Sunday, November 20, 2005

Book Review: Developing the Leader Within You (John C Maxwell)

As part of my cell leadership intern training in DUMC, I had to read this book and do a book report. After a 3-month delay, here it is finally:) I think for people who are not natural-born leaders like me, it will really help a lot, especially if somehow you keep getting leadership responsilibities whether you like it or not:P

Book Report: Developing the Leader Within You

This book by John C. Maxwell is a very powerful book and it captivated me the moment I started reading it. I guess, being someone who reads more fictional books than non-fictional, I have never known the inspiration that these books can provide. Although the later chapters took much longer than expected to finish, overall it still gives very well-defined ideas on the areas to develop to become a good and even great leader.

I have been deeply inspired by the teachings of this book and have started applying some of the philosophies introduced and they have been wonderful to my daily leadership requirements. It really came at a right time for me as I started to take on more leadership responsibilities at work, in my cell group and family. By concentrating on the few areas specified in this book, I became more comfortable in leading my engineers or cell members. My willingness to lead has also, as a result, increased as I now know the expectations that people have of a leader.

The following are some key areas where I found to be really useful. It is not that others are not useful but at this point of time, these areas are important in my own personal development as a leader.

The Need for Leadership

The key to success in any endeavour is the ability to lead others successfully”. Simple words and yet they clearly defined the importance of leadership. These words gave me a very clear perspective of what is expected of a leader, that basically, everything rises and falls on leadership. The best hope that John C Maxwell could give to readers is that, leadership is teachable and learnable, an encouraging theme to people who are not naturally-born leaders like me.


Like it or not, a person will directly or indirectly influence another for good and/or for bad. In return, he/she will be influenced by others as well. This is a very key area in leadership as when a leader can positively influence his/her followers, he/she can then inspire them to do great things. John Maxwell defined 5 levels of influences (Position, Permission, Production, People Development and Personhood). These levels give leaders clear objectives on becoming an effective leader through positive influences.


A leader’s attitude is very important in the make or break of his/her leadership. This is one area which the book has helped me to develop a lot. It made me realise that in certain areas, I needed plenty of work. Impatience in getting results and slackness in time management were some of my main problems. After reading this section, I have decided to put in some changes in my work and life and they seemed to be working. For example, I stopped using the snooze button on my alarm and will now start my morning with a short prayer and go off for a shower immediately. This was as opposed to before where I would snooze for almost 20 minutes before deciding to wake up.

Making Positive Changes

A leader is only effective in his/her role only when he/she is making positive changes to the surroundings. I felt that this is totally in line with DUMC’s motto of “seeing a need, meet it and see a hurt, heal it”. The fact that my efforts to be a better leader and hence, a person will have positive effects on others deeply encourages me and this has become my main objective in leadership.


Setting a reachable vision with clearly defined objectives is very important as it provides a checklist whether a leader and his/her followers are on target or not in their work. A vision, as John puts it very nicely, is a picture that a leader sees in his/her mind. A leader without vision is like a person without sight and hence will lead others blindly. A very clear case of “blind leading the blind” indeed.

People Development

Ultimately, I felt the most important message of this book is that, a leader can only be effective when he puts clear focus on people development. By teaching others to do and do it well rather than doing it myself all the time, I am developing more leaders and as the saying goes “many hands make light work”. Being very result-oriented and impatient previously, it has taken me quite a while to adjust to this mindset but I believe in the long run, this ability will stand me in good time as I take on even more responsibilities in life.


This book is indeed inspiring, encouraging and yet practical in leadership training. The well-illustrated examples and leadership models in the book provided a very clear idea on what great leaders had in common. The ability to inspire, to make positive changes, to have great attitudes, to set visions and most of all, to develop more great leaders.

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