14 min read ⌚
11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace
In the “slow” world of yesterday, being a leader is not unlike being a captain of a ship: you need to maintain course, plan ahead and manage the crew.
In the “fast” world of today, however, being a leader is much more like being a cheetah: you need to be fast, nimble, flexible, able to constantly adapt.
According to John C. Maxwell, we’re living through a paradigm shift, one that has redefined the very meaning of the word “leadership.” So we might as well change the word:
Who Should Read “Leadershift”? And Why?
There are not many leadership authors that write as clearly and as vividly as John C. Maxwell.
So, even though he is not the first to talk about leadershifting (just recently, we summarized one of the pioneering books on the subject of leadershift, Christopher Gobillot’s same-titled book), we guess that this is the book that will become the classical introduction to the topic.
Suitable for both experienced and would-be leaders, we recommend Leadershift warmly and wholeheartedly to anyone who wants to understand how leaders ought to think about in the most dynamic age in history.
About John C. Maxwell
The founder of EQUIP—an international leadership development organization working to help leaders—and the eponymous John Maxwell Company—that helps companies and teams thrive with “5 Levels of Leadership” based training—he is also a revered teaching pastor at Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and a recurrent guest pastor at the famous Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, California.
He has written over 40 books that have jointly sold about 20 million copies and have been translated into more than 50 languages. We have summarized about half of them, including The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Leadership Gold, Failing Forward, The Five Levels of Leadership, The 360o Leader, Put Your Dream to the Test, Talent Is Never Enough, and Thinking for a Change.
Find out more at https://www.johnmaxwell.com.
“Leadershift PDF Summary”
“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,” writes John C. Maxwell early in Leadershift, clearly outlining the main premise of his book.
In the 1970s, when he was young and new to his career, as he says, there were very few books on leadership, because “management ruled the business world and Peter Drucker was the king.” But toward the 1980s that changed and people started to write and buy leadership books. For a very obvious reason: life started moving faster, change was becoming normal, and managers needed to find a more flexible way to organize their companies.
“As fast as the pace was in the 1980s,” goes on Maxwell, “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.”
The problem is that leaders, by the very definition of their role, have to stay ahead and see more than everyone else—way before everyone else can see it. The second guy to finish a race is, as they say, the first loser and, even though in sports the achievements of the two guys behind the leader are also recognized, in business (as in life), it is the winner that takes it all.
In addition to moving faster, life is also constantly evolving, making the race far less predictable. Or as Maxwell says, nowadays, forward is shorter. You see, up until 30 years ago, a short-range plan of two years, a medium-range plan of five years, and a long-range plan of ten years were the hallmarks of leading a successful organization. Now, even long-range plans of two years seem absurd!
In short, business was once a marathon and, in a marathon, managing your strength and pace while being consistent in your tempo is what eventually gets you the victory. It’s a long race and you can be sure that the finish line won’t move for a long period of time. Today, however, business is a relentless series of sprints, and in sprints, you need to be incredibly fast and agile and flexible—like a cheetah.
How does a leader do more than just hang on and survive in this kind of an ever-changing, fast-moving environment? “The key,” says Maxwell, “is to learn how to continually make leadershifts.” Needless to say, that’s what Leadershift is all about.
The Top 3 Leadership Qualities of the Future (and the Essence of Leadershifting)
In one of her books, educator and author Bruna Martinuzzi cited a recent study conducted by an organization called the Economic Intelligence Unit. The study, via a survey, identified the top three leadership qualities that will be important in the years ahead:
• the ability to motivate staff (35%)
• the ability to work well across cultures (34%)
• the ability to facilitate change (32%)
All of these qualities require adaptability, an ability which, in Maxwell’s opinion, has rarely been more important in history than it is today.
His opinion can be confirmed not only by common sense but also by a study conducted by Right Management and published recently in The Flux Report that made it clear that adaptability is all the rage nowadays. In numbers, the study uncovered that “91% of future recruiting in the workplace will be based on people’s ability to deal with change and uncertainty.” Leaders are not exempt: on the contrary, in fact, they need to be even more adaptable than their employees.
