Developing the Leader Within You

By John C. Maxwell

21,247 ratings - 4.21* vote

Developing the Leader Within You is Dr. Maxwell’s first and most enduring leadership book, having sold more than one million copies. In this Christian Leaders Series edition of this Maxwell classic, you will discover the biblical foundation for leadership that John Maxwell has used as a pastor and business leader for more than forty years. These same principles and practices are available for everyday leaders in every walk of life. It is a lofty calling to lead a group—a family, a church, a

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Book details

Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 2nd 2005 by Thomas Nelson

(first published January 1st 1993)

Original Title
Developing the Leader Within You
0785281126 (ISBN13:9780785281122)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Christina Saldivia

a. The only influence you have comes with Title. People follow you because they have to.
i. The boss drives his workers; the leader coaches them
ii. The boss depends on authority; the leader on goodwill
iii. The boss says "I"; the leader "we"
iv. The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown
v. The boss knows how it is done: the leader shows how
vi. The boss says "Go"; the leader says "lets go"
2. Permission
a. This is the Relationship Level. Lead by interrelationships. The agenda is building solid lasting relationships. People follow you because they want to.
i. Make those who work for you more successful
ii. Include others in your journey
iii. Win Win or don't do it
iv. Deal wisely with difficult people
3. Production
a. This is the results Level. People are coming together to achieve a purpose. People follow you because of what you have done in the organization.
i. Develop a statement of purpose
ii. Develop accountability for results
iii. Know and do the things that have a high return
iv. Communicate the strategy and vision to the corporation
v. Become a change agent
4. People Development
a. Develop and empower your people. Develop your leaders. People follow you because of what you have done for them.
i. Place a priority on developing people
ii. Place your efforts in the top 20% of your people
5. Personhood
a. Takes a lifetime. People follow you because of respect and who you are.

Avoid the 7 deadly sins:
1. Trying to be liked rather than respected
2. Not asking members of the team for advice and help
3. Thwarting talent by emphasizing rules rather than skills
4. Not keeping criticism constructive
5. Not developing a sense of responsibility in team members
6. Treating everyone the same way
7. Failing to keep people informed

Omar Halabieh

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- "Leadership is developed, not discovered. The truly "born leader" will always emerge; but, to stay on top, natural leadership characteristics must be developed. In working with thousands of people desirous of becoming leaders, I have discovered they all fit in one of four categories or levels of leadership: The Leading Leader...The Learned Leader...The Latent Leader..The Limited Leader."

2- "Management is the process of assuring that the program and objectives of the organization are implemented. Leadership, on the other hand, has to do with casting vision and motivating people."

3- "Listed below are some characteristics that must be exhibited with excellence before advancement to the next level is possible: Level I: Position/Rights...Level 2: Permission/Relationship...Level 3; Production/Results..Level 4: People Development/Reproduction....Level 5: Personhood/Respect."

4- "Success can be defined as the progressive realization of a predetermined goal. This definition tells us that the discipline to prioritize and the ability to work toward a stated goal are essential to a leader's success. In fact, I believe they are the key to leadership."

5- "Integrity is not what we do so much as who we are. And who we are in turn, determines what we do. Our system of values is so much a part of us we cannot separate it from ourselves. It becomes the navigating system that guides us. It establishes priorities in our lives and judges what we will accept or reject."

6- "1. Integrity builds trust.2. Integrity has high influence value. 3. Integrity facilitates high standards. A. Integrity results in a solid reputation, Not just an image. 5. Integrity means living it MYSELF BEFORE LEADING OTHERS.6. Integrity helps a leader be credible, NOT JUST CLEVER. 7. Integrity is a hard-won achievement."

7- "The more you change, the more you become an instrument of change in the lives of others. If you want to become a change agent, you also must change."

8- "WHY PEOPLE RESIST CHANGE? The change isn't self-initiated...Routine is disrupted...Change creates fear of the unknown...The purpose of the change is unclear...Change creates fear of failure...The rewards for change don't match THE EFFORT CHANGE REQUIRES...People are too satisfied with the way things are...Change won't happen when people ENGAGE IN NEGATIVE THINKING...The followers lack respect for the leader...The leader is susceptible to feelings OF PERSONAL criticism...Change may mean personal loss...Change requires additional commitment...Narrow-mindedness thwarts acceptance of new ideas...Tradition resists change."

9- "People change when they hurt enough they have. to change; learn enough they want to change; receive enough they are able to change. The leader must recognize when people are in one of these three stages. In fact, top leaders create an atmosphere that causes one of these three things to occur."

10- "Great leaders understand that the right attitude will set the right atmosphere. which enables the right responses from others."

11- "My success in developing others will depend on how well I accomplish each of the following: Value of people: This is an issue of my attitude. Commitment to people: This is an issue of my time. Integrity with people: This is an issue of my character. Standard for people: This is an issue of my vision. Influence over people: This is an issue of my leadership."

