The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow

by John C. Maxwell


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The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow by John C. Maxwell

“The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader gets straight tothe heart of leadership issues. Maxwell once again touches on the process ofdeveloping the art of leadership by giving the reader practical tools andinsights into developing the qualities found in great leaders.” - KennethBlanchard, Coauthor of The One MinuteManager®

“Dr. John Maxwell is the authority on leadership today. His innovativeyet timeless principles on how to effectively lead others have personallyimpacted my life and my business. This is a must-read for any organization thatwants to succeed in the new millennium.” -Peter Lowe, President of Peter LoweInternational and Peter Lowe’s SUCCESS Seminars

“My dear friend John Maxwell has proven his ability to lead leaders.I anticipate learning even more from his new book.” -Max Lucado, Author of Just Like Jesus

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785289043
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 09/16/2007
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 85,786
Product dimensions: 7.74(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than thirty million books in fifty languages. He has been identified as the #1 leader in business by the American Management Association and the most influential leadership expert in the world by Business Insider and Inc. magazines. He is the founder of the John Maxwell Company, the John Maxwell Team, EQUIP, and the John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, organizations that have trained millions of leaders from every country of the world. The recipient of the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership from the Luminary Leadership Network, Dr. Maxwell speaks each year to Fortune 500 companies, presidents of nations, and many of the world’s top business leaders. He can be followed at For more information about him, visit

Read an Excerpt

The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader

Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow

By John C. Maxwell

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 1999 John C. Maxwell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4185-0823-4


Be a Piece of the Rock

Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.

— Bernard Montgomery, British Field Marshal

Never "for the sake of peace and quiet" deny your own experience or convictions.

— Dag Hammarskjöld, Statesman and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Putting It All on the Line

If you've traveled through smaller airports or have much experience flying in corporate aircraft, you've probably seen or flown in a Lear Jet. I've had the opportunity to fly in one a couple of times, and it's quite an experience. They're small — capable of carrying only five or six passengers — and very fast. It's like climbing into a narrow tube with jet engines strapped to it.

I have to admit, the whole experience of riding in a Lear Jet is pretty exhilarating. But by far the most amazing thing to me about it is the time it saves. I've traveled literally millions of miles on airlines, and I'm accustomed to long drives to airports, car rental returns, shuttles, terminal congestion, and seemingly endless delays. It can be a nightmare. Flying on a Lear Jet can easily cut travel time in half.

The father of this amazing airplane was a man named Bill Lear. An inventor, aviator, and business leader, Lear held more than 150 patents, including those of the automatic pilot, car radio, and eight- track tapes (you can't win them all). Lear was a pioneer in his thinking, and in the 1950s, he could see the potential for the manufacture of small corporate jets. It took him several years to make his dream a reality, but in 1963, the first Lear Jet made its maiden voyage, and in 1964 he delivered his first production jet to a client.

Lear's success was immediate, and he quickly sold many aircraft. But not long after he got his start, Lear learned that two aircraft he'd built had crashed under mysterious circumstances. He was devastated. At that time, fifty-five Lear Jets were privately owned, and Lear immediately sent word to all of the owners to ground their planes until he and his team could determine what had caused the crashes. The thought that more lives might be lost was far more important to him than any adverse publicity that action might generate in the media.

As he researched the ill-fated flights, Lear discovered a potential cause, but he couldn't verify the technical problem on the ground. There was only one sure way to find out whether he had diagnosed the problem correctly. He would have to try to recreate it personally — in the air.

It was a dangerous process, but that's what he did. As he flew the jet, he nearly lost control and almost met the same fate as the other two pilots. But he did manage to make it through the tests, and he was able to verify the defect. Lear developed a new part to correct the problem and fitted all fifty-five planes with it, eliminating the danger.

Grounding the planes cost Lear a lot of money. And it planted seeds of doubt in the minds of potential customers. As a result, he needed two years to rebuild the business. But Lear never regretted his decision. He was willing to risk his success, his fortune, and even his life to solve the mystery of those crashes — but not his integrity. And that takes character.

Fleshing It Out

How a leader deals with the circumstances of life tells you many things about his character. Crisis doesn't necessarily make character, but it certainly does reveal it. Adversity is a crossroads that makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise. Every time he chooses character, he becomes stronger, even if that choice brings negative consequences. As Nobel prizewinning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn noted, "The meaning of earthly existing lies, not as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul." The development of character is at the heart of our development not just as leaders, but as human beings.

