Transformational Leadership (Part 2)

This week we continue our series on Transformational Leadership. John covers the remaining characteristic of transformational leadership and why it is so impactful. He discusses how transformation stands on a cause with people who make a difference when it makes a difference. You’ll hear John’s heart for transformational leadership as well as his challenge to you to pursue transformation with urgency.

During the application portion of the episode, Mark Cole and Traci Morrow dive into John’s points to discuss the important distinction between being the best in the world verses being the best for the world. Transformation begins with you! If not you, who? If not now, when?

Our BONUS resource for this series is the Transformational Leadership 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:       Hey, welcome back to the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. You are joining us in part two of A Transformational Leader. Really, transformational leadership is something that John has been talking about now for years, seven, eight years. In fact, last week, we just finished up the book tour of John's new book, Change Your World. I hope you have that, go to if you don't. We just finished up this book tour and we went back in this podcast to a lesson John did several years ago, he started working on it in 2013, 2014. And we wanted you to hear the beginning of transformational leadership as it began to form in John Maxwell's world.

We believe that we have a mass movement of transformation that is beginning in the world right now. And podcast listeners, here's the great news, you're a part of it. I want to invite you to do more than hear it. I want to invite you to do more than repeat it. I want to invite you to do more than pass a link along. I want to invite you into the journey. And the best way to invite you into the journey, we believe, is to hear the heart and the beginning of the vision. That's why last week we did part one, this week, you are hearing part two.

Now as always, if you would like to download the show notes, fill in the blanks that John teaches, you can go to Don't forget, make sure you listen to part one, make sure you consume part two, make sure you join us at Now here is Dr. John C. Maxwell talking about transformational leadership.

John Maxwell:  Step number two, it stands on a cause. It's not enough just to want to make a difference. We've got to want to make a difference, doing something that makes a difference. Now, this is the external part of transformation. The calling is the internal, it's who we are inside. And by the way, transformation always begins on the inside. Transformation begins and works like this, inside-out, top-down, small-many, that's how transformation works, but it gets to the outside. And I want to make a difference doing something that makes a difference.

You see, once I begin to understand how transformation works, my purpose becomes bigger than me. It's no longer, "What can I do to fulfill my life? What can I do to make me happy now?" It's, "What can I do to fulfill my calling? What can I do to make sure that I become the person that I really want to become?" And the question is not, do I make a difference? Because everybody makes a difference to some level. Transformational leadership asks the question, what kind of a difference am I making in my life? What kind of a difference am I making in my life?

When I was in college, we had a teacher come and give a lecture that changed my life. He looked at us young leaders and he said, "There are three questions every leader ought to ask himself or herself." I wrote those three questions down. I was way too young. I was 19. I was way too young to know the significance of those questions in my life. I was way too young to even understand the significance of those questions at that time in my life. But I wrote them down because I felt that he gave me something that day, that if I just wrote it down and I didn't let it slip out of my fingers and I didn't forget it, I thought there's going to be a day I'm going to understand these questions.

And the three questions he asked that day was, "What do you cry about? What do you sing about? And what do you dream about?" What makes you cry? What makes you sing? What makes you dream? I wasn't mature enough at that time to answer that question, I am today. For years, I've answered that question because these three questions are the purpose of which I stand on. These three questions are the anchors on my life. When somebody says, "John, what do you cry about?" It's very simple, I cry about people who don't have good leadership. The world is filled with problems today for only one reason, and only one reason, people don't have good leadership. It's a leadership problem. It's a leadership challenge and people that are under poor leadership, very seldom ever have a chance. Life is not a level playing field, it never has been a level playing field. And when there's bad leadership, what I cry about is, everybody suffers under that bad leadership.

What I sing about is that people can learn to become good leaders. That they can really learn to lead. I know that for a fact, I have an organization that's trained 6 million leaders in 175 countries. It's the largest leadership training organization in the world. We will be in every country of the world in another two years. We are now training 1 million leaders every year.

And that's the catalyst for what I'm going to talk about in a moment as I close in transformational leadership and give you stories and illustrations of what can happen. But now I'm getting a little ahead of the story. What I sing about is the fact that people can learn to lead. That leadership really can be taught. That's a fact, I've watched it happen now, tens and tens and tens and tens of thousands of times. You can learn to lead. And if you're a good leader, you can become a better leader. I am a better leader today than I was last year. And I keep her growing in my leadership. There's no limit to what you can learn in the area of leadership. That's what I sing about. And what I dream about is transformational leadership.

