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Summary: Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 by John C. Maxwell


In this developmental guidebook, leadership expert and prolific author John C. Maxwell lays out the requirements for being a good leader – and the consequences of bad leadership – all backed up with illustrative, engaging case histories. He explains how to develop the character traits necessary for leadership and how to foster the other qualities a great leader should possess. Maxwell’s easy-to-read book also discusses how to inspire, motivate and influence the people you lead.


  • Strong leadership requires mastery of 10 basic capabilties.
  • 1. Influence – Leaders must earn authentic authority.
  • 2. Judgment – Leaders must be able to manage their time by setting priorities.
  • 3. Character – Leaders must have an ethical foundation and good charcter.
  • 4. Change management – Leaders know how to be agile and create positive change.
  • 5. Problem-solving ability – Leaders see problems as opportunities.
  • 6. Attitude – In life and leadership, a good attitude is crucial.
  • 7. Servant leadership – Serving others is a core value.
  • 8. Vision – Leaders give their teams a sense of purpose and mission.
  • 9. Self-control – Leaders must have the discipline to govern themselves before they can govern others.
  • 10. Personal growth – You can develop the experience and expertise to become a better leader.

Book Summary: Developing the Leader Within You 2.0


Strong leadership requires mastery of 10 basic capabilties.

In the past, companies often failed to pay much attention to identifying and fostering leadership skills. Now, however, most firms understand that capable leaders make things better for the people they lead. Leadership development is, thus, a true business imperative.

“Developing yourself to become the leader you have the potential to be will change everything for you. It will add to your effectiveness, subtract from your weaknesses, divide your workload and multiply your impact.”

Developing effective leadership abilities is challenging – but that challenge isn’t the only reason that many people who could become leaders decide not to try. Often those who could lead, but don’t think it’s possible, succumb to some of these negative beliefs:

  • “I’m not a ‘born leader,’ so I can’t lead” – Leadership is not a function of your birth. Of course, some people start out in life with an abundance of “natural gifts” and advantages that help them become leaders. Nevertheless, anyone can become an effective leader with effort and hard work.
  • “A title and seniority will automatically make me a leader” – That’s not how leadership works. People won’t line up to follow you because of your lofty position. However, they will be loyal when they respect your abilities and actions.
  • “Work experience will automatically make me a leader” – No it won’t. You may have decades of experience on the job, and you may handle your tasks with great skill, but none of that automatically makes you a leader.
  • I’ll try to develop my leadership abilities once I’m appointed as a leader, not before – This is backward thinking. Heed the words of the late John Wooden, famous UCLA basketball coach, who cautioned, “When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.”

If you haven’t already taken steps to develop yourself as a leader, now’s the time to start mastering 10 fundamentals:

1. Influence – Leaders must earn authentic authority.

Influence – born of being respected – is the first and most essential leadership characteristic. You’ll find influence at work in different forms at each of the “five levels of leadership”:

  1. Position – If you have a leadership position, people who report to you must follow you, whether you earn it or not. They have no other choice.
  2. Permission – People, in effect, give you the OK to lead them when they come to respect you and admire your work. They are happy to follow you of their own volition, because you have cultivated relationships and earned influence with them.
  3. Production – People follow you and yield to your influence for a simple reason: You are a productive leader who consistently gets results.
  4. “People development” – You have been able to assist others in their work and career paths, and that gives you substantial influence.
  5. Pinnacle – You’re at the top of your organization or your field, and by now you’ve amassed powerful influence because of who you are and what you represent.

Without influence, you can’t lead anyone, and if no one is following, you aren’t leading – you’re just taking a walk. Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader. So was Abraham Lincoln. They had followers, and thus they had influence. Indeed, they still do.

As a leader or potential leader, it’s important for you to understand that “everyone influences someone.” Tim Elmore, CEO of the leadership development nonprofit Growing Leaders, asserts that even a totally introverted person “will influence 10,000” different individuals over the course of his or her lifetime. With this fact in mind, you might want to consider how many people you will influence. Most people don’t know what impact they’ve had on others. Author John Maxwell remembers that his seventh-grade teacher, Glen Leatherwood, encouraged him to pursue his life-long calling as a writer. Therefore, Leatherwood’s teaching had a lasting impact on Maxwell’s thousands of readers.

“Leadership is influence.”

Maxwell also recalls that, when he was a child, his mother bought bubble lights for the family Christmas tree. To this day, he associates bubble lights with Christmas. To him, you can’t have one without the other. That’s influence. He says that building your influence today is one of the strongest investments you can make in your professional future.

2. Judgment – Leaders must be able to manage their time by setting priorities.

No one ever has enough time, and people can’t really manage time. Management implies control, but everyone gets the same allocation: 24 hours a day. No one can change that, however, you can control how you spend your time by setting your priorities.