What must every person know about character?

1. Character Is More than Talk

Anyone can say that he has integrity, but action is the real indicator of character. Your character determines who you are. Who you are determines what you see. What you see determines what you do. That's why you can never separate a leader's character from his actions. If a leader's actions and intentions are continually working against each other, then look to his character to find out why.

2. Talent Is a Gift, but Character Is a Choice

We have no control over a lot of things in life. We don't get to choose our parents. We don't select the location or circumstances of our birth and upbringing. We don't get to pick our talents or IQ. But we do choose our character. In fact, we create it every time we make choices — to cop out or dig out of a hard situation, to bend the truth or stand under the weight of it, to take the easy money or pay the price. As you live your life and make choices today, you are continuing to create your character.

3. Character Brings Lasting Success with People

True leadership always involves other people. (As the leadership proverb says, if you think you're leading and no one is following you, then you're only taking a walk.) Followers do not trust leaders whose character they know to be flawed, and they will not continue following them.

4. Leaders Cannot Rise Above the Limitations of Their Character

Have you ever seen highly talented people suddenly fall apart when they achieved a certain level of success? The key to that phenomenon is character. Steven Berglas, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of The Success Syndrome, says that people who achieve great heights but lack the bedrock character to sustain them through the stress are headed for disaster. He believes they are destined for one or more of the four A's: arrogance, painful feelings of aloneness, destructive adventure-seeking, or adultery. Each is a terrible price to pay for weak character.

Reflecting on It

If you've found yourself being sucked in by one of the four A's that Berglas identifies, call a time-out. Do what you must to step away from some of the stress of your success, and seek professional help. Don't think that the valley you're in will pass with time, more money, or increased prestige. Unaddressed cracks in character only get deeper and more destructive with time.

If you're not struggling in any of these four areas, you should still examine the condition of your character. Ask yourself whether your words and actions match — all the time. When you say you'll finish an assignment, do you always follow through? If you tell your children that you'll make it to their recital or ball game, are you there for it? Can people trust your handshake as they would a legal contract?

As you lead others at home, at work, and in the community, recognize that your character is your most important asset. G. Alan Bernard, president of Mid Park, Inc., stated, "The respect that leadership must have requires that one's ethics be without question. A leader not only stays above the line between right and wrong, he stays well clear of the 'gray areas.'"

Bringing It Home

To improve your character, do the following:

Search for the cracks. Spend some time looking at the major areas of your life (work, marriage, family, service, etc.), and identify anywhere you might have cut corners, compromised, or let people down. Write down every instance you can recall from the past two months.

Look for patterns. Examine the responses that you just wrote down. Is there a particular area where you have a weakness, or do you have a type of problem that keeps surfacing? Detectable patterns will help you diagnose character issues.

Face the music. The beginning of character repair comes when you face your flaws, apologize, and deal with the consequences of your actions. Create a list of people to whom you need to apologize for your actions, then follow through with sincere apologies.

Rebuild. It's one thing to face up to your past actions. It's another to build a new future. Now that you've identified any areas of weakness, create a plan that will prevent you from making the same mistakes again.

Daily Take-Away

A man took his young daughter to a carnival, and she immediately ran over to a booth and asked for cotton candy. As the attendant handed her a huge ball of it, the father asked, "Sweetheart, are you sure you can eat all that?"

"Don't worry, Dad," she answered, "I'm a lot bigger on the inside than on the outside."

That's what real character is — being bigger on the inside.


Charisma: The First Impression Can Seal the Deal

How can you have charisma? Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are making them feel good about you.

— Dan Reiland, Executive Pastor at 12 Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia

I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.

— Charles Schwab, Industrialist

The Cleverest in England

During the second half of the nineteenth century, two strong men vied for leadership of Great Britain's government: William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. The two politicians were intense rivals. You can detect how they felt about each other based on a comment once made by Disraeli: "The difference between a misfortune and a calamity? If Gladstone fell into the Thames [River], it would be a misfortune. But if someone dragged him out again, it would be a calamity."

Many people believe that Gladstone, leader of the Liberal Party for three decades, personified the best qualities of Victorian England. A career public servant, he was a great orator, a master of finance, and a staunchly moral man. He was made prime minister of the United Kingdom four different times, the only person in the nation's history to achieve that honor. Under his leadership, Great Britain established a national education system, instituted parliamentary reform, and saw the vote given to a significant number of people in the working classes.

