A happy, professional man in an meeting or interview.

What makes someone a good mentor? Why shouldn’t you focus on making others happy? How can you build a strong legacy as a leader?

John C. Maxwell writes that the hallmark of effective leadership in the modern era is not a leader’s personal achievements. Instead, it’s their ability to inspire others to grow and become leaders in their own right.

Continue reading to learn how to develop leaders for a new generation.

Inspire Others to Make an Impact

Maxwell argues that the most profound change you can make in your leadership approach is to become a transformational leader: a leader who inspires others to do better and to make positive differences. By nurturing others to become positive influences, you can amplify your influence and have a greater impact than you could have individually.

Maxwell’s advice for how to develop leaders in this way is to graduate from what he refers to as “climbing ladders” to “building ladders.” He writes that all leaders must start out by climbing their own ladder—garnering personal achievements to gain credibility. However, eventually, instead of focusing on climbing higher in the leadership ranks, you should shift your focus to helping others become leaders.

(Shortform note: In Trust and Inspire, Stephen M.R. Covey agrees with Maxwell on the importance of being an inspirational leader and says you must foster three levels of connection to inspire others. Like in Maxwell’s ladder concept, Covey argues that you must first focus on yourself before helping others become inspirational themselves. Connect with your personal source of inspiration—you can’t inspire others if you struggle to remain inspired yourself. Then, connect with others by practicing empathy and kindness. This makes people more receptive to your influence and also allows you to discover what inspires them. Lastly, connect others to a larger purpose, which inspires people by fulfilling their need for meaning.)

To help others become leaders, mentor them to give them the tools to lead. Maxwell writes that a good mentor is a specialist in their field, has more knowledge and experience than the mentee, is good at asking questions, and is humble. Once you’ve equipped others with the tools to be better leaders, help them uncover and seize opportunities to lead.

(Shortform note: In The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath argue that an important goal for mentors is to spark their mentee’s self-insight—an understanding of their values, abilities, goals, and motivations. Mentors have high expectations but confidence in the mentee’s ability to meet them. They also provide direction by guiding mentees to challenges that will help them grow, and they support them in facing those challenges.)

Maxwell adds that you should not only train good leaders but also encourage them to become transformational by teaching good values, nurturing small groups where people are committed to becoming leaders, and encouraging them to make a positive impact on the community.

(Shortform note: In Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras write that visionary companies have a leadership loop: They create long-range succession plans so new leaders can take up the mantle whenever necessary. This approach prevents gaps in effective leadership and ensures that the company continues in the right direction. To create these plans, the authors suggest you create formal development programs to identify, train, and promote potential successors who have a firm understanding of the company’s core philosophy.)

Focus on What Makes People Better, Not What Makes Them Happy

A common misconception is that, to be a good leader, you must please everyone and get them on board with your plans and ideas. However, Maxwell argues that effective leadership is about pushing people to reach their potential, which occasionally means making difficult decisions that might not please everyone. This can be hard because we like hearing affirmation and knowing that everyone is happy with our decisions.

To guide others to become their best, you must balance care with candor. Maxwell writes that leaders tend to either be too caring or too candid. If you’re too caring, you won’t initiate difficult conversations to help people grow. If you’re too candid, you’ll fail to connect with others because you’ll seem unsympathetic. To balance the two, have a genuine interest in what’s best for the other person. This way, you can be supportive but also willing to challenge people to improve.

Maxwell suggests several ways you can help others to be better through care and candor:

1. Overcome personal discomfort. Many leaders shy away from making challenging decisions because it makes them uncomfortable. To prevent this, ask yourself three questions in the following order to help you prioritize organizational and team well-being over personal ease:

  • What’s beneficial for the organization?
  • What’s beneficial for team members?
  • What’s best for me?

This way, you’ll make decisions based on what’s best for others instead of on what’s easiest or most comfortable for you.

2. Set clear expectations. Have a conversation with each team member to establish expectations from the outset. Start by asking the other person what they expect and then communicate your own expectations. This allows you to avoid assumptions, unmet expectations, and undesirable surprises.

3. Use the 25-50-25 principle to stop chasing consensus. Maxwell writes that, when you make any decision, 25% of people will support it, 50% will be undecided, and 25% will resist it. Instead of worrying about how to get everyone in agreement, concentrate on turning the undecided section into supporters, and don’t waste time trying to win over the resisters.

How to Develop Leaders: Expert Advice From John C. Maxwell

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *