Classics, Education, Interviews, Life Style

‘What makes a good leader’ – John C. Maxwell


WORLD renowned leadership teacher, John C. Maxwell needs little or no introduction, especially to those who have read any of his 55 books. The 63 year-old cerebral teacher was in Lagos on Wednesday, July 14, 2010, at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, to talk to leaders on how to move forward. ENCOMIUM Weekly was there and spoke with him on sundry issues and how to select a good leader for Nigeria, come 2011.



Nigeria will be 50 in a couple of months and we are going to be electing some new leaders, what advice can you give to enable us get a good leader?

I will say a country can change and anybody can make a leader. So, I will say to Nigerian people that they should be unique in their selection process. In doing so, you have to select carefully and they should also learn from some growing organizations on how to make a country work out their desired dream. The thing that is really worrisome about people is trust.

Secondly, compassion, it’s all about compassion, so I want to see a leader, who cares about the welfare of his people. If a leader cares for the well being of his people, they will support him in all ways.

In one of your books you emphasized that leadership is influence and that great leaders inspire and after they may have gone, their impact is felt. Can you expatiate on that?

You could be very inspirational in an elevated position. I will say that if you have a dream and you express that dream with proper planning within that dream, then you’ll be sure of having a very huge followership.

You are no doubt a great leader, with your experience and observations which is the best kind of leader to follow and you talked about inspiration.

I don’t think there’s an answer for that. I think all the above are good. Can I tell you something, all the good people we have all over the world have been bad in the past. So, I don’t think there is so much in electing a hero. But the question I ask all the time is, if you’re a good leader, you can lead anything and if you are a bad leader, you can’t lead anything. So, I think you just need to be yourself. Good leadership is good leadership regardless of what we are and vice versa.

Let’s go back to the influence aspect of leadership. The kind of leaders we need is the one that will not project a negative influence because of our youths who look up to them. So, how do you…

Yes, sometimes you get the good ones and sometimes you also get a bad leader. I think when you don’t have the quality to occupy a leadership position and you find yourself there, that is where the problem begins. And what I will advice Nigerians in the upcoming election is for them to choose a leader who has the quality of a leader who will begin to lead them right in the way of truth and they will never regret doing so.

You said a good leader is a good rider, what has been your personal influence over the years that has made you a good leader?

My father is my influence. My father is still alive, he is 80 years and he is still my major inspiration. I grew up in a kind of home where we have to believe what is right and we do it. So, I have explained what it takes and the need to be a good fellow in all ramifications, so it helped me get there, and helped me everyday during my school days. Everyday I spend time reading, talking information. I have been influenced by the things I wanted for myself and it really helped to shape me and what I do.

What’s the easiest way to run a business?

The ways to run a business are very many. You can be non-relevant not listening to what people tell you or not being able to understand what people believe could develop a customer base. You can also be admirable by giving people what they want and doing all you know in making a business grow. There are so many things, businesses is run differently because it’s a way of life.

What’s your greatest strength?

That is relationship. I really understand people and I understand how to communicate with people, and I’ve been able to do that. And my greatest accomplishment would be the things that I have done in developing people to becoming great leaders all over the world. I have made impact in people that never thought of becoming something in life. And to keep the legacy is in people, seeing life change. By taking what I teach you and when you apply it to your life and business, it turns out to be successful, it gives me joy. So, my strength altogether is when I train and develop and influence people, they will make more things happen. So, I decided to focus on human management and I watch them multiply.

Do you have any regret, is there a book or something you did that didn’t work out?

Every book I wrote, I have regret (laughs). You have to understand that I am not perfect. But what happens is when you write a book it never moves, those words stay as they are. But I keep moving and I keep developing. So, when I had sold outrageously one of my books, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, they asked me to revise it because this is a classic book which is in the hands of millions of people. When I went back, I looked at it and I was like, ‘waoh, here is a great task’ because there were things I wanted to say that I didn’t know how to communicate them. So, I revised everything in it, because I keep growing. So, when I look back at my books, l always do all I could because when they come out I am always excited about them.

You’ve travelled far and wide, good leadership is lacking in Africa, with your experience what do you think is missing?

Leadership has been in the hands of few instead of many. So, we have to be positional in the way leadership is handled in Africa. Leadership should not involve the people that like power. Instead of generating a culture that raises eyebrow you kind of press it down. But I see a change in Africa. Let me tell you, no country in the world has what Americans have. No company, no organization. I have never gone anywhere and people say, ‘John, we have so many great leaders in our organization and we don’t need to get advice on leadership. Every organization has the same needs, good leaders. That’s why my job is a great one. Nigeria can work and Africa can be better but great leaders, who are ready to lead are needed to get to the desired position.

You have this rule of five that you talk about a lot, tell us about it?

I write books and I file the things I write every day. So, the rule of five tells us what you must do everyday to become successful, wherever you belong, if you apply this you will get the result. Everyday, I read, think, file, ask questions and write. That’s the way I have been able to write all my books. Its no magic, it’s about doing something brilliant. Again it’s all about consistency. If everyday of your life you can do all of these five things in whatever field you find yourself, you will become successful.

For some people who are warming up to become successful with your teachings, what will you advice them?

Success is a daily thing and the people that are highly successful understand that they have to do the right thing everyday. So, its not luck, its not a one-time inheritance, it’s in you. So, I will find out what you do best, what your passion is and if you do it and you are consistent, I think you will become successful.

When you die, what would you like to be remembered for?

I want to add value to leaders, to multiply leaders. Again, I want to make a difference in people who want to make a difference, doing things that make a difference.



  • This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, July 20, 2010

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