And transformational leadership is leadership on steroids. Positive, good leadership that really makes a difference. And this is where I was challenged. This was where I was challenged. Several years ago, I was interviewed, when EQUIP made the stated goal that we were going to train 1 million leaders in the world. And in the interview, a reporter asked me, they said, "John, if you really can train a million leaders..." And they were quite skeptical about, could we even do that. But if you could train a million leaders, the question was, "John, what are you going to do with a million leaders?" And I remember looking at that reporter and I smiled real big. And I said, "When we train a million leaders, we can do about anything we want to do." Because when you train leaders, everything changes.

Now, let's come forward another eight years, we've trained five, 6 million leaders and all of a sudden that answer that I gave the reporter is coming back to me. Because of all these leaders we've trained, so what? Is it just the fact that they have good notes on leadership, and is it the fact that they know how to lead and they could teach others how to lead, or are they becoming transformational leaders? And you see, what I dream about is not only you learning how to lead, but you learning how to lead in such a wonderful way, that you become an agent of transformation in your world. That's a whole different kind of leadership. That's not leadership by position. That's leadership by production. It's a whole different level of leadership. It's a leadership where lives really begin to be changed.

And so I wrote in your notes because I just wanted to say it the best way that I think I can say it. Leadership is the courage to put oneself at risk. It's the courage to be open to new ideas. Leadership is being dissatisfied with current reality. Leadership is taking responsibility while others are making excuses. Leadership has seen the possibilities in a situation while others are seeing the limitations. Leadership is evoking in others the capacity to dream. Leadership is inspiring others with a vision of what they can contribute. Leadership is your heart, speaking to the hearts of others. Leadership is the integration of the heart, the head, the soul. Leadership is the power of the one made many and the many made one. Leadership has the capacity to care and in caring to liberate the ideas, energy and capacities of others. Leadership is the willingness to stand out in a crowd. It's the ability to submerge your ego for the sake of what is best. Leadership is above all courageous. Leadership is an open mind, an open heart. Leadership is the dream made flesh. That's what leadership is.

I want to make a difference, that's my calling. Doing something that makes a difference, that's my purpose. Transformational leadership, number three, spreads from me to we, I want to make a difference doing something that makes a difference with people who make a difference. Mass movements don't begin with the masses, never have never will.

When Gandhi got out of prison and Margaret and I went to the prison in New Delhi where Gandhi spent years, when they released him from that prison in New Delhi, he began his March to the sea. And when he started out of prison, there were six of them walking. And by the time he got to the sea, there was a million walking. What I say all the time is, start small, but don't start alone. Don't start alone, get two or three, it absolutely makes a difference.

I'm going to give you a secret. It really is a secret to my success. And 20 years ago, I started praying for God to send me people who could make a difference. 20 years ago, I started praying for what I call winners, people who win in life, people who know how to win. And can I tell you something, all the prayers that I've ever prayed, I've had that answered more than any other prayer. I could tell you now, hundreds and hundreds of stories of people who've come in my life that I don't deserve. I don't deserve them, but I prayed them in. And when it happens, many times I'll meet them and God will just kind of nudge my heart and say, "Here's another one. You didn't do anything for them. Just give me the credit. I brought them to you." There are things that happen for a purpose and for a reason, for such a time as this.

You see, transformational leadership, it begins with a calling, "I want to make a difference." It stands on a cause, "I want to do something that makes a difference." My purpose. It spreads from me to we, I want to do it with people who want to make a difference. And then it breathes with urgency at a time, at a time when it makes a difference. No one has ever transformed anything or anyone at any time if they somehow felt that if they didn't do it, the next generation would. There's a sense of, I've got to do it now. If not me, who? If not now, when? Transformation always breathes with urgency.

Mark Cole:       Wow. Was that not a cliffhanger? John says, if not me, who? If not now, when? I just felt like mic drop. Traci, good luck. It's now mine and your turn to take that mic drop of how John ended that lesson. If not me, who? If not now, when? And for us to talk about applying this lesson, that Traci, you and I were in the room when John gave this talk several years ago, and here we are together today, talking about number one, the maturation of the message, but two, the incubation of the movement, three, the invitation of everyone to be a part of the mass movement. So, man, I'm glad you are with me today. Let's apply this lesson.

Traci Morrow:  [inaudible 00:13:28], there is so much in the first one. I don't know how he got through two, through four today, but we'll do our best to kind of hit on each of those. Because to me, I'm listening to this and I know our podcast listeners are listening to this and saying, "How do I plug into this?" You closed out by saying, you're invited to a journey, that this isn't just a book launch, it's a movement, the beginning of a movement. And it begins with a few. And so we're listening with discerning ears to say, "what does that look like for me?"

