Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know

By John C. Maxwell

4,722 ratings - 4.14* vote

The "what you need to know" guide that will unleash your leadership potential, direct from the playbooks of America's most trusted leadership expert, John C. Maxwell.Unleash your leadership potential.No matter who you are, you can lead—and lead well.That is the message New York Times bestselling author John C. Maxwell gives in this power-packed guidebook: Leadership 101. Here the consummate leader offers a succinct and inspiring framework for enhancing the leadership abilities you already

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Book details

Hardcover, 128 pages
Published September 8th 2002 by HarperCollins Leadership

(first published 1994)

Original Title
Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know
0785264191 (ISBN13:9780785264194)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Nicole Marble

Be disciplined; set good priorities;delegate jobs; work hard; keep learning an be trustworthy.
Now you don't have to read this boring book.

Farnoosh Brock

John C. Maxwell is a leader in business books. He has written numerous books on business, leaderships, relationships, attitude, and management. If you are delving into a topic either by necessity or for love of learning, it is worthwhile to look into the most prominent figures in the field. At the time I came across Maxwell’s books, I was deep into developing my leadership and management skills, and hence the two glimpses into the Maxwell perspective.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Trust as the foundation of leadership – People will forgive occasional mistakes based on ability but they won’t trust someone who has slips in character
If you have talent and have seen lots of motion without complete results, you lack self-discipline
You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything
A good attitude puts you in the place of greatest potential
The evidence is overwhelming that you cannot begin to achieve your best unless you set some aim in your life
Too often, we learn too late what is really important
We can do anything, but we can’t do everything. Focus.
The only way you can get ahead is to fail often, fail early and fail forward.
Each fall makes you able to risk more.

I think most of us at one point or another have come across the ideas written in these books. They make up the core of conversations with our coaches, our bosses and our instructors in a leadership class. The trick is to really listen, understand and live them. It is a journey, a work in progress, never nearly complete and always with room for improvement. The point should be to move forward and to understand our failures for what they are so that we can embrace success when it meets us in our path.


Solid little book hitting the main ideas of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. But this wasn't just a condensed version. Maxwell delievers some new thoughts here, as well. It is good and only takes about an hour to read.


Short and sweet to the point leadership read. Some great points that make you think and help understand how to apply them to your everyday life. Whether you strive to be a leader or not, this book helps us understand how much influence we have on other people just through daily tasks.

Beth Peninger

I really like the 101 series of Maxwell's. They are easy reads and you get the meat of what his point is. They are practical, easy to read and understand, and realistic to apply.

Brian Eshleman

Good thoughts. Nothing revolutionary.

Sam Jobs

To be frank outstanding and inspiring book. I strongly recommend everyone to read this book.

I would like to share just a little sentence from the book.

"A real leader knows the difference between being a boss and being a leader."


This was the first book I have ever read by John C. Maxwell and I really enjoyed it! This little book is only about 100 pages long and I read it in one sitting, but it took several hours because on almost every page I had to pause and take notes on various principles and insights that he taught that I thought were really very powerful and in some cases profound.

Here are the notes I took, some are quotations or paraphrases from the book and others are just thoughts that came to my mind as I read.

"Your leadership ability -- for better or for worse -- always determines your effectiveness and the potential impact of your organization"

"Personal success without leadership ability brings only limited effectiveness. A person's impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership. The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership. The greater impact you want to make, the greater your influence needs to be."

"Leadership is always the lid on personal and organizational effectiveness. If the leadership is strong, the lid is high. But if It's not, then the organization is limited."

My thought: the righteousness of a family will never exceed the righteousness of its father.

"To reach the highest level of effectiveness, you have to raise the lid."

"What matters most [in becoming a leader] is what you do day by day over the long haul... If you continually invest in your leadership development, lettings your 'assets' compound, the inevitable result is growth over time."

"Although it's true that some people are born with greater natural gifts than others, the ability to lead is really a collection of skills, nearly all of which can be learned and improved."

The best way to learn leadership is to work with and learn from great leaders.

Learning leadership and becoming an effective leader is a process that takes considerable time and effort.

Leadership is predicated upon self-discipline. You will never become a great leader without developing self mastery.

3 Ways to Increase Self-discipline:
1 Remove excuses
2 Remove rewards until the job is done
3 Focus on the rewards. If you focus on the difficulty of the work you will become discouraged and develop self pity instead of self discipline.

