Good Leaders Ask Great Questions by John Maxwell

2020, book #7: “When I found my why, I found my way. When I found my why, I found my will. When I found my why, I found my wings.” — John Maxwell

Finished on February 4, 2020

John Maxwell is a special person. There are not many people who can connect to as many individuals at a deep level as he can regularly. I had the pleasure of shaking his hand at the Christmas Eve service at Christ Fellowship at the end of 2019 and we shared a brief smile. I sensed the sincerity and genuinity that exuded his entire being. This is someone who I trust and admire and love to learn from. This book was one that I thought would expand my horizons and better the things that I already do, I was certainly right on that count and loved the book.

What type of questions are we asking? What are our questions doing and why? Is this something that you’ve thought about for? Maybe we aren’t yet aware of what our questions do but today is the best day to begin increasing our awareness.

Good questions inform
Great questions transform

As a leader, how often do you receive these questions? I challenge you to pay attention in the next week. Is there a split? Do you receive more of one question than another? There’s likely a reason for that, it’s best that we pay attention. I’d also challenge you to pay attention to who is asking what type of questions. Maybe Bill asks you solely questions that are classified as compassion questions, could you deepen your relationship with him by showing yourself also competent and of good character? Possibly. I believe that it is worth thinking about.

3 questions people ask their leaders:

1. Can you help me? A competence question
2. Do you care for me? A compassion question
3. Can I trust you? A character question

For myself, I find that humility is the hardest one. I strive to be the best person that I can be and I usually am consistent in all settings — I don’t compromise on my core values of integrity, trust, and kindness. Calling is fairly set also, I exhibit the focused mindset that I have as part of my core being. But then humility, I’m a very humble person overall — incredibly aware and attuned to my capability — yet, humble and not overbearing with what I can do. The thing is that I execute and I follow through, often and always. That means that when I push things through, people may interpret that as cockiness or overconfidence rather than the humble work that I strive to make it.

Good leaders exhibit 3 qualities:

1. Humility
2. Authenticity
3. Calling

Wings. I want wings! God has a path for all of us and a way to honor Him through all of this life.

“When I found my why, I found my way.
When I found my why, I found my will.
When I found my why, I found my wings.” — John Maxwell

These questions. Wow. Just wow. I like number 6. Well, I like them all, but that one jumps out.

Are they grounded? Is your leader floating around doing whatever comes their way or are they grounded in what matters most and grounded in what they’re committed to? I hope so. If your leader will not consistently remain grounded in what they believe, how could they ever expect the rest of your team to either?

The other one that jumped out at me was the tenth question. Can they find possibilities in impossibilities? In my mind, that’s the mark of a true leader. They are people who are able to do things that no one else can. Leaders should have perspective that the other members of the team have not been able to bring. Great leaders can see things that no others can.

John’s questions that describe a great leader:

1. The influence factor: Do they influence others?
2. The capacity factor: Do they have the potential to grow and develop?
3. The attitude factor: Do they have the desire to grow and develop themselves?
4. The chemistry factor: Do we like each other?
5 The passion factor? Are they self motivated?
6. The character factor: Are they grounded?
7. The values factor: Are our values compatible?
8. The teamwork factor: Do they work well with others?
9. The support factor: Do they add value to me?
10. The creative factor: Can they find possibilities in impossibilities?
11. The option factor: Can their contribution give me options?
12. The 10% factor: Are they in the top 10% of those on our team?

This is a crazy realization. One that we all need to make in time. We can’t decide for people what it is that they want to do. Some people don’t want to do change and enjoy doing things just the way that they are. As difficult as that is for many of us, it’s a difficult truth that just needs to be accepted eventually. We cannot change people unless they want to change themselves. You cannot make people grow, they must desire to grow.

In the beginning, John recruited everybody but then discovered that not everyone wants to grow and relatively few people truly want to make a difference. You can’t make a difference with people who don’t want to make a difference.

Period. Because when a leader listens to their team, the team is more likely to listen to the leader also.

When a leader listens to members of a team, that act is their greatest credibility and therefore influence.