And so I want to go back, before we head into this one, which is crazy, because it's so full. But there's something I didn't want to miss, John said, "We are poised for this." It's incredible to me, I'll say it again, I said it last week. It's incredible to me that John had the foresight, think of how much the world has changed in the last seven years. We would have never imagined that it'd look this way, but we're sort of at similar to that president in Guatemala that John talked to before you walked down the long hallway together. People were wanting more, people were rejecting him, he was at a place where his power, his position, his title was not bringing the kind of response.

And so now you said, last week that there are several presidents, what? 10, 12, 15 presidents that are on the exact same position. I feel like the world is poised for a new, true kind of change that doesn't come from an elected government official in any of the countries, but the people. The world changes when the people changes. And John said, he's consumed with this.

So let's kick off by, I would just like to hear from you, how does it consume you? Because you can't have the kind of proximity to John, and seeing him, what consumes him, you more than anyone else on this planet, you see up close and personal, it consuming John. So how do you catch that, you personally, and how does it consume you? Because now we through this podcast are having proximity to you, and your thought and your process, carrying that mantle. How does it consume you? How does transformation consume you?

Mark Cole:       Isn't it true that so many of the greatest innovations, the greatest transformations, the greatest movements starts with a need felt by many, a need felt by many. And I'm going to tell you, seven years ago, eight years ago when John first gave this message, I was passionate about it, Traci, because John was passionate about it. And I just trained myself, "If John's got a new idea, a new thought, let's go get excited about it because it's going to be good." He's written 86 different books, he sold 34 million copies, it's going to be good. Trust me, if John feels passionate about something, it's going to be good. And I got to be honest with you, it transformation felt a little bit like that. I'm excited because John's excited. And when John gets excited, great things happen. Let's go transform the world.

But I got to tell you as this book is releasing, and forgive me if I get emotional. But as this book is releasing Traci, I just finished leading through the year 2020, like all the rest of us have. In fact, I don't know how much leading I did and how much circling the wagons to sustain myself I did, but I can tell you, I watched the world respond to the pandemic, the tragedies, the uncertainty, the fear of 2020 different than other difficult times in my life. 9/11 here in the United States, we rallied together with a hope for the future. World War II, my parents told me about how the country really rallied together in Vietnam. And other things, there's been more of a rallying, but I got to tell you this year in 2020, we didn't rally together. We divided up and chose camps together. Oh, we did that politically like I've never seen before. We've done that religiously. We've looked at people that chose a particular policy or politic, and we've doubted their faith in the same God. We've divided more than we've ever have. We don't value people.

Going back to your question, "Mark, what is driving you?" There is a need felt by many that requires us... I'm banging on the table in the studio, that requires us to do leadership different. I've challenged every one of the leaders on our team, do not get caught up in the noise of chaos and division in our world today. The world needs us to have a louder voice in a higher place. The need is felt by many that we cannot continue through trajectory of divisive leadership that is dividing people, that is condemning and demeaning people, that has to stop.

And I believe John's vision that we're hearing. We're getting an insight for, from seven years ago. I believe that vision that started back then that, sorry, don't tell Guatemala, Paraguay, Costa Rica and all these countries where we've seen great results. Don't tell them, but we really were practicing for such a time as this. I believe it is no coincidence that in 2021, after the most divisive pandemic, [inaudible 00:19:04] year, we've ever had leaderless year we've ever had, leaderless year, John Maxwell said several times last year, no doubt you heard him in some venues, some format that he was leadership sad. The single most expansive voice of leadership is sad. Well, here's why, it's because we're living in a leadership sad time.

I say it like this, we're in a leadership deficit. There's not enough good leadership and good leaders around, but enter transformation, enter now this solution, enter the idea of changing our world so that our world becomes contagious and changes the world. We have a solution, we have a message and there's a need that is felt by many. And that calling causes us to now stand on a cause. The world needs values-based people-centric servant leadership like never before. Is there not a cause? Is there not a cause for you and I, Traci, and you and I, Jason and Jake, and you and I, podcast listener. Is there not a cause that can galvanize us to have a message bigger than the divisive message we're seeing everywhere?

Traci Morrow:  Timing, which he hits on that towards the end, the urgency and the timing. But John, when he gave this talk seven years ago, he said he was writing a book on transformational leadership. Now he just released a book on transformational, the book that epitomizes his entire life's work is Change Your World. But at the time he was not writing Change Your World, he was writing Intentional Living. And then he went on to write Leadershift. So it was the baby steps that he was taking to prepare us. If you haven't read either of those books, they're kind of the background story of him refining his message and really getting to this place where Change Your World mobilizes all of us.

