Agile and Adaptive Leadership

Excerpts:  Leadershift:
The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace

by John C. Maxwell  | Feb 5, 2019

Adapt to survive and thrive

Perhaps at no other time in recent history has adaptability been more important than it is now.
 – John Maxwell

Maxwell shares 11 essential changes—leadershifts—for adapting our leadership to the future.

The top three leadership qualities for the future, he says, are all about adaptability: being able to motivate staff, work well across cultures, and facilitate change. Management, he says, is about known processes; leadership is about leading people into the unknown. 

Here, largely in lightly edited excerpts, are highlights from Maxwell’s Leadershift:

11 leadershifts for adaptive leaders – John Maxwell

  1. Focus: Shift from Soloist to Conductor

  • Conductors focus on we, not me. Conductors help others make beautiful music together.
  • Good leaders do what they can to put others in position to win.
  • The potential of a group is always greater than that of an individual.
  • Followers want to know if you care, if you can be trusted, and if you can help them.
  1. Personal Development: Shift from Goals to Growth

  • Goals help us do better. Growth helps us become better.
  • Embrace a growth mindset.
  • Fail early, fail often, and fail forward.
  1. Count the Cost: Shift from Perks to Price

  • Strength and growth come through continuous effort and struggle. – Napoleon Hill
  • Recognize that everything worthwhile is uphill. Be a giver, not a taker. Pay the price.
  • Great leaders take action. They move out front, staying ahead but within sight of their people, and they say, “Follow me.”
  1. Relationships: Shift from Pleasing People to Challenging People

  • Put the organization and others ahead of yourself. Believe the best about your people.
  • To get the best out of people, leaders must ask for the best from people.
  • Follow the 25–50–25 principle:
    • Give the supportive 25 percent credibility and a platform to speak.
    • Ask the top 25 percent to positively influence the middle 50 percent who are undecided.
    • Know the bottom 25 percent will not join you, no matter what you do.
  1. Abundance: Shift from Maintaining to Creating

  • Imagination is more important than knowledge. – Albert Einstein
  • Build a creative culture. You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
  • Use the 10–80–10 rule: put 10 percent into the target, 80 percent into production, and 10 percent into improvement.
  • Make plans, but always use options to your advantage. The best leaders are flexible.
  • Seek out new ideas, listen to different voices, take risks, imagine opportunities everywhere
  1. Reproduction: Shift from Ladder Climbing to Ladder Building

  • If I have seen farther than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. – Isaac Newton
  • Help others
    • Climb ladders by identifying strengths and opportunities
    • Hold ladders by serving others and growing potential
    • Extend ladders by finding mentors
    • Build ladders by providing maps, roots, and wings
  1. Connecting: Shift from Directing to Connecting

  • You can’t help people until you know who they are and where they want to go.
  • The goal of connecting is to find common ground: be humble, be curious, go out of your way.
  • Listening is the best door to connecting with people. Stop interrupting. Start asking questions.
  • Never underestimate the value of reminding others that we believe in them.
  • Changing from directing to connecting is one of the most valuable shifts you will ever make.
  1. Improvement: Shift from Team Uniformity to Team Diversity

  • Diversity makes the team better. Get outside the bubble.
  • Diverse teams fill the knowledge gap, the perspective gap, and the experience gap.
  • Help employees see the impact of their work and understand the value they bring to the organization.
  • Create a culture of sharing and welcome diverse points of view.
  1. Influence: Shift from Positional Authority to Moral Authority

  • The true measure of leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less. – John Maxwell
  • Moral authority far outweighs positional authority. Moral authority is the highest level of influence.
    • Your moral authority will inspire others to lend you their hearts.
    • Grow your moral authority through competence, courage, consistency, and character.
    • Moral authority is the right intentions, right values, right beliefs, right actions, right relationships, and right responses.
  1. Impact: Shift from Trained Leaders to Transformational Leaders

  • If you make only one leadershift in your life, this is the one I would wish for you.
  • Transformational leaders inspire people to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.
  • Focus on your own transformation before leading others to it.
  • When you influence people to think, speak, and act in ways that make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of others, you can change the world!
  • Transformational movements require transformational leaders. – Jim Collins
  • Use roundtables—safe, small group environments where people see each other as peers, everyone is asked to participate, and the leader of the group is open and authentic about his or her shortcomings and encourages everyone to participate, ask questions, listen, share, reflect, and commit to taking action.
  • Change does not happen unless transformational leaders commit themselves to making a difference in their community and invite others to join them in the process.
  1. Passion: Shift from Career to Calling

  • What do you do for a living? A job. A career. A calling?
  • Calling is “that place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” – Buechner
  • Ask: What fills my heart, breaks my heart, lifts my heart?
  • When you find your Why, you find your way, your will, your wings.
  • Your calling gives you purpose, helps you overcome obstacles, and brings fulfillment
  • We were made for significance, for making a difference.

To maximize your calling, make these eleven Leadershifts.  

A perfect book for our times.  Adaptability is key.

Larry:  My theme this month as we look ahead to a new year is renewal. John Maxwell inspires us to dig deeper, tap into our calling, and grow our capacity. Adaptable leaders are essential in charting our way into a future filled with change.


  • John Maxwell has sold more than 30 million books in fifty languages.
  • HIs newest book – out January 26th, 2021, is Change Your World
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Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

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