Inside Out Leadership

When you’re better and bigger on the inside, you will become greater on the outside. That’s what this lesson is all about. John Maxwell teaches how the inside influences the outside, and what the life of an inside-out leader looks like.

In the application portion of the episode Mark Cole and Jason Brooks define what John means by “inside” and “outside,” what makes inside out leadership so powerful, and how they’re applying John’s principles in the John Maxwell Enterprise.

Our BONUS resource for this episode is the Inside Out 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 again, and welcome to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. I'm excited today to be joined by my cohost, Jason Brooks. He's the executive vice president of content here at the John Maxwell Enterprise and today, we are bringing you a lesson by John Maxwell on Inside Out leadership. I can assure you that you need to pause whatever you're doing, you need to slow down and you need to focus on the most difficult part of your leadership development, developing yourself. You're going to experience John today in an incredibly unique lesson that challenges us to eliminate distraction, and focus on ourselves.

Now as always, we like to add value to you, give you lessons to follow along and if you'll go to, you will be able to click on the bonus resource button and follow along as John teaches with a worksheet we have provided there for you. Now here is John Maxwell, and Jason and I will be back afterwards and give application to John's lesson. Enjoy this lesson.

John Maxwell:  Inside Out Leadership. I wrote this lesson because I don't talk a lot about this in leadership but I'm becoming more convinced as I grow older, this is the essence of leadership. Here is what I want you to note, the inside, what's inside of us influences the outside. If that is the case, the inside influences the outside, great leadership is an inside job. Great leaders don't become great because of great actions, great leaders become great because of great thinking, great values, great motivation, great intention. It's all on the inside, and on the inside it goes to the outside.

Here's the thesis. When you're better on the inside than the outside and when you're bigger on the inside than the outside, over time you will become greater on the outside. I'll repeat it. When you're better on the inside than the outside and when you're bigger on the inside than the outside, over time you will become greater on the outside. In other words, if we've got the goods inside of us, over time our influence will become greater on the outside. So let's talk about better on the inside. Let's talk about bigger on the inside for a moment.

Better on the inside deals with character. In other words, when I'm a person of character, authenticity, integrity, honesty, if I'm a trustworthy person, if I'm better on the inside than I'm on the outside, over time my influence will grow on the outside. In other words, I may start slow being a person of character, but character after a while really shows up, does it not? And after a while somebody says, "Wow, I've known them for quite a few years. They're honest, they're trustworthy, they're true to their word, they keep their promises." What does that mean? It means that they're better on the inside than they are on the outside, and over time that begins to show on the outside. As it shows on the outside, that's where the influence begins to increase.

Now, it's also possible to be the opposite. In fact, I've put the reverse thesis in your notes. When you're better on the outside than the inside, and that's possible, and when you're bigger on the outside than the inside, over time you will become less on the outside. Hello? When you're better on the outside than the inside, bigger on the outside than the inside, over time your influence, your life will become less on the outside. What the problem with leadership is, it's so visual and because leadership is so visual, we put a lot of emphasis, time and priorities on the outside because it's seen. We are usually given credit for what is seen on the outside and it's very easy for us to shift to the outside of our leadership and work harder on that, work harder on production, and results, and returns, ROI. Hello? It's much easier to work on that and neglect the inside, and that's where the problem always starts.

I know a lot of leaders. Oh, they're big on the outside, they're better on the outside, but they're not much on the inside. I know an awful lot of hollow leaders. Big on the outside, better on the outside than they are on the inside. Now, what does it mean to be bigger on the inside? Now I'm talking about your attitude, your spirit. I'm talking about now within you a spirit and attitude, a generosity that allows you to literally exclude ... From your whole life and from your whole being and from all of your mannerisms, bigness comes out because you're big on the inside. Emerson said, it's in your notes, "Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not."

You see value-based leadership, character, being big on the inside is sustainable. In my book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, I talk about the number one criteria for success and the number one criteria for success is the ability to connect with people. And I identify connecting with people this way, it's in your notes. Connecting with people is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in such a way that it increases our influence with them. And let me tell you something, that connecting with people that I just defined to you is directly related to being bigger on the inside than you are on the outside. It is directly related to being better on the inside than you are on the outside.