But it's crazy to me how... Mark, you and I talked about a little bit before we came on, but I was saying like, if he had launched this movement back then, there wasn't a sense of urgency. People were a little bit more comfortable, there wasn't the dissension in our country, in the US, but globally, there wasn't the dissension and the fear because of the pandemic and the uncertainty. He saw it seven years before it was acutely relevant.

So maybe some of you have been on this journey and wanting to make a difference, but you haven't really felt like you caught the cog, or like it really grabbed, and you're moving now. Now I feel like it's clicked into place and the cause and the sense of urgency, the time is now.

And so he talked about, what do you cry about? What do you singing about? What do you dream about? Mark, what if some of our podcast listeners are like, "Wow, those are great questions. I've never thought about that. And when I start to think about them, they all kind of maybe have to do with me." Like I talked about last week, maybe you've discounted yourself a little bit and you've just gotten very singular focused on your life, what's happening in your world. And sometimes when we're in pain that we need to pay attention to those things. But how do we expand that for others so that what they cry about, sing about, dream about, mobilizes them to grab hold of what John is talking about?

Mark Cole:       You have to start with yourself. We start with me. I can't lead from a place of others. I have to lead from a place of me, from inside-out is what John calls it. It has to start in here, inside you so that it can emulate out. So I absolutely think you need to personalize these questions. What does make you cry? What does make you sing? What does make you dream? And starting with that and having an understanding with that, then allows you not to just join any cause or any purpose or any movement, just because it's people moving in a direction and you want to move. There becomes intentionality, back to your statement about John's book, Intentional Living. When you start with the basis of what grabs you, your calling. Now, you begin to mobilize your calling, really in two ways, with people that share some of the same crying, singing, and dreaming ambitions, but also with people that will complete an impact to the world because they may cry, sing, and dream about something different. But together you bring that and you expand your influence or the movement around the world.

Traci, I'm reminded, so many leaders lead right now by mobilizing people around what they are against. "I'm against this." "I'm against this." "I'm against choice." "I'm against life." "I'm against. I'm against, I'm against." "If you don't agree with me, you must be against me." It's not true. Speaking of courageous leadership, I'm tired of letting divisive leaders win in trying to divide me. You can't convince me that everybody doesn't want people to have the ability to choose. And you can't convince me that everybody don't want people to have a quality of life. It's a seed that's deep within us. And because we focus on the peripheral of what we're against, rather than going deeper on what we're for, we can't mobilize people to do something together.

I'm ready to start a movement on what we are for. My good friend, Jeff Henderson is on our team and he wrote a book on what we're for. It is time for churches, politics, businesses, to stop trying to be about what they're against and start being what they're for. It's time for businesses to stop trying to be the best company in the world and start becoming the best company for the world. It's time for us to teach our kids of trying to stop being the best person on the team and start being the best person for the team. We've got to quit trying to build people that are an island unto themselves, their cause is an island unto themselves and start building causes and movements that bring people towards something that they can all be for. And that is, that is the cause.

That is how we spread it, Traci, from me to we. I get in groups of people politically, legally, religiously, I get with people that make me feel like me is the champ, rather than getting around people that make me feel like I have a lot to learn and a lot to grow. We do more than we do listening. And if we're going to go to John's third point of spreading from me to we, with people that want to make a difference, the difference has got to be unifying, not divisive. And we do not have leaders right now that are modeling unifying causes. We have leaders that are using divisive causes and it is separating people when really we all want to be built. We all want to be in community, you know why? We were built for relationship. We were designed for relationship. And yet most of the leaders in the streams of influence that John is talking about, most of them are trying to make their stream the best for themselves rather than the best for the world. And we're just going after a different approach.

Traci Morrow:  Oh my friend, do you know what I think I just heard take root in your heart, is being strong and courageous. That was an incredible sharing. And so, so right on target of where we're at today, I can't help, but think that hearts are soaring, hearing your leadership and sharing that, I know mine was soaring. I even wrote down, it's so funny that you closed on that because I just wrote down, what this movement is, what changing your world is brings people together, rather than creating a bunch of tiny little communities that are, "Oh, we only liked the people who are just like us. We only relate to the people who are just like us." But it's a broad inclusion with no hidden agenda that serves John or serves you only, so that you win and others lose. This is a win-win.