And that’s what leadershifting entails: it is not anymore about having a predefined course and being a captain of a ship (leadership), but about being able to (to paraphrase Bob Dylan) change your horses in midstream.
“Good leaders adapt,” writes Maxwell. “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 more obvious than today, nor has the ability to change quickly been more important.”
As defined by John C. Maxwell, “leadershifting is the ability and willingness to make a leadership change that will positively enhance organizational and personal growth.” Or, even more concise, as defined in the blurb, leadershift is “the act of nimbly adapting one’s leadership in the midst of rapid change.”
This can be achieved via 7 fundamental practices, 4 self-improvement techniques, and 11 essential changes.
The 7 Fundamental Leadershift Practices
If you want to become tomorrow’s leader, you need to embrace 7 principles, seven leadershift practices that should help you face every possible situation with both confidence and flexibility:
#1. Continually learn, unlearn and relearn. “The lessons learned in school can become outdated before student loans are paid off,” reported recently the Harvard Business Review. The encyclopedias of the past were updated once every few years; today’s encyclopedias are updated several times a minute. Update yourself: constantly.
#2. Value yesterday but live in today. “Yesterday’s homerun doesn’t win today’s game,” said once baseball’s greatest Babe Ruth. The lesson: focus on current challenges, and leave the past glories to the past.
#3. Rely on speed but thrive on timing. As Wild West’s gunslingers knew full well, it’s not only about being fast but also about being fast at the right time. As then, timing is everything today as well.
#4. See the big picture as the picture keeps getting bigger. Try to learn in layers. And never fool yourself that you’ve learned everything there is to know about a subject. It’s quite the opposite: the more you learn about something—if you’re learning correctly—the more there is to learn.
#5. Live in today, but think about tomorrow. Even though, as we said above (#2), you need to focus on today, leaders are leaders because they can think about tomorrow as well. Even if for much, much shorter periods than in the 1980s—always, always, plan ahead.
#6. Move forward courageously in the midst of uncertainty. Being a leader is all about risking, about getting out of the comfort zone. It’s not only true that when the going gets tough, the tough get going—it’s also true that the ones who risk bravely are the ones who win the biggest prizes.
#7. Realize today’s best will not meet tomorrow’s challenges. Upgrading, upgrading, upgrading. In a world of radical changes, that is your only way to remain a leader in the long run. Only the short-sighted rest on their laurels.
The 4 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself
As we said above, if you want to prepare yourself to become someone who leadershifts—rather than being someone who merely leads—you need to improve constantly.
By asking yourself the following four questions, you should be able to set signposts to guide you on your journey toward self-improvement, which, in essence, can be described in, more or less, a version of the famous Olympic motto: faster, higher, stronger:
#1. Learn something new. Ask yourself, “When’s the last time I learned something for the first time?”
#2. Try something different. Ask yourself, “When’s the last time I did something for the first time?”
#3. Find something better. Ask yourself, “When’s the last time I found something better for the first time?”
#4. See something bigger. Ask yourself, “When’s the last time I saw something bigger for the first time?”
The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace
Now that we’ve tucked the matter under the bed—if you want to be a leader in the 21st century, you need to change constantly—it’s time we go over the eleven essential changes every leader must embrace, i.e., the leadershifts from the title.
#1. The Focus Shift: Soloist to Conductor
Thirty years ago, being a leader was all about being a soloist, being the one who can do everything on his own and doesn’t need a backing orchestra. In the world of today, however, leadership is much more akin to being a conductor: the one who directs everyone in the right direction so that the symphony is harmonious. As Zig Ziglar wrote once, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
#2. The Personal Development Shift: Goals to Growth
“Goals helped me do better,” writes Maxwell, “but growth helped me become better.” Needless to add, in the 21st century, you need to redeploy your attention and interest toward the latter: as important as goals are, growth should come before them. The four areas you need to focus the most are the following: attitude, leadership skills, developing strong relationships, and equipping others to carry on without you.