12- "Successful people developers give THE RIGHT ASSISTANCE TO PEOPLE...I need to work out their strengths and work on their weaknesses...I must give them myself...I must give them ownership...I must give them every chance for success."

13- "My observation over the last twenty years has been that all effective leaders have a vision of what they must accomplish. That vision becomes the energy behind every effort and the force that pushes through all the problems. With vision, the leader is on a mission and a contagious spirit is felt among the crowd until others begin to rise alongside the leader. Unity is essential for the dream to be realized. Long hours of labor are given gladly to accomplish the goal. Individual rights are set aside because the whole is much more important than the part. Time flies. morale soars upward, heroic stories are told, and commitment is the watchword. Why? Because the leader has a vision!"

14- "The process for developing personal discipline...Start WITH YOURSELF...Start early...Start small...Start now...Organize your life...Welcome responsibility...Accept accountability...Develop Integrity...Pay now, play later...Become character driven instead of emotion driven."

Mary Bellus

I was asked to read this book for work, so I trudged through it, otherwise I would have tossed it by about the halfway point.

I feel like this book could be condensed into one chapter of simple tips and advice. The rest of it reads like a compilation of quotes, excerpts, and illustrations (especially from the Peanuts comic strip, which seems to be John Maxwell’s favorite). There’s very little of the author’s own experiences in leading people, and when he does relate a story from his experiences with his staff, it feels contrived, or serves to boost his ego. Because he didn’t weave a personal story throughout the book, supporting it here and there with quotes and excerpts from outside sources, I feel like this book doesn’t have a cohesiveness, and falls apart like bad pie dough.

Some of his tips are good, but some are so basic (especially his “Organize Your Life” tips in the last chapter), they were just very obvious common sense things that a person at any level would have already figured out on their own.

Another thing that may seem like nitpicking (but it really bugs me), is the amount of typos strewn throughout this book, especially in the last third of it. It makes me wonder if the proofreader got just as tired of reading this as I did, and gave up near the end.

Overall, if I were looking for a book on Leadership, I’d look for someone who uses his or her own experiences and delivers them in a more humble and tangible way.

Oh, and if GoodReads would let me, I'd give this less than one star.


I received a free e-copy of Developing the Leader Within you by John C. Maxwell from NetGalley for my honest review.A wonderful book for personal and professional development. A book to help develop the leader within yourself as well as learning to be a better leader.

Robin (Bridge Four)

This is an okay book on leadership. I think he wrote another one called 2.0 that might be more relevant to today, but it is a quick read and did have some good basic information for someone new to a leadership position. The quote above was my favorite of the book and my best take away.

I think this book has a lot of good suggestions and ideas to think about. I liked the list below the best since I thought it was the most relevant if you’ve recently shifted from a lower position into a management.
Avoid the 7 deadly sins:
1. Trying to be liked rather than respected
2. Not asking members of the team for advice and help
3. Thwarting talent by emphasizing rules rather than skills
4. Not keeping criticism constructive
5. Not developing a sense of responsibility in team members
6. Treating everyone the same way
7. Failing to keep people informed

Still overall many things throughout seemed more common sense than anything else. I don’t know if I agreed with the 20% of your people will do 80% of the work idea and those are the ones to cultivate. Maybe in a larger company but if you staff is ten people it seems a little outrageous that two of those people are doing most of the work.

I recommend listening to the audio as you get the meat of the book without all the little drawings. I do wish he had more first-hand examples, everything is this is very broad stroked without specific working examples.


I feel great ambivalence towards this book. I was swept up by the first third of it. By the middle I was harboring some nagging doubts. By the end I was seriously irked.

Let me start out by saying that there is, in fact, a great deal of valuable content within these pages, and I don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water. But it's a small baby in a big bath. The problem is not that Maxwell doesn't offer useful, pragmatic insights into leadership; he does. It's not that he doesn't support his assertions with relevant, frequently pithy quotations; he does. Where Maxwell stumbles is on numerous fundamental assumptions which underlie the initial desire to write a book such as this.

The central flaw which runs throughout this work is the implication that Maxwell's approach to leadership represents the singular correct approach. This assumption, in turn, gives birth to several others. Written, ostensibly, from a Christian perspective, I would suggest that Maxwell has lost sight of what is, arguably, one of the central and most fundamental passages in the New Testament, the Sermon on the Mount. What emerges from Maxwell's pen is a guidebook on how to most successfully conform to the things of this world, not how to love one another. In other words, he takes it as a given that the world view under which we all labor is without flaw, whereas the essence of the Christian ethic is that we live in a broken world which we are commissioned to improve upon selflessly, to the fullest extent possible.

Maxwell comes from a long line of similar thinkers who insist that anything other than "the power of positive thinking" is an affront to all that is good and noble in this world. This general philosophical bent describes a bee-line to such dubious schools of thought as the "prosperity gospel" and the "law of attraction," both of which certainly seem true to those who both believe in them and experience good luck. Maxwell would have us believe that luck is a fiction, which is a cruel requirement to foist upon one's fellow beings.

