The Best of the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast

This week, we’ve put together a very special episode for our podcast listeners! During most of our usual episodes, John teaches a lesson and Mark Cole and his co-host follow up with application meant to help you grow as a leader and multiply your influence.

The goal is to make you better so you can change your world.

That’s why, for this episode, we’ve pulled together five of John’s best teaching moments from our most popular podcast episodes. We are bringing you the VERY BEST of John Maxwell in this episode so you can absorb some of John’s greatest teaching points. This episode will help you, and you can multiply what you learn by downloading this episode’s Bonus Resource.

The BONUS resource for this episode is the Best Of John Maxwell Worksheet, which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from John’s teaching. You can download the worksheet by clicking “Download the Bonus Resource” below.


Mark Cole:       Hello, and welcome to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. As always, I'm Mark Cole. Your host and fellow leader. Today I'm excited, because we have put together a very special episode for you. Usually you'll hear John teach part of a lesson, and then myself and a cohost will follow up with some application, because that's meant for us, not only to listen or talk about leadership, but to do leadership.

We want to help you grow as a leader, help you multiply your influence with others. The goal is always to make you better, so you can change your world. But today we're doing something different. Today Jake Decker, our podcast producer has pulled together five of John's best teaching moments from some of our most popular podcast episodes.

We are bringing you the best of John Maxwell in this episode, so you can absorb these five points and hear John teach on them again. To borrow a phrase from John, "Today we're giving you the gold." The cream of the crop. The wisest, most impactful lessons straight from John's teaching.

Make sure you've downloaded the notes for today's episode, because you're going to need them. You can go to and click on the Bonus Resource Button to download. Grab a pen, find a comfortable place to settle down, and get ready to take notes, because we're coming right out of the gate with one of the most popular podcast we ever released.

This clip comes from an interview that John and I did with Marcus Buckingham. He's a critically acclaimed researcher, writer, and co-creator of the strength's finder assessment. We sat down with Marcus the night before live to lead 2019, in front of a VIP and platinum guest audience.

We discussed a wide range of incredible topics. It was one of my most incredible experiences as a podcast host. But today we want you to listen as John and Marcus discuss strengths and weaknesses, and how more importantly they impact you as a leader. Here is John and Marcus Buckingham.

Mark Cole:       Let's get started with some questions, and first I really do want to dig into this concept of strength. You both have placed an importance on strengths and how you use strengths with your team. I'd love for you each to share your definition of strengths, and then why you think strengths are so important for growth and development. Marcus, we'll go with you.

Marcus Buckingham:    Well, the definition of strengths that we normally think of is, a strength is what you're good at and a weakness is what you're bad at. But that's an odd definition, because all of us have some things that we're really quite good at, that we hate. Some things that, because we're driven or because we're intelligent or whatever, we can do it. It's just that if we never had to do it again it would be a day too soon. What's that?

That's a weakness. A proper definition of a strength and a weakness is, a weakness is an activity that weakens you, before you do it you don't want to, while you're doing it time drags on, when you're done with it you're drained. I mean, you may be pleased to be done with it, but you're drained.

A strength, at least in terms of the way that I've defined it over the years, is an activity that strengthens you. Before you do it, you lean into it. While you're doing it, as Mike [inaudible 00:03:41] said, it's like flow. It's like time speeds up. It feels like you've been doing it for five minutes, but you look up, it's an hour.

When you're done with it, you're not drained, you're invigorated from the Latin. Strength has come into you. You may not be good at it yet. Good or not good is performance or non-performance. The precursor to that is way more appetite than it is ability.

A strength, as I define it anyway, is an activity that makes you feel strong and therefore, of course you know what yours are better than anyone else does. Things like strength finder or stand out are good tools to help you begin your discovery. But in terms of actually, what are the actual activities in the course of a regular week at work or frankly a regular week at home, that you lean into, that you soar with?

You probably know those better than anyone else, and you know them at 11. That is the beginning point, anyway, for my investigation into strengths is, each one of us is beautifully unique.

John Maxwell:  Yes.