#3. The Cost Shift: Perks to Price
“There is no success without sacrifice,” said once Adoniram Judson, the first Protestant missionary sent from North America to preach in Burma. “If you succeed without sacrifice, it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success, it is because someone will succeed after you.” Great leaders prefer the leader: they don’t become leaders because they want to get something, but because they know they can give something. “What sets great leaders apart from all other leaders is this,” writes Maxwell. “They act before others, and they do more than others. Great leaders face their uncertainty and doubt, and they move through it to pave the way for others.”
#4. The Relational Shift: Pleasing People to Challenging People
“The leadership business” is not “the friendship business.” If you want to lead other people, you need to do away with the need to be liked by them: leadership, by definition, means challenging others to go beyond their comfort zone, and people don’t like to be uncomfortable. Think of it this way: if you lead them right, they might not like you today or tomorrow, but they’ll love you in twenty years.
#5. The Abundance Shift: Maintaining to Creating
Whether we want it or not, most of the time, we do things convention says we should do. After all, tradition is tested knowledge, and if it has worked for millions of times in the past, it should work today as well, right? Well, wrong: in a fast-changing world, maintaining best practices should be balanced with creating, and leaders should teach their employees to stop thinking in terms of “I do what I have always done” and start accepting as a motto the “creative zone” adage: “I attempt to think what I have never thought before.”
#6. The Reproduction Shift: Ladder-Climbing to Ladder-Building
“How high can I go?” was the question of the ladder-climbers of the greedy 80s. Then, after that world crumbled to pieces, it evolved to something a bit more human as “How high will others go with a little help?” These ladder-holders recently became ladder-extenders, and started positing themselves the question: “how high will others go with a lot of help?” We need to make the final step, suggests Maxwell, and become ladder-builders. The new question leaders should adapt as an objective is: “Can I help them build their own ladder?”
#7. The Communication Shift: Directing to Connecting
“When you interact with others as a leader, what is your mindset?” asks Maxwell. “Is your intention to correct them or connect with them?” If the former, then you are a dinosaur, one of all those Moses Juniors of the past who believed that leaders should be all about “I know and order, you don’t and listen.” The leaders of tomorrow are the leaders who connect today: they are trustful and talkative, they listen, they ask questions, they have answers. Become one of them, become a connector.
#8. The Improvement Shift: Team Uniformity to Team Diversity
Diversity, according to Malcolm Forbes, is “the art of thinking independently together.” And it is the hallmark of a great leader. Examples: during the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln gathered around him a team of rivals, because he knew that that way he would get the best advice; similarly, during the Second World War, Winston Churchill often debated with Clement Attlee, one of his fiercest political adversaries. Don’t back away from dissent: embrace it.
#9. The Influence Shift: Positional Authority to Moral Authority
21st century is the age of what Alexander Havard deems virtuous leadership. Gone are the days when the mere position of leader granted one authority: workers are nowadays more inclined to leave their jobs if their leaders are not morally authoritative as well. So, strive for moral authority, “the recognition of a person’s leadership influence based on who they are more than the position they hold.”
#10. The Impact Shift: Trained Leaders to Transformational Leaders
This is perhaps the most important leadershift of the eleven, the one that “will bring the greatest change to your life and the lives of those around you.” Unlike trained leaders who both act and teach following by-the-book guidelines, transformational leaders encourage and inspire people around them to become more through their very existence. So, don’t forget that Gandhian adage, paraphrased by Maxwell thus: “If you want to see positive changes in your world, the first person you must change is you. As leaders, you and I have to be changed to bring change. We teach what we know, but we reproduce who we are.”