Okay, I'm just going to pull out the characteristics of an inside out leader but you're going to get it real quick. Okay, here we go. Number one, inside out leaders, here we go gang, this is so huge, value people more than position. One of the ways you can tell you're dealing with an inside out leader is they value people more than position. They're never caught up in their position. Number two, inside out leaders inspire others because they are inspired by others. You cannot inspire others unless you're inspired yourself. Number three, inside out leaders are secure enough to appreciate and acknowledge others. Their security allows them to be able to give credit to the people around them.

Number four, inside out leaders do not abuse power. I once heard Nelson Mandela say this about power and about himself, "The problem I have is not how to use power. My biggest problem is how not to use power." Wow, inside out leader. Number five, inside out leaders extend grace and forgiveness to others. Number six, inside out leaders acknowledge and apologize for their mistakes. They're big enough to say, "I'm sorry." Hey, not say, "Sorry." I don't like that. When anybody says, "Sorry," I always want to raise my [inaudible 00:08:27] "Who? Could we identify the object of sorry?" I'm sorry. Go to your notes. Often leaders mistakenly believe for them to be considered great, they must be associated with doing only the right things. Apologizing is an act of humility. Humility tracks and inspires, arrogance does not. Let's review the thesis, let me just tie it up here. When you're better on the inside than you are on the outside and you're bigger on the inside than the outside, over time you will become greater on the outside. Back to my book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. Here's the statement, connectors live what they communicate. Connectors are good on the inside. The first six months ... I wish had 30 minutes to teach what I'm just going to give you in brackets right now.

The first six months, communication overrides credibility. When you start as a leader of an organization in the first six months, can I tell you something? They don't know much about you. So, what you say they take at face value. Are you with me? So in the beginning, communication and what you say to people they buy into. They buy into you and they say, "Okay." But here's the key, after six months, credibility overrides communication. Because after six months, guess what? They know you. Oh, what a sad thought. Now, everything you say is taken through the grid of who you are. That's why you got to be better on the inside than you are on the outside.

So, here's the credibility checklist. Since credibility is so important and those on the inside that are bigger than the outside have it, just some questions. Number one, have I connected with myself? If you're going to connect with others and be credible with others, guess what? You got to connect with yourself. I have the statement there. It comes out of my book, Winning With People. My relationship with me determines my relationship with you. Wow. You see, we see people as we are, not as they are. That's why we got to be good on the inside. Because if we're good on the inside, we see people differently than if we're not big on the inside. You see, if I'm small, and I'm insecure, and I'm petty, and I'm jealous, and I'm full of anger and I got all that stuff on the inside of me, can I tell you something? When I see you, guess what I'm going to see? Pettiness, anger, jealousy. We don't see people as they are, we see people as we are.

Number two, have I made right my wrongs? That's a huge question. Have I made right my wrongs? You say, "What do you mean by that John?" Very simple, have I made right my wrong words? In other words when we've done something wrong, have we made it right? I can still remember a few years ago going to a very large conference out in Palm Springs and speaking for a company that really, they had me come I don't know, maybe four or five straight years to the company to speak. And I'm very careful when I go speak to a company to write down what I spoke on, and get it to my assistant Linda so that she has a record of it because of when I go back obviously, because I speak at a lot of places and a lot of ... I can't remember. I'd like to say it's because of all the places, it's because I'm getting old.

But anyway, somehow I messed that up and I went back to speak to the company that I'd been there a year before, and I gave the very same speech I'd given the previous year. I'm a pretty good communicator and I'm a pretty good connector, and I got a sense what I'm talking what's happening around me, okay? And I couldn't figure it out. I knew it wasn't what it should be. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't figure it out. And when I finished, they were very nice, they applauded. When I finished and I walked out of the place, I kept saying, "Something wasn't right there, and I couldn't figure it out." Then one of the staff came up to me and said, "John, that was a wonderful, wonderful talk." He says, "Thank you very much." But I said, "It wasn't wonderful. Something was wrong." Well, they said, "I don't know, maybe it's because you gave it last year when you were here."