What we're talking about is bringing people together with love, the values of love and compassion and wanting to make things better. John talked about, he said several things about what leadership is, but a few of them really stood out to me. And that is that mobilizes me and makes me want to step out of my discomfort, being dissatisfied with the current reality, my heart speaking to the hearts of others. What we just heard you do, Mark, we hear John do it. That was like a little moment. I feel like that was a real highlighted moment for this next phase of your strength and your courageousness in your leadership, because your heart spoke to our hearts.

And I can't imagine anyone listening to what you just said and saying, "No, I don't get it. I don't buy it. I don't believe it." I think it awakens us. I think I just caught a little bit of what you're consumed with, and it connected with me. I think our leaders did too. We need to have an open heart and an open mind and the dream made flesh, it's about people. So I love that you just shared that right now because I just feel like people are probably, "Okay. I'm in, I'm in. What next? What next?" So thank you for sharing that because I think point number three, spreading from me to we, we just had that little bit of that spreading.

So when you talked about spreading, people who are listening, people who are like, "What do I do next? How do I bring this to people? I've never done this before, but my heart has been awakened." What does that look like? Starting small and not starting alone, John said, so what does that look like for somebody who's listening to this podcast, turns it off and goes, "My heart is so full. What do I do next?"

Mark Cole:       Yeah. And I'll wrap it up that way, Traci, for us today. Number one, go back and listen to part one if you haven't. Go back and listen to part one, again, if you have. Go back and listen to it a bunch this year, and let's just get it in our heart. Podcast listeners, we're not doing this podcast for a monetary reason. We have with stood the temptations that have come to us to put advertisements on there. And we may do that down the road if it makes sense. But my prayer is, is that we're adding value to you for such a time as this, so that in this moment of urgency, point number four, in this moment of urgency, at a time when it makes a difference, that we can challenge you 120, imagine if just every person, forget the people you know, imagine if every person on this podcast realized there is a calling, there is a cause, there is a spreading from me to we, and it is now, there is urgency.

Just imagine if just our podcast community got behind the, change your world message. Imagine if every one of us, not the pass along factor, I'm coming to that, but not the pass along factor. Imagine if every one of us, 135,000 strong, that will download this one episode. Imagine if all of us together we had to change your world, to make a difference, doing something that made a difference, with people who want to make a difference, at a time that made a difference. Just imagine with me, just imagine with me, if you quit driving your car, you pulled it over and said, "I can't wait till I get home. There is a world that needs us to act different."

My 14 year old daughter is begging me to lead different than the political leaders, the religious leaders, the educational leaders. She's saying, "Dad, can't people lead from a way that wants me to be a part rather than want me to get out of politics and never listened to it again. I don't want business because all they want is what's best for them." I have a generation that's looking to me, to you, to us to say, will you lead differently? That's what courageous is all about. It's leading differently because yesterday's style of leadership no longer works.

John mentioned the streams of influence. We believe there's eight streams of influence. I'll quickly give them to you. You'll see them in the book, government, business, media, sports, faith, education, health, arts. We believe family is a part of all of that because we're family people. But my question to you is what's next for you? I have an answer. Maybe you'll agree is to join us at change your world. It's to realize that what the world really needs is transformational leadership, a different style, a different purpose, a different desired outcome to leadership.

And if it is not me, who is it? Allow me to include you, podcast listeners, if it's not you then who? Washington DC, your country's capital, the church at the corner, a business, if it's not you then who? And if not now, because you just got too much going on, then when? And can the world, can our kids, can the next generation wait for us, if when is not now? I hope you'll join us. I hope you really will go to change your world. I hope you'll get this book. I hope that you'll join a transformation table. I hope you'll take this free values assessment just to see where you end up on the values.

And by the way I told you I was going to come back to this. I hope you'll bring somebody along with you because we're not giving you this podcast just for your own conception, your own journey, your own growth, your own, your own, your own, your own, your own. We've got enough models of self-absorbed leadership and self-absorbed consumption. This is not just for you. This is for the people that you influence, bring them on the change your world journey. We'll see you at We'll see you in a round table, Traci and I will be back together this year. We will be talking a lot about strong and courageous leadership, and we'll see you in a transformation table.

And by the way, when I come to your city, when I come to your town, I want to see you in high five you, because the world around us will change when we begin and engage in this journey. Thanks for joining some of the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. Let's grow leaders to change the world.

1 thought on “Transformational Leadership (Part 2)”

  1. I have been so inspired by this and so many other podcasts I have been listening to during my daily walks around my neighbourhood. I have now begun downloading the notes for each podcast and to listen learn more attentively.
    I have begun forwarding the podcasts I listen to each day to my family and friends.
    TQVM for being a great blessing and inspiration

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