Marcus Buckingham:    As you've written about so many times.

John Maxwell:  Yes.

Marcus Buckingham:    Each one of us is blessed with very distinct ways of drawing strength from life. We move through life in a way that either depletes us or invigorates us. Strengths are the lens, if you like, through which you draw strength from life, so that you can contribute. That's the way I think of strength and weaknesses.

Mark Cole:       John, just your definition of strength, and how do you take and make strengths a part of your personal growth, but also your teams growth?

John Maxwell:  Well, I had a definition of strengths, but I don't have a definition of strengths now, because it's not my strength after I follow Marcus. I mean, after all he wrote the book. It's like asking somebody to talk about leadership after I've talked about leadership. I mean, you hit it on the head. And the thing that really grabbed me Marcus, now I want to make sure I heard it correctly, you talked about appetite greater than ability. Was that the phrase?

Marcus Buckingham:    Yeah.

John Maxwell:  Appetite greater than something.

Marcus Buckingham:    If you were going to think about the ingredients of a strength, you would look first and most deeply into appetite, because the appetite is really the precursor.

John Maxwell:  Yeah.

Marcus Buckingham:    We're playing with words here a little bit, but what are you drawn to? What lifts you up? What invigorates you? Whatever word you have for that, John.

John Maxwell:  Yeah. Correct. Well, that was beautifully said, because I'll have to say, I've missed that a little bit. Can I ask you a question on that for a moment?

Marcus Buckingham:    Yeah.

John Maxwell:  What happens if my appetite, something I really do thoroughly love doing, what happens if I'm not good at it? Because, isn't it possible for me also to love something, that to be honest with you is not going to give me much of a return.

Marcus Buckingham:    Yeah. Well, for most of us that's called a hobby.

John Maxwell:  Well, that's two definitions you've given. Strength and hobby. You're two to zero so far. And Mark's keeping score right there. He is right there saying, "Marcus is doing a fine job, Maxwell is quite worthless right now."

Marcus Buckingham:    On the definitions. Yeah. We have American Idol. Right? It's the quintessence of that. Isn't it? I am drawn to sing, but if I keep doing it the hyenas, they themselves are scared of my voice. And so, you look at them and you go, "You think it's a strength, but it isn't." But actually, when you push on that a little bit it seems as though people who, let's take that show as an example, John.

They're not actually drawn to the activity of practicing scales. They're not actually drawn to the activity of refining the instrument of their voice. They're drawn to the attention. They're drawn to the attention. They're drawn to the prestige. They're drawn to the eyes on them.

The definition I used was an activity that makes you feel strong. If you're drawn to the adulation, that's a whole different thing. That's a mis-yearning. Not a mis-yearning. It's a yearning for attention, which let's face it, all babies and humans have. And sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, but every human wants, attention.

John Maxwell:  Sometimes it's hard to distinguish the two.

Marcus Buckingham:    Between those two, isn't it?

John Maxwell:  Absolutely. I got that.

Marcus Buckingham:    When you look at the extreme of it, like American Idol, you go, "Wow. A strength is an appetite? These people have an appetite for singing. No, they've got an appetite for fame."

John Maxwell:  For applause.

Marcus Buckingham:    Yes.

John Maxwell:  That's really good, because I think this is where a lot of people miss it, Marcus. Don't you?

Marcus Buckingham:    I do.

John Maxwell:  They do. They love the affirmation, the recognition, they really don't love the skill or the art so much, because if they did they would practice it whether they got adulation or not. Correct?

Marcus Buckingham:    Exactly. It's, "What would you do if no one was watching? What would you just lean into?" You, right now you don't have to be traveling around the world the way that you are. You don't have to be. You completely could be sitting here doing, I don't know. Whatever it is that somebody might imagine you would like to do. But in your mind you know better than anyone else what gets you out of bed and gets you moving.

And you can't stop. It's like, that's what a strength is. There are too many people, not to get too, table pounding, because I was told not to pound the table. But we've defined a strength as what you're good at. How many doctors do we have who are miserable in their work, because they were good at pre-med? And someone said, "Well, you got an A. You're good at pre-med. You should be a doctor."