So, I went back to my hotel room and I was sick. People paid good money to get me there, I had planned ... I mean, I was just sick. I had dinner that night with the owner of the company. He came in and I called him a name. I'll call him Joe. It wasn't his name. I said, "Joe, I have a major apology to make you." I said, "I discovered after I spoke that I did the same subject the year before, and I'm so sorry." Now, this man was bigger on the inside than he was on the outside. He was generous to me and he said, "Oh, John," he said, "Look, they need to hear it twice anyway. We all need to hear it twice. People were here that weren't here last year." I mean, for three minutes he was just nice to me. He was nice.

When he was done being nice I said, "I know that, Joe. Thank you, you're nice to me, thank you. But that doesn't make this right." So I said, "I'm going to ask you a couple things if you'll let me. First of all, I was going to leave late tonight out of here. I would like to stay one more night. Tomorrow morning when you have your first general session, could I have two minutes with the people? I'd like to go out and apologize to them. I'd like to tell them that I let this one slip, but I'm very sorry and that ... It just wasn't right and I just need to ask them to forgive me." He was taken back that. He said, "I don't think that's necessary." I said, "It is necessary. I have to let them know that I messed them up and I was wrong."

I said, "The second thing is, Joe if you'll allow me, I'd like to come back next year. Now, you may have hesitation on that. If I were you and let me come back next year, I would ask before I got up, 'What are you speaking on,' just in case that I have another mental breakdown." But I said, "I would like to come back next year and I'd like to pay my own expenses. It'll cost you nothing, but I have to come back and give them another lesson next year. And if you don't mind if it's okay with you, I'll even tell them tomorrow that I'm coming back next year." But I said, "This is on my dollar, this is on ... I have not served you as I need to."

And he let me do that. He was very gracious. The next day I told the people, apologized, asked forgiveness. Told them I'd come back next year, with a new speech, of course. By now they're howling [inaudible 00:15:19]. They were just saying, "He's a good man. He's a good man. He's a little dumb, but he's a good man. He's a good man." When I see leaders not apologizing, I see leaders who don't deal with reality. Because you can't make decisions that you make and be as visible you are without at times having to call a timeout and say, "Can I take a moment? I was wrong here." That's what bigger on the inside than the outside leaders do.

Number three, am I accountable? In my book, The 17 Laws of Teamwork, one of the laws is the law of accountability, which basically says teammates must be able to count on each other when it counts and where it counts. By the way, that's a great teamwork law for us as a team, isn't it here? As partners, can I be counted on? I just put this little bracket stuff that we just ... I want to read and we move on. When you make a commitment, you create hope. When you keep a commitment, you create trust. Don't get the two confused. They're not the same. Now, I don't need partners in this room for this, I need politicians in the room for this. I need to go to Congress, I need to go in this house, the Senate. There's all kinds of places I need to go with that one. When you make a commitment, you create hope but when you keep it, you create trust.

Number four, am I following the golden rule? Boy, that's just a great question isn't it? The golden rule is a value-based rule. It's in every culture, it's in every religion. Do unto others, treat others as you would like to be treated, as you would like to be yourself taken care of. And number five, and I got to put this one in even though we're talking about inside out leadership because it's essential? Do I deliver the results? Because can I tell you something? If you're bigger on the inside than you are on the outside and you don't deliver results, let me tell you the good news. The good news is you're a very good person. Are you with me? The bad news is, that doesn't make you a leader. You're just a good person.

So when people ask me about character, they say, "Don't you think character is a characteristic of a leader?" I say, "Well, yeah but I think it's a characteristic of a follower." Good character, ethical. You see, character doesn't make the leader but without it, the leader comes unraveled because then they're bigger on the outside than they are on the inside. So I close this lesson by just saying, here's my challenge, I hope that you make it your challenge. My challenge is to be bigger on the inside than I am on the outside, and to be better on the inside than I'm on the outside. Because if that is true, that my spirit is bigger on the inside and my character is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, over time my influence will greatly increase on the outside, and that's the way a leader should grow and develop.