A key to leadership is the discipline to prioritize and the ability to set and accomplish goals.

Pareto Principle:
The top 20% of your priorities will give you 80% of your productivity. Discipline yourself and focus on the few MOST important things.
Example: 20% of the people in the organization will be responsive for 80% of the organization's success.

Leaders initiate, followers react

Leaders spend time planning and anticipating problems, followings spend time living day to day reacting to problems.

Leaders invest time with people, followers spend time with people

Leaders fill calendars by priorities, followers fill calendars by requests

When Figuring Out How Best to Use Your Time:
Ask yourself: what do I have to do that no one but me can do? Those things should be high priority. Distinguish between what you personally MUST do and what can be delegated.

Ask yourself: what gives the greatest return for your time?

Ask yourself: what is the most rewarding? Our best work takes place when we enjoy it.

Priorities never stay put. You have frequently reevaluate, delegate, and carefully estimate and budget your time.

The good is the enemy of the best. Mercilessly cut the non-essential out of your life and focus on what truly matters most. Stay focused on the purpose of the organization.

Too many priorities causes paralysis. You have to learn to say no to the good to say yes to the best.

Deadlines help us prioritize. Create your own if you have to.

Trust is the foundation of leadership. Trustworthiness is the foundation of trust. Character, connection, and competency are the foundations of trustworthiness.

Character communicates consistency, potential, and respect to those you lead.

You build trust by achieving results, always with integrity and in a manner that shows real personal regard for the people with whom you work.

Leaders earn respect by making sound decisions, admitting their mistakes, and putting what's best for their followers and the organization ahead of their personal agendas.

If you violate your people's trust you are through as a leader because by breaking trust you lose your influence with them.

Vision is utterly indispensable for a leader. The vision leads the leader and sparks the fuel and fire within.

Vision comes from within, draws on your history, is far reaching, meets other's needs and adds value to them and their lives, and rallies people and resources to the cause.

Teach the vision to your people and help them feel its importance and difficulty. Inspire them and draw out their drive to accomplish it.

Vision comes from listening to the inner voice within. It has to come from a place of deep desire within your soul.

Pay attention to the status quo. Noticing what doesn't work and striving to change it is a great catalyst for vision.

Mentor's can help you sharpen your vision. As a leader you still need to be following an even greater leader.

The true measure of leadership is influence -- nothing more, nothing less. If you don't have influence you will never be able to lead others. True leadership comes from influence.

Leadership is about influencing people, management is about maintaining systems and processes. Leaders can create positive change. Managers can't.

Being a leader is more than being the guy out front, it is actually being followed. Being a leader is to be an example who followers voluntarily choose to model themselves after. People must intentionally follow his lead and act on his vision.

In a volunteer organization, only people who truly have influence can be effective leaders. In other organizations rank and title may sometimes secure a small degree of influence regardless, but that influence is temporary.

"The very essence of all power to influence lies in getting the other person to participate."

Real leadership is about more than having authority. It is about being the person that others will gladly and confidently follow.

Bosses drive workers, leaders coach them.
Bosses depend on authority, leaders depend on goodwill.
Bosses inspire fear, leaders inspire enthusiasm.
The boss says I, the leader says we.
The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.

When leaders lack confidence, followers lack commitment.

Leadership flourishes with meaningful relationships. If you cannot build solid, lasting relationships you will be unable to sustain effective long-term leadership. You cannot lead people without loving them.

A leader is great, not because of his or her power, but because of his or her ability to empower others. A leader's responsibility is to develop others to do the work. A true leader can be recognized because his people will consistently demonstrate superior performance.

5 Levels of Leadership:
1-- Position. People follow because they have to. Your only influence comes with the title.
Security based on title, not talent.
Level gained by appointment rather than ability.
People will not follow a positional leader beyond his stated authority.
Positional leaders have more difficulty working with volunteers, white collar workers, and young people.

Level 2-- Permission/Relatiinship. People follow because they want to.
This kind of leader donates time, energy, and focus to his follower's needs and desires, focusing on the follower's personal development.
He loves people more than procedures.
Makes those who work with you more successful.
Does "win-win" or doesn't do it.
Deals wisely with difficult people
At this level the follower loves the leader

Level 3-- Production. People follow you because of what you have done for the organization.
You bring people together to accomplish a purpose and get results.
Leaders on this level must initiate and accept responsibility for growth.
Must develop and follow a clear statement of purpose.
Must develop accountability for results, beginning with yourself.
Must know and do things that give a high return.
Communicate the vision and strategy of the organization.
Become an agent of positive change
Make the difficult decisions that will make a difference.
At this level the follower admires the leader.