And the person deep down is going, "Yeah, but I don't like sick people. I keep curing one and then there's another one right behind them." I mean, definitions can sometimes be a little precious, but in this case this big impact, if you've been misdiagnosed as a strength is what you're good at.

Listen, if you're good at pre-med, go be a doctor. And then we wonder why we've got high levels of PTSD in doctors. We got a lot of doctors that don't want to be doctors.

John Maxwell:  You bring up such a good point, because I have a degree in counseling. And so, the first three years of my, "Ministry and career." I did counseling. And it was terrible. I mean, I was drained every day. And first of all, I mean think about it, I mean think about me being a counselor. I mean, "Okay. Sit down. What's the issue? Got it. Okay, I've got a three point plan for you. One, two, three. Here's the paper. Don't come and see me till you do it."

I mean, if you're going to be a counselor you should have an ounce of mercy. Just an ounce. And when I took the profile test I have no mercy in at all. They would be miserable and I would come home drained. And I'll never forget, never forget the life change that came into my life.

You're talking about working on strengths, not weaknesses. I'll never forget when I began to understand that when you counsel with people you're always working with their weaknesses. And when you equip people you're always working on their strengths. And I went from a miserable counselor, to an absolutely fulfilled equipper.

Mark Cole:       I told you that was going to be incredible, and it really was. I still think, I still listen to that interview from time to time, because there's so much great material that they shared, that is applicable to my leadership and my desire to improve that leadership.

In fact, if you'd like to hear the entire episode you can visit I am confident you will love that podcast. Our next clip today is from our podcast series 10 keys to consistent growth. You and I know that growth is a passion of John's, it's a passion of ours here at the John Maxwell Company.

It's no wonder that so many people responded positively to this lesson. You're going to hear John talk about one of his favorite principles of growth. That is becoming growth conscious rather than goal conscious. Now, if you're asking yourself, "What's the difference?" That's exactly why we included this clip, because John breaks down the incredible principle for you to apply in your life. Here is John.

John Maxwell:  Now, what I'm going to say to you for the next three minutes is literally vital. In your notes you can see that I have two columns. I have a column for people that are what I call goal conscious. And I have a column for people that are what I call growth conscious. About three years ago I was doing a round table and I had about 15 people in the room and they were spending all day with me.

And basically in the round tables there's a lot of give and take, a lot of Q&A. And a very successful person out of Dallas, that I've known for many, many years, who's built a wonderful organization. In fact, If I gave you his name, and I will not, many of you would know about him, even though he's not in your line of work.

I'll call him Joe. Joe looked at me and said, "John, the last two years I've plateaued." He said, "I can honestly say that I feel that I'm flat for the first time in many years. The last two years. Could you help me?" Because I knew him so well I jumped in quickly and said, "Yeah, I think I can, Joe."

I said, "Let me ask you a question. Have you hit all of your goals?" And he looked at me, he said, "Yeah, John. I've hit every one of my goals." He said, "The organization's bigger than I ever anticipated it to be. We are reaching more people than we've ever anticipated reaching. We're bringing in more dollars than we ever anticipated bringing. To be honest with you, I think I have reached all my goals."

I said, "Joe, that's the problem. You're goal conscious, instead of growth conscious." What I had discovered is, that people that are goal conscious plateau more often and longer than people that are growth conscious. Now, I put the two columns for teaching purposes, so that I could be crystal clear on exactly what I'm talking about, because it's not either, or.

And I'm certainly not saying don't have goals. I have goals, you have goals. Nothing wrong with goals. But I am saying that there is something more important than setting goals. Let me explain it by illustrating the two columns.

You see, if you're goal conscious the focus is on a destination, "If I can get to this level, if I can just reach this number, if i can just have this position." Goal conscious people are almost always destination conscious, where growth conscious people, focus is on the journey.

They see the big picture. They understand that to be successful it's a process and it's a journey. Look in your left hand column, if you're goal conscious you will motivate people. When you're goal conscious it's very motivational, if you put a goal in front of yourself or you put a goal in front of someone else. But let me tell you something, if you're growth conscious that will mature your people.