Mark Cole:       Hey. Welcome back, everyone. I hope that you really were able to take some notes, follow along and focus on yourself. Jason, I'm really excited about breaking this lesson down. As usual, podcast listeners, we take what John shared with us today and we give application of how we are applying it. Hands on ability for you to observe and learn, and how we're applying these principles and these lessons within our leadership and within our team. So Jason, good to have you on board today.

Jason Brooks:   Glad to be on board, man. It's a great morning to record some podcasts and really to get your day jump-started with John. It's funny, the thesis of this lesson is when you're better on the inside than the outside and when you're bigger on the inside than the outside, over time you will become greater on the outside and I have certainly found that to be true in my life and I know you have in yours. But if you don't mind, I want to start with an elementary question here. How do you define inside versus outside as a leader? It strikes me that John uses that language but he never really says, "Hey, this is what inside means. This is what outside means." It seems fairly self explanatory, but I think there might be some people that maybe they can benefit from a little breakdown. So, how would you define those two?

Mark Cole:       Boy, I define it as integrity, as congruency, as being more than doing, as showing more than telling. Some of these buzzwords but if you really break them down Jason, and perhaps in this podcast we'll get to a very personal story of mine that may be familiar even to our podcast listeners. But boy, I have the tale of two leadership opportunities within myself and how the first time my, first opportunity I became much more focused on outside leadership and this opportunity that John has given me 11 years ago to lead alongside him, I took a very different approach and continually focus on inside leadership. So to your question, I believe that the ability to apply what you say, the ability to model what you expect, the ability to be better at an example than you are at illustrating with language.

I think of multiple times in my leadership to where I stood before an audience or stood before a team and said, "We need to do this. This is the expectation," and then went home and realized I was not even living the expectation I put on my people, my team. I would put something out there and then believe it to be good for the people I was speaking to, but not necessary for me to live out. So many times we as leaders, we get to a threshold and we feel like instruction applies to everybody but us. That's bigger on the outside. We feel like that we need to tell people how to get somewhere we've never been. That's bigger on the outside. So I have discovered in my leadership, and again, I have two very different storylines in leadership that I've had the privilege to experience and to lead in over the years. And our challenge John says this in the lesson today. Our greatest challenge as a leader is leading ourself. He says leading yourself, but it's leading ourself and we spend very little time on that many times.

Jason Brooks:   Let's go ahead, because I've got some follow up questions but I think they would sit better for the listener in the context of the two stories that you want to share. Because I think I know where you're going, but I want to give you the chance to share those two different leadership opportunities. So, can you share or would you share with us the leadership opportunity where you were bigger on the outside versus the leadership opportunity where you've been bigger on the inside? And then I've got a couple questions that I think can jump off of those.

Mark Cole:       Yeah, and you know ... First let me say this. I've read John Maxwell's book, Developing the Leader Within You that now is called Developing the Leader Within You 2.0. I've read it probably a dozen times in my life. The first time I read it at 18 and I've told the story before. It gave me permission to lead. All of this telling people what to do and loving when they did it that I discovered at five-years-old, and through my adolescent teenage life. 18-years-old, reading, Developing the Leader Within You gave me context of what really fulfilled me in helping people discover a better way and influencing them to pursue that way.

Well, I read that book and fortunately, I discovered what I really wanted to do in my life was lead. Unfortunately, I missed the whole point of the book, I needed to lead myself first. So at 30 years of age, I had totally, I had totally misused trust, and influence, and opportunity that had been given to me in a incredible arena of leadership. In a great opportunity to where people trusted me younger than they had ever trusted anybody to lead in some positions and my character, my integrity, my value of all people came up extraordinarily short. So I found myself at 30 completely doing a restart with my life, everything. Relationships, family, finances, fun, you name it. I was in a restart mode at 30 years of age.