#11. The Passion Shift: Career to Calling
There are three kinds of people in the world: 1) those who merely do a job, 2) those who want to have a career; and 3) those who have a calling. Great leaders can only be born out of those in the third category. So, it’s not about becoming a leader just because you want to emulate your idols: it’s because you can’t be anything else and your skillset is suitable for the job. It’s like Aristotle said: “Where our talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies our vocation.” So, by definition, your calling is never merely about you, but about the whole world as well: “a calling moves us from the center of everything in our world to becoming the channel through which good things come to others.”
Key Lessons from “Leadershift”
1. From Leadership to Leadershift: the World Is Changing, and You Need to Adapt
2. The 7 Fundamental Leadership Practices
3. The 11 Leadershifts Every Leader Should Make
From Leadership to Leadershift: the World Is Changing, and You Need to Adapt
Everything is changing so fast nowadays, that the only ones able to keep up with the pace are the flexible ones.
Adaptability is, by far, the most important trait a modern leader should possess. It is so important, in fact, that leadership can be better defined as leadershift nowadays—something that requires constant adjustments and change.
As Maxwell writes, today, “every advance you make as a leader will require a Leadershift that changes the way you think, act, and lead.”
The 7 Fundamental Leadership Practices
With the above in mind, these are the 7 fundamental leadership practices of the 21st century:
#1. Continually learn, unlearn and relearn.
#2. Value yesterday but live in today.
#3. Rely on speed but thrive on timing.
#4. See the big picture as the picture keeps getting bigger.
#5. Live in today, but think about tomorrow.
#6. Move forward courageously in the midst of uncertainty.
#7. Realize today’s best will not meet tomorrow’s challenges.
The 11 Leadershifts Every Leader Should Make
Even more important than the leadership practices above are the eleven leadershifts, dubbed by Maxwell as the “essential changes every leader must embrace.” They are:
#1. The Focus Shift: Soloist to Conductor. Great leaders are never soloists: they orchestrate.
#2. The Personal Development Shift: Goals to Growth. Goals are great, but growth is better. Be growth-oriented.
#3. The Cost Shift: Perks to Price. Great leaders don’t think about what they can get out of their position: they are focused on what they can give.
#4. The Relational Shift: Pleasing People to Challenging. Stop worrying about pleasing people: start challenging them.
#5. The Abundance Shift: Maintaining to Creating. Tradition doesn’t work as well as it used to: instead of maintaining the old ways, focus on creating new rituals.
#6. The Reproduction Shift: Ladder Climbing to Ladder Building. Become an equipper: build ladders for your employees, and not for yourself (in fact, the latter will happen simultaneously).
#7. The Communication Shift: Directing to Connecting. Stop ordering people around: connect with them.
#8. The Improvement Shift: Team Uniformity to Team Diversity. Bring to your team people who are different than you, even such that don’t agree with your strategies: dissent breeds progress.
#9. The Influence Shift: Positional Authority to Moral Authority. You’re not a leader because of your position, but because of your character. Never forget that.
#10. The Impact Shift: Trained Leaders to Transformational Leaders. Don’t settle with being a trained leader: become a transformational one who inspires and encourages other people to become more than they are.
#11. The Passion Shift: Career to Calling. Becoming a leader should never be a career move: great leaders are the ones who have a calling to become that.
Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
“Leadershift Quotes”Some wake up to an alarm. Some wake up to a calling. Click To Tweet You don’t lead by hitting people over the head; that’s assault, not leadership. (Via Dwight Eisenhower) Click To Tweet 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. Click To Tweet If you don't contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you're not thinking. Click To Tweet Leadershifting is the ability and willingness to make a leadership change that will positively enhance organizational and personal growth. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Until about a decade ago, whenever John C. Maxwell published a new book—and that occurred quite often—it was such an event that the first edition was sometimes be sold out before the book had actually hit the shelves.
However, since Maxwell started being a bit repetitive (he is too prolific to not be), that changed a bit recently. Fortunately, Leadershift is as fresh and as insightful as his best and most renowned books. And that means it is as fresh and as insightful as any leadership (or leadershift) book on the market.
Buy it, read it, reread it, go back to it constantly. Maxwell has done it again.