Leadership Gold

Dr. John Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert. He is the founder of EQUIP and the John Maxwell Company. John has also written several outstanding books on leadership that are well worth reading. Three of his books have sold over 1 million copies.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Developing the Leader Within You

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader

John’s insight comes from having worked with and speaking to leaders from around the world. Recently, I read his book entitled Leadership Gold.  While he authored it from a personal leadership perspective, I read it for lessons on how economic development professionals and organizations could provide even better leadership for their communities.

4 Take-Away Lessons

The book has a number of great thoughts that are very relevant for individual leaders and organizations seeking to provide leadership. Here are four that I thought were particularly relevant and helpful. Hopefully you will think so as well.

We are in the people business. One of the things John says is “If it is lonely at the top, you are not doing something right”. What a great reminder that in economic development, the challenge is to collaborate across a diverse range of constituencies. Success isn’t defined by how well your economic development organization is funded, or even by how many jobs it is involved in helping attract or retain. Ultimately, it is measured by the impact made in the sustainable economic prosperity of your community.  That means the quality of growth matters. A great resource that takes this concept further is the Ford Wealth Creation Project. This Project argues that prosperity should be more broadly defined than simply job growth.

We are often our own worst enemies. Followership, self-discipline and patience are behaviors we need to master. Leading across a community is exceptionally challenging. It is so easy to alienate groups along the way. And many times it is hard to consistently make good decisions because of the role politics plays in the process. But, if we do not refrain from making the easy but wrong decisions and stay principled in our approach to community development then we lead our communities into chaos. Key to avoiding missteps is the willingness to seek and accept advice and hold ourselves accountable. Accountability builds trust.

We need to focus energy on the defining moments. It has been my experience that 80% of the real impact will come from 20% of the activities you engage in. The same is true in strengthening local economies.  Unfortunately, we often get too caught up in managing the zillion tasks of keeping programs running and solving problems that pop up every day disguised as crises. It is important to proactively identify the defining moments for our communities and ensure adequate leadership and resources are brought to bear on handling them. Defining moments are those that present options and opportunities. They can meaningfully change the course of a community’s future. An example playing out today in many Appalachian communities is the impact of the emerging shale gas/oil industry. Leaders in these communities need to create strategic development plans that will minimize the risk of their community experiencing a boom-to-bust cycle.

We need to have the courage to define reality. It is important to be visionary and realistic.  Without realism you lose credibility. Situations are often worse than you think, the process for dealing with opportunities often takes longer than you think, and the cost is often higher than you think. Realism is not the same as pessimism. It is okay to be optimistic as long as you can admit your weaknesses so they can be addressed successfully, seek and embrace honesty so you can course correct and avoid costly mistakes, and subject your planning to outside review so you can get “fresh eyes” evaluating your strategies and tactics.

Discussion

There is a lot more wisdom in the book that is worth reading. One of the topics that resonated strongly with me and underpins my work on the Strengthening Brand America Project is John’s discussion on leaving a legacy. He defines legacy as “something we leave for the next generation”.

To leave a legacy you need to do three things – 1) proactively choose the legacy you want to leave, 2) align your actions and passion with achieving the legacy, and 3) appreciate the value your legacy will have on the lives of others.

The Strengthening Brand America Project is about helping improve the understanding and application of branding within the economic development profession so our communities (and in aggregate our nation) are more globally competitive for capital investment. I am hoping that is legacy worthy.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do any of the four take-away lessons resonate with you? What legacy are you seeking to leave on your community? What are some of the obstacles you’ve experienced in leading and do you have any tips for overcoming them?

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5 Comments so far

  1. Paul Krause

    January 9, 2012

    Going for the Gold1 Thank you for breaking it down ‘Intentions = Results”is what i was told.Defining Moment my personal inventory of next 24 hours.Laugh. and learn today is a Present I’m moving Forward.

  2. George Harben

    January 9, 2012

    Ed, good post. I would add a leader listens. And a leader reads, reads, reads. That can be business books, business bios, weekly business magazines and quarterly journals.

  3. Scott Bork

    January 10, 2012

    Nice recommendation! A lot of wisdom in just these four points outlined, especially #2 (we are our own worst enemies) which I have experienced by leadership many times. Also the 3rd comment about creating meaningful options and opportunities. This has come up in so many public forums and community groups where the leader has to manage the good ideas, even though they would be impractical or impossible to implement. Sort of ties to the forth, being realistic and visionary…

    I would add my most important which is being genuine. I sit at many tables from private business to corporate meetings to local government town meetings. Show me the leader who I truly believe is genuine in his/her speaking and actions and I want that to be on that team.

    Thanks!

  4. Miki Ellsworth

    February 26, 2012

    Leading Outside the Box or Leading Outside the Lines or Leading Inwardly Focused Organizations

    Every leader will come to a crossroad where they have to choose to continue on their pre-determined course or choose to lead outside the box, or to lead outside the lines. If we are candid, we must admit that we live in the age of transparency and inward focused leaders who perpetuate inward focused organizations firstly fail their clients, secondly their company, thirdly their employees, and ultimately themselves.

  5. Tom

    October 3, 2018

    I enjoyed your post.Thanks for sharing! Highly information about Lead generation economic development.

5 Responses to “Leadership Gold”




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