What I did, Jason, is I swore off leadership and I said, "Man, I have discovered that I am not fit to lead." So I went on a three year journey. I started with John Maxwell's team called Enjoy in March of 2000, or excuse me, in May of 2000. I started in a leadership organization because I couldn't handle not being around leaders. I grew up all my life around leaders. I wanted to be around leaders, but I didn't want anything to do with leadership. I swore it off because I discovered it 30 years of age that I was better at leading on the outside than I was on the inside. The disconnect that I felt for years of standing up before groups and teams and telling them how to do something I wasn't even living myself, was the most liberating feeling of not having that weight of leading on the outside and having nothing to show for leading on the inside.

Fast forward, John finished the book, Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 25 years after he wrote it. He dedicated that book to me, Jason. The book was dedicated to Mark Cole, his CEO, and every attribute he gave in that dedication to me was about the inside of my leadership; my heart, my love for him, my putting others first. You cannot know what that book's dedication did to me because in a re-chance, in an opportunity to lead again, my mentor, my leader recognized the intense work that I put on leading on the inside. Now, let me put a real quick disclaimer here before I make it sound like I have really got it all figured out. I have so much work to do. I have so many shortcomings on my inside leadership. But here's what I can tell you, I am more intentional on developing the inside, my inside leadership than I am growing businesses, developing organizations, developing teams. My yearly life plan growth plan has ... 70% of its focus is on continually leading from the inside out.

Jason Brooks:   But both of those stories are ... I hope that the listeners are really paying attention to those because both of them are great examples for different reasons. One, I grew up in a community where leadership was defined as talent. So if you had talent, they would put you up on the stage and let you go, and oftentimes some people had more talent than they had character and there would always come a day where the talent simply wasn't enough to outweigh the lack of character. Part of the reason that I'm at the Maxwell Organization is that I was in a number of organizations prior to where that same leadership rubric was used. There was always something greater than character that was the defining aspect of leadership and you could pick what ... You had to be a great communicator, or you had to be great at raising money.

But whatever it was, the thing that propelled people into leadership positions was never related to their character. And there was always a day where either the organization, or the person, or people within the organization paid the price for the lack of character in the leader. And coming into the Maxwell world, because I'm like you, I couldn't stand to not be around leaders. And when I came into the Maxwell world, it has been radically different because there is so much focus on the inside development of leaders. So, what makes inside leadership or values-based leadership so powerful? Why does that resonate with people so strongly in your opinion?

Mark Cole:       Well, unfortunately it doesn't resonate with enough people. And I don't say that just because our business is people development. I want everybody to believe our businesses is necessary. And that's not the maximizer opportunist coming out of me, that's because I truly believe in our product. See, I believe Jason ... And I'm going to go and answer your question of why people are so passionate about it, but I first have to say why so many people are not passionate about it. There's people that I've heard them come up to John say, "Hey John, I've read all your books. I got all that. Now, what else do you think I should do?" And I want to scream at them and go, "Go back and read the book the second time, the third time, the 10th time, the 20th time." Because, so many leaders stop growing once they accomplish the achievement they're pursuing.

In other words, growth is about the destination, it's not about the journey. Growth is about accomplishing something, not stretching ourselves to always be accomplishing something. And so, so many leaders, now not those of you listening to the podcast today. You guys got this. That's why you keep downloading the podcast and keep listening, knowing John is going to give you something of value and hoping Jason and I will end up finding a nut and giving you something that will help you. Any old squirrel can find a nut sometimes. But, here's what I want to challenge you. Again, I'm speaking to people that listen week in and week out to our podcast, but perhaps this is your first podcast.

Don't think after a month, two months, three months of listening this podcast or two to three books of John Maxwell's, you now have developed yourself enough for the rest of your life. Have a lifelong commitment to growth. We call that infinite growth. We call that believing that there is not a day in your future where you will sit back and say, "I'm done growing. I've finally accomplished it." I think back to your question, Jason, of what is it that really drives people to want to grow? I think there's this insatiable passion within some leaders. I wish it was in all, but in some leaders that says, "If I am going to constantly make tomorrow better than today ..." And John Maxwell says that is the only guarantee for a better tomorrow, is growth today. I believe this insatiable desire that we're talking about is with people that never want to settle, or to slow down.

