Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace

Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace

by John C. Maxwell


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A masterclass led by internationally recognized leadership expert John C. Maxwell revealing the eleven shifts you should make over the course of you career to keep innovating, improving, and influencing others to the highest levels of success in today’s unprecedented business climate.

Change is so rapid today that leaders must do much more than stay the course to be successful. If they aren’t nimble and ready to adapt, they won’t survive. The key is to learn how to leadershift.

In Leadershift, John C. Maxwell helps leaders gain the ability and willingness to make leadership changes that will positively enhance their organizational and personal growth. He does this by sharing the eleven shifts he made over the course of his long and successful leadership career. Each shift changed his trajectory and set him up for new and exciting achievements, ultimately strengthening and sustaining his leadership abilities and making him the admired leadership expert he is today.

Among those leadershifts are the Adaptive Shift from Plan A to Option A, the Production Shift from Ladder Climbing to Ladder Building, and the Influence Shift from Positional Authority to Moral Authority. Maxwell gives specific guidance to readers about how to make these shifts in their own lives. Each one requires them to change the way they think, act, and ultimately lead so they can be successful in a world that never remains the same.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718098506
Publisher: HarperCollins Leadership
Publication date: 02/05/2019
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 28,056
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 33 million books in fifty languages. He has been identified as the #1 leader in business and the most influential leadership expert in the world. His organizations - the John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, EQUIP, and the John Maxwell Leadership Foundation - have translated his teachings into seventy languages and used them to train millions of leaders from every country of the world. A recipient of the Horatio Alger Award, as well as the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership from the Luminary Leadership Network, Dr. Maxwell influences Fortune 500 CEOs, the presidents of nations, and entrepreneurs worldwide. For more information about him visit JohnMaxwell.com.

Read an Excerpt



Change or die.

— Thomas Edgley

I've been wanting to write a book on the idea of leadershifts for a long time because a lot has changed in the decades I've been studying and practicing leadership. In the 1970s when I was new to my career, I could find very few books on leadership. Back then, management ruled the business world and Peter Drucker was the king. That started to change toward the end of the 1980s, as a few authors were starting to write leadership books. People eagerly bought and read them. Why? Because they could feel that life was moving faster, change was becoming normal, and they needed a way to navigate the world's complexities, which were becoming more challenging.

People need to learn leadership to be successful. The principles of management, which had been taught for years, depended on stability and known factors. As expressed by Eric J. McNulty, director of research at the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative:

Management systems and processes tend to be linear. They assume that similar inputs will result in similar outputs. In many situations, this holds true. Leadership, however, requires a more nuanced view of the world because it involves people: what motivates them, what their interests are, and how engaged they become. Mechanical systems may be linear but as soon as the human element becomes involved the system becomes both complex and adaptive.

Where management took stability for granted, leadership provides principles that work in the face of the unknown. Back in the eighties, people were looking for leaders to guide them, and people running organizations recognized the need to become leaders themselves. As they began to apply leadership principles to their world, they thrived. That's why for the last thirty years, leadership has ruled the business world.


As fast as the pace was in the 1980s, when I look back it seems slow by today's standards. Life moves much faster now. The rate at which we must deal with change and uncertainty can seem insane.

For several years one of my organizations, the John Maxwell Team, has asked me to do short videos they post daily called Minute with Maxwell. My team will set me up in front of a camera and then give me a word or phrase, asking me to react to it or teach on it for a minute or so. It's fun and the video gets posted online as a kind of mentoring moment. Recently, for one of these sessions, the phrase they gave me was fast forward. What immediately came to my mind were the words faster and shorter. Here's what I mean.

The future seems to be coming at us faster than ever. It is not going to slow down. Would anybody seriously consider the idea that tomorrow will be at a slower pace than today? Technology, social media, and the rate of change will never allow that to happen. To go forward, we need to move faster. And as leaders, we need to stay ahead, we need to see more than others, and we need to see before others.

Because of the pace of change, we also need to be flexible. Do you remember the old Mother Goose rhyme "Jack Be Nimble"?

Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over The candlestick.

The more nimble, adaptable, and flexible we are, the more quickly we can move and change.

Traditionally, in athletic races, the first three finishers are recognized, and all three receive prizes. Today, outside of sports, it seems as though only winners get recognized and rewarded. As the saying goes, coming in second means you're the first loser. That's why speed and agility are so important.

A few years ago I saw an article in the New York Times on cheetahs, which can teach us a lot about the importance of agility when it comes to success.

Anyone who has watched a cheetah run down an antelope knows that these cats are impressively fast. But it turns out that speed is not the secret to their prodigious hunting skills: a novel study of how cheetahs chase prey in the wild shows that it is their agility — their skill at leaping sideways, changing directions abruptly and slowing down quickly — that give those antelope such bad odds. ...

The cheetahs ran as fast as 58 miles an hour, and their average speed was 33 mph. High-speed runs accounted for only a small portion of the total distance covered by the cheetahs each day, the researchers found.

They also found that a cheetah can slow down by as much as 9 mph in a single stride — a feat that proves more helpful in hunting than the ability to break highway speed records. A cheetah often decelerates before turning, the data showed, and this enables it to make the tight turns that give it an advantage over its fast and nimble prey.

Forward is also shorter. As a young leader, I was taught that to be effective in leading my organization, I should create a long-range plan of ten years, a medium-range plan of five years, and a short-range plan of two years. That seems absurd now. Today a long-range plan may be two years. Technology and innovation move so quickly that everything is going forward in a shorter time frame. As leaders, we can't drag our feet or take too long making assessments. We have to change, reread our situation, and change again. And continue changing.

How does a leader do more than just hang on and survive in such an environment? The key is to learn how to continually make leadershifts. What is a leadershift? It is an ability and willingness to make a leadership change that will positively enhance organizational and personal growth.

Educator and author Bruna Martinuzzi cited a study conducted by an organization called the Economist Intelligence Unit. It identified the top three leadership qualities that will be important in the years ahead: "the ability to motivate staff (35 percent); the ability to work well across cultures (34 percent); and the ability to facilitate change (32 percent)." All three of these qualities require adaptability. Martinuzzi likened this to the Chinese proverb that says that the wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher. Perhaps at no other time in recent history has adaptability been more important than it is now. "Adaptability — the ability to change (or to be changed) to fit new circumstances — is a crucial skill for leaders."

A more recent study conducted by Right Management and published in The Flux Report made it clear that the need for adaptability is only increasing. They asserted that 91 percent of future recruiting in the workplace will be based on people's ability to deal with change and uncertainty.

Good leaders adapt. They shift. They don't remain static because they know the world around them does not remain static. This has always been true, but it's never been more obvious than today, nor has the ability to change quickly been more important. And when I say that good leaders adapt, I don't mean that they conform. As success coach Dave Martin pointed out:

There is a profound difference between adaptability and conformity. The "greats" seem to instinctively understand this difference, and while they disdain conformity, they cherish the courageous ability to adjust to changing circumstances. Conformity is the negative quality of blending in, becoming average, refusing to stand out or capitalize on one's uniqueness. Adaptability is the positive quality of being able to sense the shift in wind direction and proactively adjust one's course to take advantage of that wind shift. While conformity is a weakness based upon fear of rejection, adaptability is a strength based upon confidence in oneself and in one's own judgment and abilities.

In the face of uncertainty, people who conform pull away to a safe place to protect themselves. Adaptable leaders who make leadershifts lean into uncertainty and deal with it head on. I like what Paul Karofsky, executive director emeritus of Northeastern University's Center for Family Business, said about this, though he used the word ambiguity instead of uncertainty:

Ambiguity may keep people up nights, but anyone seeking exquisite simplicity in his or her career ought to look for a non-leadership position.

Leaders, by definition, have followers. Followers need direction. Direction requires decision-making. Decision-making requires consideration of options. And consideration of options involves dealing with uncertainty.

If you want to be successful as a leader, you need to learn to become comfortable with uncertainty and make shifts continually. You need to be flexible and deal with uncertainty without losing focus. Leaders who leadershift must be like water. They have to be fluid. Water finds a way, then makes a way. First it changes with its circumstances. The environment dictates the change. But moving water is also forceful. It first moves around an object, but at the same time it begins moving the object. It can wear down solid rock over time. A seemingly small shift can make a big difference. Simple and obvious it may be. Trivial it is not.

The truth is this: every advance you make as a leader will require a leadershift that changes the way you think, act, and lead. If you want to be an effective leader, you must leadershift. You cannot be the same, think the same, and act the same if you hope to be successful in a world that does not remain the same.

As Malcolm Gladwell said, "That's your responsibility as a person, as a human being — to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don't contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you're not thinking." Maybe as leaders we need to recognize the value of "mental floss." Dentists encourage us to use dental floss daily to promote the health of our teeth; we need to use mental floss to get rid of old thinking and promote the health of our leadership.

In my twenties, I was inspired by the words of nineteenth-century preacher Phillips Brooks, the author of the famous hymn "O Little Town of Bethlehem." He wrote:

Sad will be the day for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger, which he knows that he was meant and made to do.

I memorized those words and have often used them to move me toward greater growth and achievement.

Leadershifting moves us forward in the face of the natural temptation to be mentally rigid. It prompts us to become more innovative and get out of our comfort zones, question conventional wisdom, and welcome change. Every leadershift you make has the potential to make you a better leader.


Before I talk about the practices involved in leadershifting, I want to lay the groundwork by describing the mind-set needed to leadershift. How open are you to change? Are you willing to start asking more questions instead of giving more answers? Are you willing to become a better listener, a better observer?

Are you willing to rely more on your intuition and your creativity? Leadershifting will require you to rely on values, principles, and strategy, but it will also push you to rely on innovation, to seek out options, to harness creativity. You'll also need to let go of some things and be dedicated to getting better.

Leadershifting is not easy, especially when you first start doing it. Often you leave behind something that has worked to pursue something untested. You'll have to deal with the tension between the stability that gives security and the adaptability that opens up opportunity. That will empower you to get better, to become someone new before you can grow into something new. The desire to improve will drive you to keep learning. But here's the good news: learning to leadershift will make you a better leader!


If you answered yes to the previoius questions — or you're willing to move in the direction where you'll be able to answer yes — then you're ready to take steps forward and start leadershifting. As we move forward in this book, I'll take you through eleven major leadershifts I've made in my leadership journey. But before we do that, I want to teach you seven things you must do to leadershift successfully. Embrace these practices daily, and you will be ready to face every leadershift situation with flexibility and confidence.

1. Continually Learn, Unlearn, and Relearn

I've already discussed the pace at which our world is changing. I recently read an article published by the World Economic Forum that brought light to this.

To quote Harvard Business Review's "Mind the (Skills) Gap": "The lessons learned in school can become outdated before student loans are paid off." As it points out, the skills college graduates acquire during a bachelor's degree that used to provide enough basic training to last a career, today have an expected shelf life of only five years.

In turn, studying the impact of disruptive change on existing skill sets in its recent report "The Future of Jobs," the World Economic Forum discovered that: "On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today." Or, as lynda.com author Mark Niemann-Ross states bluntly: "In four years, you'll have to relearn 30% of your job."

How are leaders to thrive in this environment? We must learn, unlearn, and relearn. This process is essential for leadershifting. We have to embrace change every day. We must be willing to let go of what worked yesterday and learn new ways of seeing, doing, and leading. We cannot afford to be in love with any one technology or methodology. We keep learning and changing, or our leadership dies.

2. Value Yesterday but Live in Today

Baseball great Babe Ruth is rumored to have said, "Yesterday's homerun doesn't win today's game." Isn't that fantastic? It's a good reminder to focus on today. What we did in the past may look good on a resume, but it won't help us win today.

For years I had a sign in my office that said, "Yesterday Ended Last Night." I put it there to remind me that all the good I did yesterday won't guarantee a good day for me today, nor will all the bad that happened yesterday mean that today has to be bad. Today stands on its own. If I want a great today, I need to do what's necessary now. I can and should be grateful for yesterday, but I have to focus on today.

When I was a young author, I was mentored by a very successful writer. I will always be indebted to him for the help he gave me. One evening we were having dinner, and I shared that I was writing another book. He inquired about the thesis and content and then asked me, "John, is this going to be your best book?"

"Yes, it is!" I replied.

"Good," he said. "Because you are only as good as your last book. If you disappoint your readers, they'll always wonder if they should buy your next one."

I've never forgotten that advice. I've written and sold a lot of books over the years, but I can't rest on my past reputation. People may honor you for what you did yesterday, but they respect you for what you're doing now. I value yesterday but I live in today.

3. Rely on Speed, but Thrive on Timing

Having to move quickly in today's climate isn't really a choice if you want to succeed. However, timing is. As a leader who leadershifts, you need to understand the context of your environment. What is happening around you determines whether you hold fast or move forward. Leading is like knowing when to eat a pear. It's said that there is only one day in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat. As a leader you must be able to recognize the right timing of leadershift moments. When does a team member need an encouraging pep talk and when do they need to be challenged to step up? When is the right time to add a new product or to retire an existing one that has already seen its best days? When should your organization use some of its cash to seize an opportunity, and when is that a bad idea?

For leaders, timing is critical. Good timing enables leaders to seize the moment and gain the victory for their team. That sense of timing is especially important when leadershifting. To paraphrase financier James Goldsmith, when the leader sees the bandwagon, it's too late to lead.

4. See the Big Picture As the Picture Keeps Getting Bigger

My journey leading people really began when I first understood that everything rises and falls on leadership. This truth became the foundation upon which I built my life. It continues to be the catalyst for my personal development and my training of others.


Excerpted from "Leader Shift"
by .
Copyright © 2019 John C. Maxwell.
Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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 ix

Chapter 1 Why Every Leader Needs To Leadershift 1

Chapter 2 Soloist To Conductor 19

Chapter 3 Goals To Growth 41

Chapter 4 Perks To Price 61

Chapter 5 Pleasing People To Challenging People 81

Chapter 6 Maintaining To Creating 103

Chapter 7 Ladder Climbing To Ladder Building 127

Chapter 8 Directing To Connecting 147

Chapter 9 Team Uniformity To Team Diversity 169

Chapter 10 Positional Authority To Moral Authority 193

Chapter 11 Trained Leaders To Transformational Leaders 215

Chapter 12 Career To Calling 235

About The Author 257

Notes 259

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