Reviewed by Kaitlyn Dennihy
Leadership is often described as a trait innate within a person; something one either possesses or does not; however this is not always the case. It has also been said that leaders are not born but made, and John C. Maxwell makes a strong argument for exactly why it is important to groom one’s surrounding coworkers into becoming leaders in his book, Developing the Leaders Around You.
Maxwell focuses his ideas of business not on results, but on the people performing those results. Contrary to other popular leadership styles, Maxell suggests that everyone has the capability to become a leader, if only they are nurtured to do so. He stresses early on in the book a sentiment that carries throughout,
Water boils at 212 degrees, but at 211 degrees, it is still just hot water. One extra degree, increase less than half of one percent, can make the difference between a pot of languishing liquid and a bubbling cauldron of power … That one degree is usually momentum.
Maxell’s driving idea behind his leadership style is not that of a single executive on top who demands results, but a team of leaders who by working together can produce results far beyond the typical checklist.
By producing a team atmosphere, Maxwell believes employees become more apt to not only execute their own jobs effectively, but also ask for help or provide help to other to develop better results. This in turn helps to foster each employee’s personal leadership development.
In order to create this environment, Maxell relies on the structure of what he calls the big three: responsibility, authority and accountability. It is not adequate to simply give employees a list of tasks, but rather develop each employee in a foundation of tasks that demand more from them. By reaching for responsibility, authority and accountability, Maxwell believes each employee will gain leadership skills and the feeling of becoming an asset to the company, a part of a team. He believes with guidance and development from the start, employees will value their role, delegate to other employees and increase morale and productivity within the team.
Maxwell stresses that “personal growth must be deliberate, planned and consistent” by all members of a company or organization, once again indicating that the top executive is not the only leader within an organization. Without subsequent leadership within an organization, not only will it become far less productive, it will have no future to build upon.
Although Maxwell does stress the importance of the development of the employee, many of his viewpoints also align with those of Peter Drucker and his management by objectives strategy. He calls upon Drucker early in the book, quoting him in saying “no executive has ever suffered because his people were strong and effective.” The management by objectives model set byDrucker does in fact focus on the idea of setting goals, planning, implementing and evaluating. Maxwell seeks to do this with each employee. He believes each employee should be developed continuously and thus the company will grow and succeed in turn. Like Maxwell, MBO also focuses on the future: how the company will succeed and where it will go once its top leaders are gone. Drucker also argued that subordinates should play a major role in setting their own objectives—a common theme repeated throughout Maxwell’s book of how to develop a team of leaders rather than leaders and followers.
However, MBO and Maxwell’s approach do have negative aspects. One of the main concerns of MBO is the artificial reassurance it gives to leaders. Maxwell stresses the need for accountability, and although it would be ideal that each employee develops into his or her own leader, this is sometimes not the case. Employees do not always perform to the potential desired by management and giving employees this responsibility can cause for a higher degree of failure later, an issue that Maxwell does not address.
Often times throughout the book, Maxwell provides suggestions on how to build leaders relying on the tactics of other management leaders, but he does not provide a laundry list of steps to make this happen. Although this aspect may seem to be missing, it also feels to be done on purpose. To be a leader, much of what needs to be taught is done through experience, not a step-by-step program. Throughout Maxwell provides suggestion on how you may succeed in leadership and how you can lead by example, not necessarily tell others what to do. This could ultimately distract from their abilities to flourish.
Though Maxell’s book may not face various issues, it does provide one very important strategy to public relations and that is the idea of the relationship. Public relations practitioners are required to not only make and keep external relationships with clients, but also internal relationships within a company.
Maxwell’s viewpoints on leadership can prove very valuable to anyone from a CEO to a starting account manager. He stresses the importance of respecting each other and working as a team, which is key for those working in public relations. Without a strong foundation of knowledge in an organization or company’s own employees and their respective departments, a public relations practitioner would not be able to accurately represent all members of that organization or company. It is essential to build and maintain working relationships with all employees so that when a situation arises, the public relations department knows which department to turn to for advice and information and how to appropriately work with each. Maxwell’s book teaches that if each employee is successfully developed into a leader of his or her own accord, failure can and will become less of an option for any company and accomplishment will be achieved, a lesson that can be applied to all.