See, I think back to this question of inside out leadership. I know in the first part of my life, my first leadership opportunity, I grew and read, and challenged myself to grow and read to step into a position. But once I stepped into the position, I made the position and being successful at that position the only goal. Not a goal, because I think that's a good goal, but the only goal. And what should happen is when we step into a position, our commitment is to make the position and the opportunity better than what it was when we took it. And too many times we're too busy trying to fulfill yesterday's expectations or beat yesterday's position holder, rather than challenging ourself to continually uplevel ourselves and therefore uplevel the position, and then consequentially uplevel the people that are impacted by our leadership.

Jason Brooks:   That's fascinating to me because one of the things that I think about, especially in my role all the time is not just ... Obviously I want to do a good job at it but my thought is, "How can I make this role even more valuable to the organization so that the next person that comes in is going to have to stretch themselves to fill it, and then stretch themselves even further to push the boundaries on it?" And it's interesting that you started out answering my question by explaining that actually values-based leadership is rare, because that was my follow up question that I had. I wanted you to explain why it was powerful, and then explain why it was rare so I'll switch to this question, there is ...

We are in a season right now where it feels like to a lot of people, that we are surrounded by a lot of outside in leaders. People who are more about what the role can give them or provide them or more about the success that they'll have in that role, than they are about being a person worthy of the role. And I'm not making a political statement, we're seeing this across the board in all sorts of places, whether it's business, nonprofits, it doesn't matter. Why do you think we are seeing so much outside in leadership, and what do you think is the cause of that?

Mark Cole:       At the airing of this podcast, as this podcast is being released and Jake was telling me this week that 120,000 people will listen to this podcast within this week. Now, some of you are listening months later, weeks later, I get it. But if you're listening to this live and a lot of you are, then it's election week here in the United States. Now again, several of you are outside the United States, I get all of that. But here in the US, this week has always typically been the week to where we can tell what leader is going to represent the people of the United States for the next four years. I don't know what the results of the election is going to be. I don't believe in polls and I don't have a crystal ball, so I don't know.

But here's what I do know. No matter who is leading right now as we air this podcast and no matter who wins next week in the end of this election week in the United States, what saddens me and what makes John Maxwell say often ... If you haven't heard him podcast listeners, just listen up because he's saying it a lot, he's leadership sad. What saddens John, what saddens me, Jason, I'm sure it saddens you is I'll tell you this, I don't know which person in the running will win, but I can tell you their agenda is more important than the people they represent. You know why? Because I have seen the last years, but specifically the last few months at least here in the United States leaders continually appear on television, appear before the people and claiming their agenda, or their position, or their emotions and acting like school yard children, rather than distinguished servant-based leaders meant to value the people they represent. It saddens me.

Now it's not just politics, although it's really easy right now to pick on politics, but it's business leaders, it's religious leaders, it's entertainers. Entertainers and sports figures have become more passionate about their contract and if they're getting served right, than the opportunity to entertain people with their talent. It's across the board. We are in a leadership deficit of values-based, people-centric servant leadership. We're in a deficit. I would say we're in a pandemic. Allow me to use 2020's most prominent word. We're in a pandemic of values-based, people-centric servant leadership. And I think Jason, mine and your responsibility, and I'm looking at you right now because it ... For those of you listening to the podcast, Jason and I are on Zoom together with Jake in here.

I'm looking at these two guys and saying, we better wake up because we have a message. And podcast listeners, I'm going to enlist you today to. We better wake up and if we can't get it from political leaders, if we can't get it from religious leaders, if we can't get it from business leaders, if we can't get it from entertainment leaders. If we can't get it from media, we better wake up because what's going to change this world is when a bunch of leaders that are values-based and bigger on the inside will show the world how to serve and add value to others. I think I am done looking at these prominent leaders that we vote in, vote out, vote around and look at me and you podcast listeners, look at me and you, Jason and say if it's meant to be, it's up to me, and I'm there.

