As you take this leadership journey, there are some things you need to prepare yourself for:
Developing Leaders is Going to be Difficult, but Worthwhile.
If you’ve ever led people in any capacity, I think you’ll agree that leadership is hard work. There are no two consecutive easy days in the life of leaders. If today is easy, you know how tomorrow will probably go. But everything worthwhile is uphill. If the purpose of life was ease and comfort, no sensible person would ever take on the demands of leadership. Developing leaders is even harder. It’s like herding cats. That is why so many people who lead let themselves become comfortable attracting and leading followers instead of seeking out and developing leaders. Followers usually follow. Leaders, not so much. However, the work of investing your life in developing other leaders has a high return.
At age twenty-five, I discovered that everything rises and falls on leadership. I believed that truth with great certainty, and it propelled me to develop myself as a leader. Today my conviction is even greater, and it drives me to develop other leaders. That task is worthy of my best efforts, it adds the greatest value to others, and it gives me great joy. Developing leaders is the one activity that compounds a leader’s time, influence, energy, vision, culture, finances, and mission.
Developing Leaders is a Job that Never Comes to an End.
When I realized the importance of leadership at age twenty-one, I began my intentional development as a leader. As I got started, I thought that at some point I would become a leadership expert. The more I know about leadership, the more I know that I don’t know. I am hungrier now to learn about leadership than I have ever been. If developing ourselves as leaders is a lifelong process, then we should also expect the development of others in leadership to be an ongoing process that never ends. Just as individuals never arrive, neither do organizations. In all my years helping organizations find, raise up, and develop leaders—and I’ve helped more than I can count—not once has a company spokesperson said, “Don’t help us. We have too many good leaders.” There is always a leadership shortage.
Developing Leaders is the Best Way to Grow Any Organization.
A company cannot grow throughout until its leaders grow within. I am often amazed at the amount of money and energy organizations spend on activities that will not produce growth. They pour money into marketing, yet they don’t train their employees in how to treat customers when they show up. You can say customers are your priority, but they know the difference between good service and hollow promises. Slick advertising and catchy slogans will never overcome incompetent leadership. Or they reorganize, hoping that shuffling people around or renaming departments will produce growth. That doesn’t work. The strength of any organization is a direct result of the strength of its leaders. Weak leaders equal weak organizations. Strong leaders equal strong organizations. Leadership makes the determination. If you want to grow or strengthen your organization or department, start by developing those closest to you, because they will determine the level of success your team will achieve.
Developing Leaders is the Only Way to Create a Leadership Culture.
In the past decade, people have begun to realize the importance of culture in their organizations. Culture impacts every aspect of how organizations function. A negative culture creates a terrible environment. It’s like a fire that spreads, creating destruction. As a leader, you get the culture you create, and the nature of the culture affects what you can or cannot do in your organization. If you want to develop leaders, it’s certainly easier to do when you have a leadership culture. And that kind of culture can only be created by the leaders within the organization.
Is it Worth Learning How to Develop Leaders?
My friend Zig Ziglar used to say, “Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have.” I love that definition, and I believe it applies to an individual. But for a leader, success requires something more. Success for leaders can be defined as the maximum utilization of the abilities of those working with them. There’s only one way for a leader to help people maximize their abilities and reach their potential, and that’s to help them develop as leaders.
Excerpted with permission from The Leader's Greatest Return by John Maxwell, copyright John Maxwell.