add value to others.  
  • An independent person might see others as objects who are there simply to add value to themselves.

Interdependence is the Goal

After Covey’s quote above, he said that independence “is not the ultimate goal in effective living.” The goal is interdependence – since reality is interdependent. We live in a society, a community, and a family. Our economy is interdependent (I didn’t raise the chicken who laid the eggs I ate this morning). We are stronger and accomplish more as a community which has risen above independence to proactively add value to others.

As a leader – I strive to develop myself so I can be the best version of myself and better serve my community while adding value to others.  

As a country – the independent United States would do best if we became the interdependent United States. If individuals focused on improving themselves, we could then add value to our society – with the ultimate goal of adding value to the world. We started with a conflict. My prayer is that we mature from that conflict and grow to be a force of reconciliation and peace in the world.  

(Disclaimer: I believe that many people, organizations, companies, and even politicians have embraced this idea currently and in our nation’s checkered history.) 

Application Questions

  1. Is your goal to become independent or interdependent?
  2. Are you taking responsibility for yourself so that you can grow and then add value to others?

Reference: Covey, Stephen. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Fireside. New York, New York, 1989.

Read this post to learn more about living in community as interdependent people!