Give reasoning and explanation. People need to know why we do the things that we do. If we are asking a question, our team deserves to know why and what it’s all about.

Ask your team, “what do you think?” After sharing something with them. And ALWAYS share why you’re asking that.

Love this. Nothing needs to happen immediately. It’s all about ensuring that the team is truly a team. We should all be working together and in one direction. If the people around us do not support the direction, or the vision of the company, it will be incredibly difficult to positively impact the world in the way that the company intends to.

John shared that if he pushes for something his team doesn’t agree with it is because he senses an opportunity or because his leadership intuition about it is so strong. It usually means that rather than forcing the issue or running over his team, he will give them time to process and revisit the issue multiple times so they can continue to receive additional information.

Either they’re impacting the company or they’re impacting your company. Simply telling someone that they did will seem to do the first while gaining input tends to do the second.

“Asking and hearing people’s opinions has a greater effect on them than telling them good job.” — Sam Walton

This is only logical when you truly consider what it means to have responsibility for something. Just because someone is part of a task or a project does not mean that they are also going to make themselves part of the outcome or lack thereof. If things go well, people will want credit; but when the plane can’t get off the ground? They likely won’t. That’s the difference between authority and responsibility.

“You can delegate authority but you cannot delegate responsibility.” — Byron Dorgan

Which of these questions are you most hesitant to answer? Perhaps there’s a reason for hesitancy. There may be a difficulty with one of these things for you, but why? It’s imperative that we are honest with ourselves and strive to be totally authentic with who we are as individuals. We all have areas that we could improve and better for ourselves. The important thing is that we develop and also maintain an awareness of the way that we are leading.

Are you a serving leader?

1. Why do I want to lead others?
2. How important is status to me?
3. Do others work for me or with me?
4. Am I glad to serve others and do it cheerfully?
5. Is the team better because I am on it?
6. Exactly how is it better?
7. What are the top skills needed to lead people who sustain difficult times?

PURPOSE. Why are we the way that we are? Where are we moving in life and why? It’s entirely essential to assess yourself. I branched out much further on what matters in life here: 5 Quotes that Center Your Life on What Matters

What really matters? Finding your purpose and setting your direction:
What makes me sing? Your answer reveals what brings you joy.
What makes me cry? Your answer reveals what touches your heart.
What makes me dream? Your answer reveals what sparks your imagination.
What makes me excel? Your answer reveals your strengths.
What makes me different? Your answer reveals your uniqueness.

The more questions you can answer, the more clues you’ll have to help reveal your purpose as a leader.

Who are you? Why are you the way that you are? Can you identify that? If not, do a quick stop and truly assess what’s going on around you and why. More often than not, we are just drifting and moving in a direction that ultimately we didn’t even realize we were going. Is that a bad thing? Not always. But, it certainly won’t lead us to our goals and objectives in life, will it? Probably not. I love this question at the end here. We need to think bigger than ourselves because as John writes, there is ALWAYS a ripple effect. What’s the reason that you are in the position that you are in? Is it for yourself? Or are you working for something greater than yourself? Unless you’re part of a single-member company, you are working for something greater than yourself. And beyond that, you are always working for something greater than yourself. Everything that you do and decide not to do has ripple effects that you may never see.

Ask yourself: Am I holding back from making this decision for my personal comfort or for the good of the organization?

ALWAYS move first. I love this. Whether that is simply communicating openly with those that you are leading, whether that is deciding something for the people or group that you’re leading, or whether it’s simply asking those around you what they think, you NEED to move first and that is undebatable 100%. I connected with this and was forced to pause and reflect upon the relationships in my life — I saw this in action in numerous (past and present) relationships. INITIATE. Take the first step as the leader. The leader does the first thing always, they need to take the first step and make movement.

In relationships, the leader should initiate all reconciliation in relationships. The weaker person always controls the relationship.