There is a maturity in a growth conscious mindset, that is not evident in a goal conscious mindset. Also, if you're goal conscious, goals are seasonal. In other words, you'll have a time or a period, or a season in which you'll say, "Okay, I've got to get to the next level. I've got to do this." Where, if you're growth conscious, growth is lifelong.

Growth isn't seasonal, it's not annual. It's lifelong. It's a journey. Now, what I have discovered is, if you're goal conscious it challenges people. But if you're growth conscious that changes people. Change occurs over the process. Not in a moment or at a destination, or a time, or an event.

One more distinction. If you're goal conscious, when the goal is reached we plateau. But when you're growth conscious, we keep growing.

Mark Cole:       Here's what I love and learned from that clip. It's about really what John covers in the entire episode. Really, it's this. That I have personally discovered the power of being growth conscious, and done that in a way that helps me not become goal conscious, but to accomplish great things in my life. I still have goals, but they are actually serving my growth. And growth has taken me further than I ever dreamed of going, if you'd like to hear that lesson in its entirety you can find it at

Now, one of the things I love about doing this podcast with you each week, is that it provides our company a tangible way to reach out and touch your life with our philosophy and approach to leadership, because that's what helps us, every one of us achieve greatness.

Having a healthy mindset that's built on people. It's what we call people centric, values based servant leadership. That's why our company exists, to help you achieve the greatness that is within you. In this next clip John shares his insight into one of our leaders greatest responsibilities.

Now, that's a big claim to make. I realize that. But I can tell you, having sat in the leaders chair, being next to John Maxwell, the person who has to make the tough calls at the end of the day, I can tell you this. We have to affirm a mindset that John is getting ready to share with you.

It's a mindset that best leaders learn how to adopt. Here is John talking about the power that is unleashed when great leaders think possibilities instead of problems.

John Maxwell:  Success is how well I have done for myself, significance is how well I have done for myself and others. Obviously that's a whole different level. I've often said success is about me, significance is about others. But greatness is how well I have inspired others to do well for themselves and for others.

Greatness is multi-generational in time and in influence. It transcends time, culture, talent, years. And I have now brought the word greatness down and tried to condense it, and I'm going to do my best to teach you what I think it is. And one of the things I want to talk to you about greatness, is how they think.

How great people think. Pascal said, "Man's greatness lies in the power of thought." And there are three things I wanted to share with you about how great people think. And number one is, I think great people think possibilities.

When you are around a person of greatness they continually think about the possibilities that are before them. I'm going to give you a quote by brother Lawrence. He was a mystic way back in the 15th century. Brother Lawrence said this phrase here, "All things are possible to him who believes. They are less difficult to him who hopes. They are easy to him who loves, and they are simple to anyone who does all three."

There should be something going on with inside of you right now, that is calling you to greatness, because that's how we are created. And you should be, as you're listening to this lesson, you should be saying within yourself, "Oh my goodness. There's room for me."

And by the way, let me tell you something. There's a lot of room at the top. It's not overcrowded at the top. Now, you got mass traffic problems at the bottom. You understand? You've got to have all kind of people helping you navigate through the crowd at the bottom, because the bottom is Times Square on New Years Eve.

But the top, all kind of room my friend. In fact, let me say this. There is room for you at the top. Would you, in your notes write these words? There's room for me at the top. There's room for me at the top. There is room for you at the top. And I will die believing that. Even when you stop believing in yourself, John hasn't stopped believing in you. Believe in yourself, and then get around people that believe in you. Possibilities.

Mark Cole:       Come on. Isn't that amazing? The power of possibility thinking is so underused. And really, it's undervalued. We as leaders today need to understand the importance of possibility thinking all the time, and specifically in times of struggle. If you'd like to learn more about defining greatness and possibility thinking then you can find the complete podcast episode at

Now, as always, when you listen to these podcast be sure to download the notes by clicking on the Bonus Resource Button. These worksheets will bring to life the lessons that John is teaching and give you something that will help you share the learning experience with others.

