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The 360° Leader
by John C. Maxwell

Nelson Business, 336 pages, $15.74

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The 360° Leader systematically tears down myths of leadership in sections called “The Myth of Influence” and “The Myth of Control.” The messages communicated here all begin with vision – the core characteristic of all great managers. Workers at any level in an organization will be challenged to coach, to do what others won’t and to reward for results. Maxwell devotes more time to exploring leadership from the middle of a company, which he sees as a wide open frontier and prime opportunity for those who are not the main leader.

“Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit,” Maxwell writes. Your position does not grant you the ability to lead effectively. He points out that the attitude of “When I get to the top, then I’ll learn to lead” is folly. The time to research and prepare for a leadership position is before you are in one. He compares it to running in a marathon – before you are ready you must research, train exhaustively and make mistakes.

There are astute insights into dilemmas like coping with leaders no one wants to follow and dealing with the pressure of wearing too many hats. The 360° Leader lists various challenges to leading and the remedies for each one. Challenge #6 involves championing your vision and adapting to visions that are not your own. The ingredients for successfully championing a vision are:

  • Place the organization’s needs first
  • Keep the vision before the people
  • Represent yourself well to others
  • Understand your role

The Lead-Up Principle #1 is lead yourself. If you won’t follow yourself, why should anyone else? One of Maxwell’s principles of self-managing is holding emotions in check and he uses an excellent example of a Lieutenant Colonel in Vietnam putting the men he commands ahead of his emotional needs to grieve. This principle perfectly conveys the book’s main idea – choosing what the team needs over what will make you feel better.

There are Lead-Across and Lead-Down sections with principles and the final section explores Values. Maxwell stresses that relationships are the guts and glue of leading and maintaining a 360° perspective of everyone surrounding you is the best method to navigate a work environment. Those at any level who find themselves wondering how to apply leadership principles will expand their influence and horizons with the techniques here.

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