Benjamin Disraeli, who served twice as prime minister, had a different kind of background. In his thirties, he entered politics and built a reputation as a diplomat and social reformer. But his greatest accomplishment was masterminding Great Britain's purchase of shares in the Suez Canal.

Though both men accomplished much for Britain, what really separated them as leaders was their approach to people. The difference can be best illustrated by a story told by a young woman who dined with the two rival statesmen on consecutive nights. When asked her impression of them, she said, "When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England." Disraeli possessed a quality that drew people to him and made them want to follow him. He had charisma.

Fleshing It Out

Most people think of charisma as something mystical, almost undefinable. They think it's a quality that comes at birth or not at all. But that's not true. Charisma, plainly stated, is the ability to draw people to you. And like other character traits, it can be developed.

To make yourself the kind of person who attracts others, you need to personify these pointers:

1. Love Life

People enjoy leaders who enjoy life. Think of the people you want to spend time with. How would you describe them? Grumpy? Bitter? Depressed? Of course not. They're celebrators, not complainers. They're passionate about life. If you want to attract people, you need to be like the people you enjoy being with. Eighteenth-century evangelist John Wesley recognized that, saying, "when you set yourself on fire, people love to come and see you burn."

2. Put a "10" on Every Person's Head

One of the best things you can do for people — which also attracts them to you — is to expect the best of them. I call it putting a "10" on everyone's head. It helps others think more highly of themselves, and at the same time, it also helps you. According to Jacques Wiesel, "A survey of one hundred self-made millionaires showed only one common denominator. These highly successful men and women could only see the good in people."

Benjamin Disraeli understood and practiced this concept, and it was one of the secrets of his charisma. He once said, "The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own." If you appreciate others, encourage them, and help them reach their potential, they will love you for it.

3. Give People Hope

French General Napoleon Bonaparte characterized leaders as "dealers in hope." Like all great leaders, he knew that hope is the greatest of all possessions. If you can be the person who bestows that gift on others, they will be attracted to you, and they will be forever grateful.

4. Share Yourself

People love leaders who share themselves and their life journeys. As you lead people, give of yourself. Share wisdom, resources, and even special occasions. That's one of my favorite things to do. For example, I recently went to an annual storytelling festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. It was something I had wanted to do for years, and when I was finally able to work it into my schedule, my wife, Margaret, and I took two leaders from my staff and their wives. We had a wonderful time, and more important, I was able to add value to their lives by spending special time with them.

When it comes to charisma, the bottom line is othermindedness. Leaders who think about others and their concerns before thinking of themselves exhibit charisma.

Reflecting on It

How would you rate yourself when it comes to charisma? Are other people naturally attracted to you? Are you well liked? If not, you may possess one of these roadblocks to charisma:

Pride. Nobody wants to follow a leader who thinks he is better than everyone else.

Insecurity. If you are uncomfortable with who you are, others will be too.

Moodiness. If people never know what to expect from you, they stop expecting anything.

Perfectionism. People respect the desire for excellence, but dread totally unrealistic expectations.

Cynicism. People don't want to be rained on by someone who sees a cloud around every silver lining.

If you can stay away from these qualities, you can cultivate charisma.

Bringing It Home

To improve your charisma, do the following:

Change your focus. Observe your interaction with people during the next few days. As you talk to others, determine how much of your conversation is concentrated on yourself. Determine to tip the balance in favor of focusing on others.

Play the first impression game. Try an experiment. The next time you meet someone for the first time, try your best to make a good impression. Learn the person's name. Focus on his interests. Be positive. And most important, treat him as a "10." If you can do this for a day, you can do it every day. And that will increase your charisma overnight.

Share yourself. Make it your long-term goal to share your resources with others. Think about how you can add value to five people in your life this year. They can be family members, colleagues, employees, or friends. Provide resources to help them grow personally and professionally, and share your personal journey with them.

Daily Take-Away

Perle Mesta, the greatest Washington hostess since Dolley Madison, was asked the secret of her success in getting so many rich and famous people to attend her parties.

"It's all in the greetings and good-byes," she replied. When a guest arrived, she met him, saying, "At last you're here!" and as each left, she said, "I'm sorry you have to leave so soon!" Her agenda was to focus on others, not herself. That's charisma.