Okay. Only two more clips to go, but I wish that we had more time to give you more clips. This next clip comes from John's teaching at live to lead in 2018. It's one of the best observations I've heard about leadership in this digital age, if we learned anything from 2020, it's that things changed so fast, that leaders must be prepared to adjust at top speed. Here's John sharing some powerful thoughts about living in a fast forward world, and how leaders can adjust to the new reality.

John Maxwell:  When I use the term Leadershift, what I'm talking about is having the willingness, the ability to make positive changes in your life as a leader, and in the life of the organization, the company, the group that you lead. That's what a Leadershift is, if you make the right kind of a change, a right kind of a shift you're going to become better [inaudible 00:23:35] leader, and the people around you are going to become better because of that.

I was asked recently in an interview, they said, "John, how do you stay on top of your game?" It's a great question. I mean, how do I, at 71 still love leadership, still run the companies that I have and do leadership the way that I do it?

And I remember when they asked me the question, "How do you stay at the top of your game?" I remember my answer. And that is, I realize that the game doesn't stay the same. It's like a baseball game. Okay, it's called baseball, but every game is different.

There's no such thing as a baseball game, and the next game is going to be identical of the last one. Babe Ruth even said, "Yesterdays home run won't win today's game." And so, when we think of shifting, when we think of making leader shifts in our life, what we need to understand is, we have to continually be in the process of change.

One of my earlier mentors, when I was in my late 20s, Olan Hendrix was the one who shared with me. He said, "John, if you're going to grow, you're going to continually change." It's just a fact, that if you grow that means that your life will be full of leader shifts. That you will constantly be changing.

On our John Maxwell team one of the things I do, is I have what we call minute with Maxwell, which is just a thing where I, online do a minute with a word. They'll give me a word, I don't even know what the word's going to be, and then I teach off of it for a minute.

In fact, I had a guy come up to me the other day and said, "I watch minute with Maxwell every morning." I said, "Well, good. Thank you very much." He said, "I know how you could improve it." I said, "Oh, good. Well, how can I improve it?" He said, "Have a half a minute. Yeah. Just cut that baby in half. You can get better. Trust me. You can get better."

But on one of the minute with Maxwell they gave me two words, and they asked me to talk about it for a moment. And the two words were fast forward. Now, the picked that up from a theme of a company that I had spoken for, and when they gave me the two words fast forward here's what I said.

I said, "Here. Let me take fast first. Fast means faster." In other words, it's never going to slow down. I love people who say, "You know what? I'll tell you what. It's just, the pace is going crazy. I can hardly wait for things to slow down." Slow down? That means you're going to die. Things aren't going to slow down. Fast is faster, and it keeps going,

With technology and social media. Fast just gets faster. I mean, fast isn't going to get slower, fast isn't going to stop, fast isn't going to call time out. Fast is faster. And let me say something about forward. Forward is shorter.

When you think in the future, it's not as long as it used to be. When I started off as a young leader my goodness, I had a 10 year game plan, which was a long range plan. You did 10 years, five years was mid range, two year was short range. I started to ask you if you remember that, and then I looked at you and you're too young to remember that. Trust me. Okay? Just believe the old boy. Okay?

We used to have these little five years, and now two years. I mean, that's like a real long range plan. You see, fast is faster and forward is shorter. And if that's the case, which is, if that's the case then we're going to have to be able to Leadershift faster in the changes that we want to make.

I just wrote down, and just think about these for a moment. You don't have time to write them down, but just give them some thought. I just wrote down some Leadershift questions such as, "How open am I to change? Am I becoming a better listener? When will I begin to ask more questions? Can I become comfortable with ambiguity? And do I rely on my intuition enough? How adaptable am I as I begin to lead?"

And I want to just say something about being adaptable. There's a difference between adaptability and conformity. Conformity is a negative quality of just blending in. It's becoming average. It's usually based out of maybe a weakness of fear of rejection.

And that's not what we're talking about today. We're talking about adaptability, which is a positive quality, which is very proactive in adjusting, so that you can succeed and do better, and grow. And it's a strength that's based on confidence. Confidence in your intuition, and confidence in your abilities.