When you prioritize your activities, you can get more done each day. Those who find it difficult “to do things in order of importance” may actually be having trouble determining what is most important in their lives. Extensive self-analysis can help if you’re not sure what counts most in your job and in your life. Once you figure out what matters, you can prioritize accordingly.

“You can choose or you can lose. Proactive means choosing. Reactive means losing.”

Successful prioritization depends on mature acceptance of the fact that “you can’t have it all.” So figure out what counts most in your life, and direct your time and efforts accordingly.

3. Character – Leaders must have an ethical foundation and good character.

Leading ourselves is often the most difficult task we face each day. It’s much easier to tell others what to do than to reshape your own behavior and actions.

As the head of the Catholic Church, a pope must be a wise and agile leader, like Pope Francis. One of his priorities has been championing “character formation” for church leaders. He cautions those who want to lead to avoid the 15 character problems – or as he calls them, “diseases” – that can beset leaders. They are:

  1. Some leaders think they’re indispensable. No one is.
  2. Some leaders fall prey to “busyness;” this is a recipe for stress.
  3. Planning too much inevitably leads to inflexibility.
  4. A lack of coordination results in inadequate cooperation.
  5. Your leadership will deteriorate if you fail to show gratitude to people who’ve nurtured you in the past.
  6. Mental rigidity or “petrification” leads to heartlessness.
  7. The main faults the Pope sees in fallen leaders are “rivalry and vainglory.”
  8. Leaders must be authentic. Those who “live hypocritical double-lives” put themselves in a state of existential schizophrenia.”
  9. Leaders who lack courage often go on the attack against their peers and others with “gossiping, grumbling and backbiting.”
  10. Leaders without character attempt to secure the favor of their higher-ups with flattery and false idolization.
  11. Weak leaders are often indifferent to the people they lead.
  12. Followers can’t draw inspiration from severe leaders with “downcast faces.”
  13. Weak leaders often accumulate numerous possessions to try to make themselves will feel more secure.
  14. A “closed” circle of leaders can become an unproductive clique.
  15. Weak leaders often fall prey to “extravagance and self-exhibition.”

4. Change management – Leaders know how to be agile and create positive change.

Over a 35-year period, Lou Holtz was the head football coach at six different colleges. When he took over coaching at these schools, they all had losing records. By his second year, each team had improved enough to be invited to a bowl game. In 1988, Holtz’s “fighting Irish” Notre Dame team became national champions.

“Most of the time when people experience change, particularly in businesses and organizations, they are not alone in the process, but they do often feel that way. And their emotions can overwhelm them.”

Positive change always involves trade-offs: You trade one way of doing things for a better way. Your job as a leader is to convince others to make such trades – and that can be difficult. As poet Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “For everything you gain, you lose something.” As leader, you must convince people that what they’ll gain from the change you are advocating will outweigh what they’ll lose.

5. Problem-solving ability – Leaders see problems as opportunities.

In his book The Road Less Traveled, author M. Scott Peck cites a “great truth,” that life is difficult. He argues that once people accept the fact that life is truly difficult, it actually stops being as hard.

“Most leaders are either entering a crisis, in the middle of a crisis or just resolving one.”

Problem-solving amounts to eliminating life’s difficulties. Things will go better when you hit a snag if you view problems as opportunities, according to CEO Mark Cole. Think of Cole’s problem-solving strategy as the pragmatic approach.

6. Attitude – In life and leadership, a good attitude is crucial.

Ask people what five primary characteristics they most admire in others, and most often they will refer to attributes that relate to attitude. For example, many survey respondents called on leaders to be “positive, tenacious” and hopeful.

“A good attitude is an extra plus in life. It makes our lives better. And it also makes our leadership better, because leadership has less to do with position than it does disposition.”

Maintaining and exhibiting a positive attitude is particularly crucial for leaders because their followers will adopt their approach. Author and pastor Charles Swindoll explains, “Attitude, to me, is more important than…education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.”

7. Servant leadership – Serving others is a core value.

Author John Maxwell spent 26 years as a church pastor, charged with serving other people’s spiritual needs. However, in his early years as a church leader, Maxwell says he almost never thought of serving others. Instead, he focused on accomplishing big goals and on moving up within the church hierarchy.

Maxwell says that his initial attitude was typical, rooted as it was in top-down leadership models. However, he was greatly influenced by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, who taught a seminar with the message, “If you help people get what they want, they will help you get what you want.” This idea opened Maxwell’s eyes. Since that day, he writes, he’s gone out of his way to serve others – a concept that is now familiarly referred to as servant leadership.

8. Vision – Leaders give their teams a sense of purpose and mission.

Leadership depends on vision. Leaders without vision operate in the dark, and so do their teams. Without a leader’s vision, a team eventually loses its energy and sense of direction. Members begin to focus on themselves, stop being team players and eventually move on to other organizations.

“What you can see determines what you can be.”

A leader who has a positive vision of the future can inspire a team and elevate ordinary work to a higher level.