I'm there and I'm calling you out. I mean, guys, I'm going to tell you. When is the last time you read the Developing the Leader Within You 2.0? This is not a sales gimmick. When is the last time you have watched John talk for weeks and weeks about developing yourself? If it's more than a month, or two or three, I'm going to challenge you to pick that book back up, Developing the Leader Within You 2.0. I'm going to challenge you to buy the digital product that John spent four and a half hours helping you lead bigger and better on the inside. You can go to, you can get the digital product or the book, Developing the Leader Within You 2.0. We need to commit to grow ourself and be bigger and better on the inside, so we can radically change the trajectory of leadership in our world today.

Jason Brooks:   I couldn't agree with you any more than I do. I think 100% the deficit will be met by people like you and me and Jake, and the people listening to this podcast deciding that it's more important to invest in ourselves and invest in the people around us than it is to binge another show on Netflix, or veg out for another weekend of ... And I've got nothing against sports. I'm a sports fan, but there are too many times where we excuse ourselves from the leadership conversation and just expect somebody else to come along and pick up the pieces, and Jake just gave us a prompt. John has written an entire book to mobilize and get people up. And I hope this doesn't offend John, but to get people up off their butts and in the game because the status of the world, the condition of the world is not someone else's problem, it's each of ours.

John has written the book, Change Your World, literally to help us understand that we not only have the capacity to change our world, we not only have the ability to change our world, we have the responsibility to change our world. So the last question that I want to ask you ... And this is just for me, and you, and Jake and the people listening to this podcast, because we're talking about not leaving leadership up to other people. But, how do we create ... Because this is one of the things that John said, that leaders have accountability. How do we create a culture of accountability between ourselves and the listeners, and anybody else who would genuinely believe that they have a responsibility to make a difference in the world? How do we create a system of accountability, or maybe a system of encouragement that will not only keep us empowered to fulfill the leadership deficit, but to flip it on its head and create a generation of leaders that are values-based, people-centric and ready to serve instead of ready to take?

Mark Cole:       You know, Jason? Boy, I love this question and I love this conversation. Of all the things that I take from John Maxwell and the idea of leadership, self leadership is the most convicting, it's the most challenging, it's the most difficult, but it's also the most rewarding. Because at the end of the day ... Let me tell you this. You talked about accountability, Jason. Let me tell you this podcast listeners. At the end of the day when it comes to inside leadership, there is really one primary person to be accountable to, yourself. Now, I believe in blind spots. In fact, I believe in blind spots so much that constantly ... Just this week I've asked four of my leadership team, "What am I missing?" It's a real legitimate question because blind spots are exactly that.

It's so funny people think, "Man, I'm really aware of myself." No, you're not. You're aware of what others have pointed out to you about yourself, because you're blind. You can't see a blind spot without you ... Now, having said that, there is an internal voice in every one of us, every one of us. Now the longer you press the mute button on that internal voice and the longer you disregard that internal voice, the harder it is to hear it. However, you have an internal voice talking to you about your leadership, every one of us do. I'm going to real quickly, Jason, read the six characteristics that John shared with us about inside out leadership, real quickly. I'm not teaching on them, John did.

Instead out leaders value people more than position. Inside leaders inspire others because they are inspired by others. Inside out leaders are secure enough to appreciate and acknowledge others. Inside out leaders do not abuse power. Inside out leaders extend grace and forgiveness to others. Finally, inside out leaders acknowledge and apologize for their mistakes. If you listening, Jason if you and I, if those of you listening will get the six characteristics and put them in front of you and daily review these six characteristics and listen to the voice when it screams that you saying, "You're violating this. You are abusing your power. You are feeling entitled. You feel like you deserve." You should listen to that voice because chances are, you're abusing the power of your position.

