The Leader’s Greatest Return: A book review by Bob Morris

The Leader’s Greatest Return: Attracting, Developing, and Multiplying Leaders
John C. Maxwell
HarperCollins Leadership/An imprint of HarperCollins (January 2020)

How to “compound” the scope, depth, and impact of leadership development

Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. I agree with John  Maxwell and countless others that one of a leader’s most important responsibilities is developing other leaders. In my opinion, no one else has done more to do that than has Maxwell, author of more than 70 books since 1979.

In this latest volume, he explains HOW TO

o Find leaders and potential leaders
o Invite them to “the leadership table”
o Connect with them before leading them
o Encourage them to make/sustain a best effort
o Train them to produce high-impact results
o Release/empower them to fulfill their potential
o Team them up to maximize their impact in collaboration
o Mentor/coach them to higher levels of performance
o Serve as a model for developing others as leaders

This process will enable those who participate in it to “compound” the scope, depth, and impact of leadership development.

In or near the downtown area of most cities, there is a farmer’s market at which a few merchants offer fresh slices of fruit as sample os their wares. In that same spirit, I now provide a representative selection of observations, Maxwell’s as well as others’:

– “If you desire to fulfill a bold vision or do something great, you have to let go of a microwave mindset for leadership.” (Page xvii)

– “For a leader who develops leaders, there is something scarcer and much more important than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability.” (3)

– Alexandr Solzhenitsyn “Talent is always conscious of its own abundance and does not object to sharing.” (13)

– “The function of leadership isn’t to gather more followers. It’s to produce more leaders.” (85)

– “Leadership is like swimming. It can’t be learned by reading about it. Leaders become leaders by practicing.” (115)

– Phil Jackson “The strength of the pack is the wolf. The strength of the wolf is the pack.” (143)

– “Today’s peacocks are tomorrow’s feather dusters.” (203)

Almost $90-billion (that’s a b) was spent in 2018 on leadership development in the U.S. and much (if not most) of it was wasted. It seems certain that the total was even more in 2019. If the leadership development efforts in your organization have been only OK, if that, I highly recommend this book. It offers just about all the information, insights, and counsel needed to strengthen the leaders you already have, and, help them to develop other leaders that will be needed in months and years to come.

Here is my favorite passage in Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching.  It describes a workplace culture within which leadership development is most likely to thrive.

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”


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