9. Self-control – Leaders must have the discipline to govern themselves before they can govern others.

You can’t lead others if you can’t lead yourself. This requires self-control. Former US President Harry S. Truman described self-discipline as the initial victory people must win over themselves.

“You must travel within before you can travel without.”

This is particularly true for leaders, who must have self-discipline in order to lead others. The reason is simple: People don’t want to follow someone who is out of control. Leadership is an ambitious journey, and you can’t expect to take others a greater distance than you’ve traveled yourself.

10. Personal growth – You can develop the experience and expertise to become a better leader.

On his 4oth birthday, Maxwell wrote an essay listing 10 things people should master by age 40. He did the same thing at ages 50, 60 and 70. He plans to write a similar short inspirational essay on his 80th birthday, if he reaches that age, and a similar missive every 10 years thereafter to acknowledge hard-earned lessons he has learned.

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we are not really living. Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.”

Personal growth leads to a better future. However, it also requires having a strategy for where you want to go and who you want to become.

As you pursue your lifelong journey in personal growth, you will find that your abilities expand, and you become a better leader. You will learn a great deal. You will become more influential, more decisive, more disciplined and more positive as your leadership character develops. You will become a better problem-solver. And you will become a better, more complete person.

About the Author

John C. Maxwell is a New York Times-bestselling author, coach and speaker who has sold more than 26 million books in 50 languages. He founded the John Maxwell Company, the John Maxwell Team, EQUIP and the John Maxwell Leadership Foundation. He wrote a workbook that accompanies this book, as well as many other leadership titles, including Ethics 101, Winning With People, Thinking for a Change, The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork and Developing the Leaders Around You.


“Developing the Leader Within You 2.0” by John C. Maxwell is an updated and revised edition of Maxwell’s groundbreaking book on leadership development. This comprehensive guide offers valuable insights and practical strategies for individuals who aspire to become effective leaders in their personal and professional lives. With a focus on personal growth and character development, Maxwell presents a wealth of knowledge and actionable advice that can benefit readers from various backgrounds and leadership positions.

In “Developing the Leader Within You 2.0,” John C. Maxwell emphasizes the importance of personal leadership as the foundation for effective leadership in any sphere. The book is divided into four sections, each covering different aspects of leadership development.

The first section introduces the concept of leadership and explores the qualities and characteristics that define successful leaders. Maxwell emphasizes that leadership is not limited to a position or title but is a mindset and a set of skills that can be cultivated and developed by anyone willing to put in the effort.

The second section delves into the five levels of leadership, providing a framework for individuals to assess their current level and progress towards higher levels of influence and impact. Maxwell explains each level in detail, offering practical advice on how to advance from one level to the next and become a more effective leader.

The third section focuses on the development of core leadership skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and decision-making. Maxwell provides practical strategies and real-life examples to help readers enhance their abilities in these crucial areas. He emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and personal growth as essential components of effective leadership.

The final section of the book explores the importance of character and integrity in leadership. Maxwell highlights the significance of leading by example, maintaining ethical standards, and building trust with those you lead. He emphasizes that leadership is not just about achieving results but also about positively influencing and inspiring others.

“Developing the Leader Within You 2.0” is a masterful book that encapsulates John C. Maxwell’s extensive knowledge and expertise in leadership development. The book stands out for its clarity, practicality, and actionable advice, making it accessible to readers at all levels of leadership experience.

One of the book’s strengths is Maxwell’s ability to distill complex leadership concepts into simple and relatable ideas. He uses real-life examples and anecdotes to illustrate his points, making the content engaging and easy to grasp. Additionally, the book is well-structured, with each chapter building upon the previous one, allowing readers to follow a logical progression of ideas.

Maxwell’s emphasis on personal growth and character development sets this book apart from others in the genre. He reminds readers that leadership is not solely about achieving results but also about becoming a better version of oneself. This focus on personal transformation resonates deeply and inspires readers to take responsibility for their own growth as leaders.

Moreover, “Developing the Leader Within You 2.0” is not limited to specific industries or organizational hierarchies. The principles discussed in the book are applicable to leaders in any context, be it business, education, politics, or community service. Whether you are a seasoned executive or just starting your leadership journey, you will find valuable insights and practical strategies to enhance your leadership skills.

However, some readers may find the book’s content to be relatively familiar if they have already read Maxwell’s previous works on leadership. While the updated edition includes new examples and case studies, the core principles remain consistent with his earlier writings. Therefore, individuals well-versed in Maxwell’s previous works may not find significant new material in this revised edition.

In conclusion, “Developing the Leader Within You 2.0” by John C. Maxwell is a must-read for anyone seeking to develop their leadership capabilities. The book provides a comprehensive roadmap for personal and professional growth, offering timeless principles and practical guidance. By combining theory and real-life examples, Maxwell equips readers with the tools to become effective leaders who can positively impact their organizations and communities.

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