To take a few examples, Maxwell asserts that great leaders should hire only "the best" people. But who is to say who those best are? By what measure are we to judge? Well, apparently he would exclude anyone with so-called "personal problems." Yet I myself have yet to meet any human being who does not suffer from such problems. So, seemingly, Maxwell advocates the hiring of people who exist in a state of delusional denial. Or, perhaps, who are simply clever and convincing liars. It certainly makes the reader wonder what Maxwell's own closet contains.

Elsewhere he makes the point that, "Continued success is a result of continued improvement." This, of course, raises the question of how we define "success." Is it to be measured in terms of worldliness and material gain or in terms of how much good we bring to the meek, the weak, and the downtrodden, whether tangible or otherwise? But aside from that question, Maxwell posits something which is, in point of fact, an impossibility. Improvement is a form of growth and, as such, cannot be continual. No system can grow forever and at all times. When we exercise to build strength, we do not -- we cannot -- flex our muscles unremittingly. We must flex and then relax, flex and relax, flex and relax. Germination precedes growth and, more to the point, is absolutely, strictly necessary.

As to the strong implication, reiterated throughout this book, that a "positive attitude" is a prerequisite for living a successful, and, what's more, a morally acceptable, life, I would counter that this is not compatible with Christian teaching as found in the Bible. I know there are many, many Christians -- pastors and theologians among them -- who insist that the Bible supports this point of view, but I stand by my conviction. I would refer readers, particularly, to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, as well as countless passages throughout the book of Job. Jesus was plagued by doubts and sorrow at various points throughout the New Testament. And the Old Testament prophets, generally acknowledged as the harbingers of the coming Messiah, express so-called "negativity" and discontent over and over and over again. Let me be clear: I do not advocate a gloom-and-doom view of the world, but, rather, a balanced and realistic view which, I believe, is entirely in line with Christian teaching.

I could raise many more objections to Maxwell's work. It is poorly organized and vague in the extreme. For example, consider the titles of three of the ten chapters: "The Key to Leadership: Priorities," "The Most Important Ingredient of Leadership: Integrity," and "The Indispensable Quality of Leadership: Vision." It seems that the key, the most important ingredient, and the indispensable quality are all distinct, although I fail to understand how. Maxwell's text is frequently repetitive, too. In several instances passages are repeated, verbatim, in their entirety. His reliance on snarky quotations and anecdotes is at first amusing and sometimes insightful, but wears thin quickly. The result is a feeling that Maxwell has simply stirred together a huge collection of platitudes in more or less random sequence without adding much by way of his own original thought or giving us the benefit of his unique experiences in life. Finally, the veracity of the author himself is drawn into question when he asserts that, in addition to functioning as lead pastor to a large church and heading an organization devoted to educating leaders, he also, purportedly, makes 400 public appearances per year. The end pages list no less that 38 books he's written, which may provide more than a little insight into why this particular volume seems half-baked and perfunctory.

My best advice if you want to develop leadership skills? Put down the books, stop shelling out for seminars and summits, stop listening to the "experts," and do, do, do.

Philip Meinel

"20 percent of your priorities will give you 80 percent of your production"

"Efficiency is the foundation for survival. Effectiveness is the foundation of success."

“Integrity binds our person together and fosters a spirit of contentment within us. It will not allow our lips to violate our hearts.”

“I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.” –John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

“Image is what people think we are. Integrity is what we really are.”

“When you love your followers genuinely and correctly, they’ll respect and follow you through many changes”

“Human behavior studies show that people do not basically resist change; they resist ‘being changed.’”

“Once the facts are clear, the decisions jump out at you” – Peter Drucker

Simple plan to help a person change some wrong attitudes:
Say the right words,
Read the right books,
Listen to the right tapes,
Be with the right people,
Do the right things,
Pray the right prayer.

“The one who influences others to follow only is a leader with certain limitations. The one who influences others to lead others is a leader without limitations.”

On self-discipline: “The sooner they can take control of their desires and submit them to life’s demands, the more successful they will become.”

John Funderburg

Good principles and takeaways here - especially for someone like me who is relatively new to leadership.


Lots of great information on leadership. This book was recommended to me in a job interview in a school district. The interviewer said they were planning on implementing some of the information in this book to the school setting to bring about personal growth in their teachers and in the student body as a whole. There are some excellent guidelines for teachers to follow and on of those is to remember that our students are human, with basic needs and desires. Educators need to focus on the whole growth and development of the student, including character development, which is the what teachers should really be concerned with, as much as with the TEKS as each state requires. As John Maxwell puts it: "The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership." I believe that character is the ultimate goal of education and that academics will come as the character is developed. Great job, John Maxwell!!!

Very easy to read and understand and put concepts into practice in your own life as well as in those you influence and lead.


I finished it and instantly started reading it from the beginning again!

It's not only for leaders, it's also helpful for navigating your everyday life with more purpose.
I especially liked the chapters about self-dicipline and priorities.