Commitment: It Separates Doers from Dreamers

People do not follow uncommitted leaders. Commitment can be displayed in a full range of matters to include the work hours you choose to maintain, how you work to improve your abilities, or what you do for your fellow workers at personal sacrifice.

— Stephen Gregg, Chairman and CEO of Ethix Corp.

He who has done his best for his own time has lived for all times.

— — Johann von Schiller, Playwright

Old Before His Time

A couple of years ago, my wife, Margaret, and I had the opportunity to vacation in Italy. Our two greatest priorities were food and art. To find the finest food, we talked to friends who had been there. To see the finest artwork, we enlisted the help of a fantastic guide who is a buyer for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. During that tour we saw many great pieces of artwork. But none struck me the way Michelangelo's David did. That's when I understood why it is called a masterpiece.

Michelangelo lived an incredible life. Possibly the greatest artist of Western civilization — and certainly the most influential — he was born to sculpt. He once said that when he drank his wet nurse's milk as a baby, along with it came a love for the stonecutter's tools. He sculpted his first mature masterpiece at age twenty-one. He completed his Pieta and David before age thirty.


Excerpted from The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John C. Maxwell. Copyright © 1999 John C. Maxwell. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments, VII,
Introduction, IX,
1 Character: Be a Piece of the Rock, 1,
2 Charisma: The First Impression Can Seal the Deal, 8,
3 Commitment: It Separates Doers from Dreamers, 15,
4 Communication: Without It You Travel Alone, 23,
5 Competence: If You Build It, They Will Come, 30,
6 Courage: One Person with Courage Is a Majority, 37,
7 Discernment: Put an End to Unsolved Mysteries, 44,
8 Focus: The Sharper It Is, the Sharper You Are, 51,
9 Generosity: Your Candle Loses Nothing When It Lights Another, 58,
10 Initiative: You Won't Leave Home Without It, 66,
11 Listening: To Connect with Their Hearts, Use Your Ears, 74,
12 Passion: Take This Life and Love It, 81,
13 Positive Attitude: If You Believe You Can, You Can, 88,
14 Problem Solving: You Can't Let Your Problems Be a Problem, 95,
15 Relationships: If You Get Along, They'll Go Along, 103,
16 Responsibility: If You Won't Carry the Ball, You Can't Lead the Team, 111,
17 Security: Competence Never Compensates for Insecurity, 118,
18 Self-Discipline: The First Person You Lead Is You, 125,
19 Servanthood: To Get Ahead, Put Others First, 133,
20 Teachability: To Keep Leading, Keep Learning, 141,
21 Vision: You Can Seize Only What You Can See, 148,
Conclusion, 155,
About the Author, 157,
Other Books, 162,

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21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book you will want to read over and over again - such a simple read but what empowerment for those who are looking to be more than ordinary. I am reading this book with my 11-year old daughter because I feel like the information is so important for shaping her life and teaching her to be a leader and not a follower.
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jomamajo More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. It's helped me look at my life so differently. I've been wondering why I have not been given the opportunity to move into a manager position and after I started reading this book I realized I was carrying myself in the wrong way. I was being a fellow employee, trying to do right by everyone by following. I am turning into a real leader by thought and heart now. I read some chapters over and over because each time I read it I get a new strength to be a great leader!
jmdu1 More than 1 year ago
I had to buy this book for work. It was ok a little cliched.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PsychStudents More than 1 year ago
This s the bok my dad bought fornme when i was elected student body president of my highschool, and it changed how I looked and dealt with my fellow man. Contrary to the book's instructions, I recommend you read it as fast a you can and THEN re-read it slowly, drinking in every word. When you've finished, give it to somone else to read. They will forever be grateful.
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tougie30 More than 1 year ago
I used this book as a reference for a paper I had to write for a class and it was very helpful. I would definitely recommend this book if anyone wants to learn what qualities makes a good leader.
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BlockM More than 1 year ago
A good reference that is full of several relevant traits we all need to be more aware of in leadership positions. I refer back to it often, but did not find the material inspirational or motivations.
DonnieluvsKoontz More than 1 year ago
I am a Maxwell junkie so admittedly I am easily impressed. I didn't think I wouldc gain anything new after reading The Difference Maker was I wrong!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago