Well that's an easy question to answer. Today!
On 1 February 2020, I spent an amazing and inspirational day listening to the wisdom and leadership teachings of John C Maxwell, the #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 30 million books in fifty languages and written (to date) 84 books.
Held at the Bethel Convention Centre in Birmingham, hundreds of delegates had come together to attend the Lead UK Transformational Leadership Conference.
I have watched video presentations, read and listened to some of John Maxwell’s books, but this was the first time I had seen him in person. His glowing CV belies his easy and conversational delivery, and practical, actionable leadership lessons.
That probably explains why he is recognised as the #1leader in business by the American Management Association, and the most influential leadership expert in the world by Business Insider and Inc Magazine.
He is the founder of The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, EQUIP, and the John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, organisations that have trained millions of leaders from every country of the world. Each year he speaks to Fortune 500 companies, presidents of nations, and many of the world’s top business leaders.
At 72, he has written 84 books and he shared his secret of this prodigious output with us - write one word at a time! A no brainer really, but this is also backed up by read, think, file and ask questions. But write every day. A tiny sample is shown below.
LEAD UK’s purpose is to train, develop and influence those in leadership and those aspiring to lead. As a result, leaders will be mobilised to impact and transform their sphere of influence including families, schools, colleges, businesses and communities in the UK.
A quick show of hands at the start of the conference highlighted that the majority of delegates were from the business and community sectors, with the government barely represented. This lack of government participation was a sad reflection on our public sector, but not really surprising.
A key focus of the day was on personal growth. One of John Maxwell's maxims is that to be a leader, the first person you have to lead is yourself. He also stressed that there is no short term fix to developing personal growth and leadership skills.
I loved his comment about the current vogue for what he called a “microwave mindset” resulting in pop tart leaders being created. What we need instead are leaders who are slow cooked!
He also told us that tomorrow is getting compressed. So how do you prepare for and react to a future which is faster than before? John's research has identified the one distinguishing characteristic of good leaders, irrespective of culture, which is that they see more than others and see before others see.
But how do you develop the ability and mindset to do this? It can be boiled down to two words - creativity and flexibility. Creative people believe that there is always an answer, and this is what drives them to keep looking for it. Flexibility comes in when you realise that there is usually more than one answer - which in turn makes the picture bigger.
In our personal and professional lives this translates into being an abundant thinker, or a scarcity thinker.
From my own experience, abundant thinking becomes a multiplier and produces more ideas and solutions, but I need to keep working at it. It’s possibly a mix of my age and being semi-retired, but I sometimes find myself drifting into scarcity thinking. Fortunately, a little red warning light comes on, which gives me the jolt that I need to refocus and recalibrate.
John cautioned that growth is not automatic. You need to be intentional. You don't automatically get better - you just automatically get older. The next time that little red warning light comes on, I will remember I don’t want to just get old!
John spoke about "fencing in and fencing out" - a term used by a bank manager in rural Idaho when farmers were asking for a loan. If they were "fencing out" i.e. growing and developing, he granted them a loan. If not - the answer was no.
This resonated with me - from both a personal and professional point of view. At times of stress or indecision, fencing in can feel like the safe option, but rather than offering a solution, that fence could quickly become oppressive and begin to snuff out any enthusiasm and capacity for personal growth.
Personal growth is a journey - and I try to keep expanding my experiences and learning, albeit it at a slightly slower pace than I did a decade or so ago. This blog title - when was the last time you did something for the first time? - is one of John's FAQs and a key part of personal growth. I don’t intend or pretend to do this every day, but one thing I plan to avoid is “fencing in.”
“The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been.”
Take care. Lead well.