Back in August 2016, my wife and I were at the bi-annual John Maxwell Team event. It was a real blessing to attend and get to know other speakers and coaches from around the world who are invested in adding value to others and bring leadership to their respective communities. There were many great moments during those three days of workshops, training, and speeches. We were trained by some of the most respected authorities in speaking, coaching, and business. One thing stood out above all others for me though.
We had just been given a great teaching by John Maxwell himself and it was close to supper time. As we were about to leave, he let everybody know that he could be found right after in the lobby to sign books from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. He added that there were two titles he would put no limit on signatures, one of them was The John Maxwell Leadership Bible. In other words, even if you brought 20 Bibles with you, he would sign them all. And then he said this:
“I will be out there for three hours to make sure that all of you get your books signed, because I care about you. I also want you to know I will sign books on the last day as well. I will be doing this because I want to add value to you – my team; but also because I want to be an example. I want to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. I want you to see leadership not just hear about it.”
To be honest, when he said this I though it was very nice of him,but I didn’t realize how daunting a chore it was to sign book, after book, after book for three hours straight – on an empty stomach. I understood the work he was doing on our behalf later, when I got in line after having supper with my wife. It was a very long line and it had been since 6:00 pm. There were 3500 attendees at the event, and many hundreds got in line for this book signing. We got in line at 8:15 pm – so we were late comers. We waited a good 40 minutes until it got to be our turn. When only a couple of people were left ahead of us, that’s when I got it – that’s when understanding hit me. There I saw my mentor, my teacher, my friend (as he always calls himself); a 69-year-old man who, from the looks of it, was exhausted and very haggard. He had spent hours signing thousands of books (I don’t even know how he could feel his hand anymore). He lifted up his head and his eyes had trouble following the upward movement, as he turned to his assistant and asked – “Are there many more?” And yes, it turned out there were quite a few more people left in line. So John went back to the conference hall, where we were gathered for fellowship, and made an announcement to everybody that he would keep signing books until 10:00 to make sure nobody got left out. And when he walked away from the stage, I saw two people aiding him going down the stairs – probably because he was (understandably) dizzy and tired. This is what stood out for me during those three days of leadership training. This is what made the deepest impression on my heart and mind. It’s not the teachings, the preaching, the phenomenal ambiance, the size of the hotel, the friendships, or the food that I remember most. No. What impressed me the most was to see this 69-year-old world-class leadership teacher actually lead through sacrifice – not just in word, but in deed. That, my friends, is the deepest lesson John Maxwell has ever taught me:
Without sacrifice, there is no leadership.
My wife and I will never forget his tired face; and we will forever remember his giving heart.
John, if you’re reading this: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for knowing the way, going the way, and showing the way. I know your life’s mission statement was to add value to people. Well, you surely accomplished that with me. May God richly bless you.
Books I recommend that Teach Leadership and Servant Leadership;
Has God asked you to do something that you are not sure about?
As believers, and as entrepreneurs, we are often guided by the Lord to do things that we are not sure about… or even things that we are terrified about.
Christians are told in the Scriptures to trust in God for all their needs. We are told that whoever God calls to do something, He will equip as well.
But we often over spiritualize this concept. We often think that God will give us peace amidst famine. We over-spiritualize our Father by undermining His actual care for our physical needs. Make no mistake about it: God will take care of our physical needs just as well as our spiritual ones. There is one Bible story in which Jesus did just that.
In Luke Chapter 5: 1-11, we read the following story…
“So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.
When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.”
In this story, we see the following lessons about God’s provision:
If we obey, He will bless us. We are told that Jesus borrowed Simon’s boat to teach the multitude. Simon (Peter) provided Jesus with a platform to bless others. So, when Jesus was done teaching, he told Peter to “launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
God knows our needs before we ask him. In the sermon on the mount, we are told “your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Jesus knew he was going to ask Peter to forsake all and follow Him. But Peter had a wife and children he needed to provide for. He needed to work night and day as a fisherman to provide for his family. And depending on the catch, if was not steady income. Jesus was well aware of it. BOOM! The miracle catch was so huge that it made the two ships sink! We can only speculate about how much income it provide Peter with; but one thing’s for sure… it was enough for him to take a leave of absence from work. It was enough for him to “forsake all and follow him.” It gave Peter much needed peace of mind.
Sometimes, in order to follow Him, God will ask us to face our fears – to get out of our comfort zones, as a test of our faith. Other times, God, in His mercy, will appease our fears, just like in this story. He provided so well for Peter and the others, that they were able and willing to leave all and follow him.
God is a God who provides. After Abraham went to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, God provided a Ram instead for the sacrifice. That’s when Abraham named God (Jehovah Jireh): the God who provides. And in Ephesians 3:20-21we read: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations.”