Level 4: people development/reproduction. People follow because of what you have done for them.
At this level the follower is loyal to the leader. The leader win people's hearts by helping them grow personally.
When you are at this level of leadership one of your biggest must be to develop other leaders to influence followers beyond your personal reach. You should put your leadership efforts into the top 20% of your people.
At this level the leader must realize that people are their most valuable asset.
The leader must be a model for others to follow.
You must expose leaders to key growth opportunities.
You must attract other winners/producers to the common goal.
You must surround yourself with an inner core that complements your leadership.

Level 5: Personhood/Respect. People follow you because of who you are and what you represent.
At this level your followers are loyal and sacrificial.
You have spent years mentoring and molding leaders.
You have become a statesman/consultant and are sought out by others.
Your greatest joy comes from watching others grow and develop.
You transcend the organization.

When climbing these steps:
The higher you go, the longer it takes
The higher you go, the higher the level of commitment required of the leader and the followers.
The higher you go, the easier it is to lead.
The higher you go, the greater the growth.
You never leave the base level. The levels build on each other.
If you are leading a group of people, you will not be on the same level with everyone.
For your leadership to remain effective, you must take the other influencers within the group to the higher levels.
You must know what level you are on at this moment.

Everyone is a leader because everyone influences someone. The question is what kind of leader are you going to be? Will you use your leadership skills to better mankind?

People under the influence of an empowering person are like paper in the hands of a talented artist. No matter what they're made of, they can become treasures.

Empowering is giving your influence to others for the purpose of personal and organizational growth. It is sharing yourself -- your influence, position, power, and opportunities with others for the purpose of investing in their lives so that they can function at their best. It is seeing people's potential, sharing your resources with them, and showing them that you believe in them completely.

The act of empowering others changes lives, and it's a win-win situation for you and the people you empower. Empowering others increases the ability of others without decreasing yourself.

In order to empower someone else you must have a position of authority, a relationship with that person, having mutual respect, you must be committed, have the right attitude

"When you believe in people, care about them, and trust them, they know it. And that respect inspires them to want to follow where you lead."

You empower others by progessively giving them increasing responsibility and authority. You evaluate them and give them the right amount of authority that they are ready to handle. Otherwise too much and you set them up for failure, too little you frustrate and demoralize them.

Evaluate their current knowledge, skill, and desire and what they will need to succeed. Teach them the knowledge and skills they will need. Model for them how to do what is expected of them, shoe them the attitude and work ethic you want them to embrace. When you can, include them in your work.

You should expect success from those you lead and communicate that expectation clearly. Tell those you lead that you believe in them and want them to succeed. Be encouraging and supportive. Publicly show your confidence in them so they know you believe in them and so everyone knows they have authority from you to do what they are being asked to do.

You must transfer both responsibility AND authority AND ability to those you seek to empower. People become strong and effective only when they are given the opportunity to make decisions, initiate actions, solve problems, and meet challenges.

As they work, provide honest feedback. Meet with and coach them one on one through their mistakes and misjudgment. Praise them and applaud what they do well. Then release them to continue on their own. Give them as much freedom as possible as soon as they are ready for it. Don't helicopter or micromanage. If you have given them takes they are ready for you won't need or want to.

A great leader prepares people and organizations to function effectively when he is no longer around to lead it. Leaders do this by making the organization as strong as they can, and also mentoring and preparing a successor to take over when they are gone.

Leaders who leave a legacy of succession:
Lead the organization with a long-term perspective.
Create a leadership developing culture at all levels of the organization.
Pay the price today to assure success tomorrow.
Value team leadership above individual leadership.
Walk away from the organization with integrity.

Leaving the right kind of legacy is one of the key responsibilities of leadership.

"Achievement comes to someone when he is able to do great things for himself. Success comes when he empowers followers to do great things with him. Significance comes when he develops leaders to do great things for him. But legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him."

Your lasting value as a leader will be measured by how well your people and organization did after you were gone.

A really good book! I recommend it.


John delivers the focal points of leadership in a bite size book you could consume in one sitting however when taking time to set aside notes it should take you longer.
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Terrible book written about white men for white men with white men as examples. This book has dated views- go read something by a woman or person of color. Also, this guy is a friend of Billy Graham, and that is just the worst.