Mark Cole:       There's so much more to that lesson, and I highly recommend you listen to all of it. It's our best of live to lead, how to Leadershift successfully. And you can find it on the podcast website at Okay. We've arrived at this last clip, for this best of the podcast episode.

We wanted to send you out with something encouraging. See, leadership can be challenging in so many ways, and it's easy sometimes for those of us who lead to feel like we're not up for the task. In fact, it's easy to feel incomplete or insufficient.

This clip should help lift your spirits. This comes from John's lesson on the incomplete leader, and we're sharing with you John's thoughts on how we all can be, not only incomplete in our leadership, but incomplete in life and in other ways.

We don't have to stay that way. We can grow. We can improve, we can better ourselves and lead ourselves to be the best leader possible by embracing the value of growth. Here is John talking about the ways we are all incomplete leaders.

John Maxwell:  This lesson basically is about the fact that we are incomplete leaders. And we need somebody around us to compliment us, and to complete us. In other words, this lesson is all about developing a leadership team, because there's no such thing about one person having all the leadership giftedness and capabilities to lead an organization.

We expect a lot of our leaders. Top executives should have intellectual capacity. What does intellectual capacity do for them? Well, intellectual capacity, to make sense of sometimes unfathomably complexed issues. But we expect our leaders to be very smart.

We also expect our executives to have what we would call imaginative powers. This is the ability to paint a vision that generates everyone's enthusiasm, gets everybody on board. We want them to have intellectual capacity, want them to have imaginative powers, we also want them to have operational knowledge.

They have to be able to translate strategy into concrete plans in their lives. And finally, interpersonal skills. That receives buy in from everyone on the team. Now, if you'll just take a moment, because you put in four things, as far as what we look for executives to have. Intellectual capacity, imaginative powers, operational knowledge, interpersonal skills.

If you look at those four things I will almost guarantee you that we all look at that and say, "Oh my goodness. I don't do all four of those things really well." And here's the point that I want to bring out to you, in your notes. Unfortunately no single person can possibly live up to those standards. Absolutely.

It's time to end the myth of the complete leader. The flawless person at the top who's got it all figured out. In fact, the sooner leaders stop trying to be all things, to all people, the better off their organizations will be.

In today's world the executives job is to no longer command and control. You say, "John, if it's no longer to command and control, what is it?" But to cultivate and coordinate the actions of others at all levels of the organization. Wow.

Now, this next sentence in this paragraph, I underlined in my notes, because I think it's very important, "Only when leaders come to see themselves as incomplete, as having both strengths and weaknesses, will they be able to make up for their missing skills by relying on others. That's so true.

Mark Cole:       What a great way to finish the best of the podcast episode, if you'd like to hear that episode in full you can visit We really hope that each of these clips have challenged you in your thinking. We hope that you've learned something that will make you better and will improve you in your growth and in your leadership journey.

There's so much from John, that you should reflect on and we hope you'll grab the Bonus Resource for this lesson, and spend some time going over what John taught, and any thoughts you might have jotted down. If you haven't already, go ahead and grab those notes by visiting and click on the Bonus Resource Button to download the PDF.

From myself, from Jake, from the rest of our podcast team we hope you've enjoyed today's episode. If you did, or maybe you didn't enjoy it, we'd love for you to leave a comment on the website and have you share your thoughts on this episode, and how we can help this podcast make you better.

Please, not only subscribe, not only give us a comment, but pass this podcast along to others, so that we can partner with you to add value to others. We'd love for you to let us know what your favorite podcast is, or how we can actually serve you.

That's what we have for you today. I hope you've enjoyed listening and we especially hope that you have been stretched in your leadership, and challenged in your personal growth. We want you to enjoy this podcast, and we want you to know that this is the podcast that is dedicated for you and the people around you.

We work every week to hit that mark, to deliver a podcast that helps you transform your world and transform the world around you. Thanks for listening, we'll be back next week with another episode. But until then, keep listening, keep learning, keep leading, we are doing this together.

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