Some of you know you need to offer grace and forgiveness to others. I had the privilege to do this the other day, Jason. I was dealing with a situation. I was right, I was justified. All the people in my circle of influence were telling me that I was right. 3:15 in the morning, I awakened with a very strong internal voice going, "Whoa, you are not extending grace and forgiveness in this situation." Now, I'll be honest with Jason, I had extended grace and forgiveness for a long time. And yet, I woke up that morning with a very strong internal voice.

My point to you is, I can tell you about inner circle, outer circle. I can tell you about accountability groups. I can tell you about how Jason and I hold each other accountable to our vision and our purpose, and how Jason texted me this week and told me that some of the leadership direction that I was giving was stuff that had been on his and his wife Rachel's board for years and years before he ever took this leadership position, and all of those things hold me accountable to being true to our vision and purpose. But there's not enough said about the internal voice that is convicting you, when you're violating inside out leadership. And for me, the inside voice is the first place to hold myself accountable because that voice knows if you're out of sync, if you're not in integrity, and if you are violating some of these characteristics that John's talking about.

Jason Brooks:   I think that is an absolutely great spot to end this podcast with because folks, the whole point of this is that you have to be bigger on the inside than on the outside. And if you have muted that inside voice, it's going to be really hard for you to grow on the inside because that voice, that accountability piece to yourself is in keeping with John's whole point that you have to lead yourself first. And if you'll lead yourself well, you will find other leaders around you. And let me tell you this too, if you have pressed mute on that inside voice so many times that you can't hear it anymore, then you need to check out our four-part series on blind spots. You can go to That's all about not only bringing people around you to help you become aware of yourself, but it'll help you take steps to raise the volume on that inside voice so that you can begin to become the leader that you were meant to be.

Man, I'm going to give it back over to you here in just a second Mark for some closing thoughts, but if you haven't already, go to Click on the bonus resource button, download the fill in the blank notes. Go back and listen to this and fill in those blanks, and spend a little bit of time. Maybe an hour, maybe an hour and 15 minutes this week, just meditating on those six characteristics that Mark read off. Really ask yourself and listen to whatever inside voice you have left, however loud it may be and really ask yourself, "Am I that kind of person? Are those six things true of me." If you'll do that, I think you'll be on your way to being an inside out leader. So Mark, I'll turn it back over to you for any closing thoughts you've got my friend.

Mark Cole:       You nailed it, buddy. Hey, thanks for joining the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. Please, listen to this podcast again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again. You need to be bigger on the inside than the outside. Look forward to seeing you again next week. Until then, let's lead.

5 thoughts on “Inside Out Leadership”

  1. Excellent Ive long followed John, have 15 books I always find something new even rereading old stuff. Keep going .

    the problem i jot down my notes in his books as I go – I’m running out of space , through John would be proud when he sees , the heavily noted books and my thoughts and inspirations.
    God Bless

  2. I so love and appreciate your investment in me personally. My husband is a U.S. Congressman and has been following John Maxwell for years now, first as a military officer, physician,and business owner, now as a servant of our district in TN. I purchased two CrossFit gyms…one Jan 1, 2020 and another Feb. 1, 2020. I play your podcasts whenever I am in my car driving and you have saved me. Thank you for all you do. These podcasts have centered me and keep my feet on the ground and my head above the water. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed…that I can’t measure up to all the things I need to be to make my business and world around me function successfully. Just know there is a politician out there that is real and authentic…studied on the principles that you preach. We are listening and value whole-heartedly what you offer. Thank you

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Camilla! So glad that John’s teaching is impacting your leadership and your husband’s leadership on so many levels! Thanks for being a loyal podcast listener!

  3. How is it that Mark read Developing The Leader Within You at 18, had a crisis of leadership at 30, and started working for Injoy in May of 2000? Developing The Leader Within You was published in 1993. The math doesn’t add up.

    1. Hi Keven, thank you for your question. I believe Mark was expressing the approximate age he was when he read DTLWY. So he would have read it sometime in his late teens or early 20’s. Please let us know if we can answer any more questions for you. And, thanks for listening to the podcast!!

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