As an entrepreneur, God may have asked something of you. Perhaps it is something that you are scared to do. Perhaps it is something that you have tried before and it didn’t work. Remember in the story, Peter had fished all night; he had cleaned his nets; he was exhausted – he was done. It was over. He didn’t want to go back out. And yet, upon Jesus’ calling him to go out, he did – and a net-breaking blessing followed.
If you are a Christian entrepreneur, and God has issued a call to you either for the next level in your biz, just to get started, for a change of direction, or perhaps even to make Him a bigger part of your company’s mission statement – do not be afraid to follow Him in uncharted waters.
Someone once said: “Calling is not without its crosses and trials, but let us not doubt of its compensations.”
If you do and go all out, if you dare to heed the call, to the deeper waters… God will break your net!
When God blesses you, trust me, you are going to need a bigger boat! Your net will rip! That’s how He does things; in a good and perfect way, with grace and abundance.
But before it does, you have to go out… and cast your net. You have to heed His call, go out, and cast your net even:
If you’re scared
If you’re not sure it’s going to work out
If you’re inexperienced
If you don’t have all the money you think you need
If you are told not to by friends and family
If logic tells you this is a bad idea
If in the past, the same thing didn’t work out for you
One thing that will help you become bolder and venture out to cast your net is remembering God’s former miracles and provisions in your life. God expects us to not forget the times when He acted on our behalf. And remembering these miracles will make you have more faith when things appear unsure. Look at this rebuke from Jesus to his apostles when they had forgotten his two miracle of the bread and fish and thought his teaching about the leaven of the Pharisees was about their next lunch:
“O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up?How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?” (Matthew 16:8-11)
To paraphrase Jesus, it’s as if He was telling them: “Guys, where were you when I multiplied the bread and fish? Don’t you get it? If you walk with me, you will not lack those necessities.”
Still fearful? Fear not. This admonition, ‘Fear Not’ is found many times in the Scriptures. A lady (Melinda Martin) set out to find out if it were true that it was repeated 365 times in the Bible; turns out it’s not. But, during this exercise, she actually put up a great list of Bible verses that tell us to be brave – to ‘Fear Not’. You can check it out here: http://bit.ly/fearnotbible
If God has called you out to venture out and cast your net – He will provide for you. You can take this to the bank – literally. And, as you do so, meditate daily on these few choice verses. Read them out loud to impress on your conscious and subconscious mind that if God has asked you to do something, he will provide for your needs and bless you in the process. This will also keep you positive and on track on a daily basis.
Here’s a video on this topic:
Sebastien Richard is a husband, father, author, copywriter, speaker and leadership trainer. He is also the founder (along with his wife, Elisabeth) of Thriving on Purpose, a faith-based coaching and leadership training company. His most recent book, Lead Like a Superhero – What Pop Culture Icons Can Teach Us About Impactful Leadership, is an unconventional approach to leadership, perfectly tailored for a new generation of leaders. It offers all of the proven, time-tested leadership principles, values, and tactics, with a never-before seen Pop-Culture Packaging. It’s definitely NOT your father’s leadership book!
When you search for the characteristics of good leaders online, you will find the number of characteristics listed as 5, 8, 10, 14, 21 or any other such number.
Why is that? Isn’t there a set number every expert can agree on? Apparently not.
You see, leadership is a strange animal. Although leadership experts can agree on what makes for good leadership in the larger sense, the number of characteristics deemed as necessary for it can vary greatly. While I say seven, John Maxwell wrote a more detailed list in his book The 21 Indispensable Qualitiesof a Leader. So, depending on how general or detailed you choose to analyze leadership, the numbers will vary.
That’s because leadership defies a permanent and static definition – it cannot be boxed. It’s always recognized by people when they witness it, but the varying styles of influences which makes it up can make it hard to pin down. It’s a bit like trying to predict the weather. There are ways to do it, but it sure isn’t an exact science. Leadership is, in a way, quite intangible. Nevertheless, there are some characteristics that cannot be overlooked and that defy time, cultures, trends, and situations. They are:
These are, in my opinion, the main (in a larger sense) characteristics of a good leader. Now, I’m going to go down that list and explain what each of these characteristics entail, and why they matter.
People skills:These are the leader’s know how when it comes to communicating effectively whether to an individual or a group. It also includes his capacity to gain trust quickly, and his/her capacity for empathy. So, basically, his/her E.Q. (Emotional Intelligence) and S.Q. (Social Intelligence).
Emotional Quotient is a (notional) measure of a person’s adequacy in such areas as self-awareness, empathy, and dealing sensitively with other people. It became a ‘thing’ in the early 90’s when Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term describing it as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”. Later, it was more thoroughly defined by Daniel Goleman in his bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence.
Emotional is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader.” – Jack Welsh
In our world of complex human interactions, E.Q. and S.Q. may very well be a leader’s best friend. After all, leadership is about inspiring people to be at their best in following a vision, work, or cause. This is why the most successful leaders today are not necessarily the smartest in terms of I.Q. Don’t get me wrong, they are smart… but probably outshined many who were smarter on their way to the top.
I.Q. get you hired… E.Q. gets you promoted
Smarts: This is the leader’s keenness of mind. His overall knowledge, quick wits, and I.Q. paired with how and when to put them to good use. In short, the leader’s acumen and know how.
“Competence goes beyond words. It’s the leader’s ability to say it, plan it, and do it in such a way that others know that you know how – and know that they want to follow you.” – John C. Maxwell
We live in a world where competence is very, very valued. And yet, in a weird way, it’s taken for granted. Don’t believe me? Just check how annoyed you are the next time you have to deal with an incompetent. Yeah, we take it for granted, and yet, it isn’t very common. As they say, ‘Common sense isn’t so common.’
And, as a leader, incompetence or downright stupidity is just inadmissible. A leader must be smart in order to show the way and go the way in the timeliest manner.
Vision: This is the leader’s goal setting stratagem and scope. How far ahead are they able to see and make provisions for? How high is their aim and how functional is their plan?
The leader’s vision is fourfold:
Sees MORE than others see
Sees FURTHER than others see
Sees BEFORE others see
Helps others see what he sees
Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” ― Jack Welch (Former CEO of General Electric)
It takes a solid vision for a leader to get people behind him. The clearer the picture, the more compelling he will make it to others.
Character: This is the leader’s integrity and strength of character. Remember, character is doing the right thing, even when nobody is looking.
In my book Lead Like a Superhero, Captain America is the character I chose to demonstrate what strong character is. He always aims to do the right thing – even when nobody is watching. It’s part of his trademark. This is why even Thor (a god) does what he says. That’s how much character matters.
People of character:
– Model and emulate great people from history
– Pursue virtue, wisdom, and understanding
– Seek out good company
– Build people up through their words and actions
– Mind their tongue
– Keep their emotions in check
– Have integrity
– Are people who keep their word
Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden
Great leaders always model great character. And when they don’t, that’s where their influence stops. That’s when their leadership fails.
Adaptability: This is the leader’s ease of adaptability and capacity to change gears when needed. His/her ability to go to a plan B, C, or even D and to rally their troops for the change.
Adaptability is being able to adjust to any situation at any given time. – John Wooden
A leader’s adaptability creates trust and a sense of security among his followers. When things go south, as they often do in organizations, you need to be a leader who adapts quickly and transitions smoothly. Panic is never an option for good leaders.
Focus: Focus is the leader’s drive and determination to reach goals. It’s his/her capacity to not let trivial things derail them from priorities and to stay on track.
Focus is the ability to say no, even to the most tempting offers, if they detract you from your original and worthwhile goal. It is the ability to refuse even good things and great times which would distract you from your ultimate vision and purpose. Here is an interesting acrostic with the word ‘FOCUS’:
“IT” factor: The ‘IT’ factor is often overlooked when leadership experts put up a list of a leader’s characteristics. The reason is quite simple; it cannot be readily identified or quantified. It varies greatly for each individual. One leader might attract followers because of his great intelligence, another through his quick wits, another through his compassion, and another because of his/her good looks. It could be defined as the leader’s magnetism or charisma combined with his/her ability to gain trust quickly. It’s basically the leader’s “Je ne sais quoi”, which brings that extra flavour to his/her leadership. It’s also the leader’s uniqueness and individuality.
Everybody is unique. Every leader is unique. The flavor they bring, their unique gifting, and their way to go about their business can make their leadership soar, or tank. Some leaders have a very high ‘IT’ factor, and some not. Those who don’t need a very solid supporting cast to maintain their following, even if they rank high in the other characteristics. Those who do have it are like magnets. They have the leadership equivalence of a Midas touch, even if they rank a bit lower in the other categories. But, on the flip side; if they rely too much on their ‘IT’ factor, they will eventually lose.
Charisma gets you in the room, but character keeps you there.
So, there you have it. Those are the seven main characteristics of a leader. Make them a part of your leadership arsenal. Cultivate them. Study them. Emulate them. Model them for others. It’s what any great leader does.
Here are more Great Resources to help you go in depth on this topic:
Sebastien Richard is a husband, father, author, copywriter, speaker and leadership trainer. He is also the founder (along with his wife, Elisabeth) of Thriving on Purpose, a faith-based coaching and leadership training company.