Integrity first. Integrity always. Capisce? Capisce. Nothing more to add here. Live with integrity and lead with integrity. There is never a reason to lie and great leaders consistently uphold their strong morals. This is an incredibly powerful question to ask. These questions are so powerful. We need to know about the reasons that we are in the place that we are. Everything is negotiable and we need to know that the reason that we are in a certain location or career cannot just be for ourselves. And on the other side of the coin, if we are not doing things that we could be doing to benefit our team or company, we are hurting them.

In the end, you cannot change the people around you but you can change the people you choose to be around.

Ask, “If I weren’t already working here and knowing what I know now, would I choose to become part of this organization?” If the answer is no, it’s time to go. If you aren’t sure, stay another 6 months and ask again. Stay and learn a way to work through your leader.

Will I be able to add value? Can I stay true to myself? If yes to both, publicly support your leader and stay quiet about the negative things you know. Never do anything that compromises your integrity but always address problems or difficulties behind closed doors. If you aren’t supporting the team with your individual effort, you’re hurting the team.

Really though. It’s something that should be a lot more common I’d say. We are called to work with EXCELLENCE. Why then do people only do the job halfway? Would love to know. If all you do is the minimum… do you really expect to be respected? I don’t. You were hired to do the job and then you’re virtually expected to advance and progress and improve. It’s all about benefiting the company as a whole. It’s hard to dislike someone who consistently goes above and beyond and honors the company and the people within it. I think that to be completely honest, there may be a bit of dislike towards me at the office because I work so hard and seek to improve things. Some people may see me as a threat and like things the way they always were.

It’s difficult to dislike someone who consistently treats people with kindness, does the job well, and goes above and beyond what is expected. If your boss still doesn’t like you, you can rest easy knowing you’re likely not the problem.

Which voice speaks most loudly to you? For me, it’s my unhappy voice. I like things that flow and are streamlined. And I live FAST. When I run over a speedbump going fast, I’m going to be unhappy. But that’s when I react and improve and innovate. If it happens once, I fix it. If it happens twice, I fix it better. All of the following voices are important and each of us receive different messages because we were created uniquely.

To discover your own sense of purpose:

1. Listen to your inner voice: this is where you receive your mission.
2. Listen to your unhappy voice: this is where you receive your ideas.
3. Listen to your successful voice: this is where you receive advice.
4. Listen to the customer’s voice: this is where you receive feedback.
5. Listen to the higher voice: this is where you receive your attitude.

I challenge you to score yourself out of 7 for the following things. I don’t think I could place one as more important than another. They are all interconnected. We need to make things happen and then ensure that they happen (1&7). We need people on board which means we need people to trust us (2&3&4). We need to see opportunities and areas for improvement and ensure that the way things happen benefit all people involved and beyond (5&6). All 7 are important, how many do you have? Which area needs development? The best thing to do is find a mentor who already displays that characteristic and learn from them.

Identifying people with leadership potential:

1. Catalysts, they have the ability to make things happen.
2. Influencers, this cannot be delegated. Pay attention to who follows them. Influence is a combination of character, relationships, knowledge, communication, passion, experience, and ability.
3. Relationship Builders, nobody lacking good people skills can become a good leader, solely a manager.
4. Gatherers, they seem to possess the quality of attraction.
5. Value adders, they are givers and see their role as though it should benefit others and not just themselves.
6. Opportunists, leaders see and seize opportunity. They lead the charge and pave the way.
7. Finishers, they take responsibility, embrace opportunity, and follow through.

I loved this. The following 6 things were one of the major highlights of this entire book for me. Without time, we cannot have trust. Trust but verify is my motto and verification doesn’t happen overnight. We need not the simple trust that they won’t kill us but the deeper level trust that these people have our interests in mind when they act. For the inner circle, people need experience. I don’t want someone who doesn’t know anything in my inner circle. Now that may sound a little selfish but that’s okay, we need to be on comparable levels. These people need success because, “those who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much.” It doesn’t need to be monetary success but I need to know that they are moving in unison with God and His purpose in their life. Compatibility and capacity are essential. I need someone who is aligned with me and gets it. They also need to be able to move. They have to be willing and able to support in the way that they’ve been uniquely created to. The most important thing is, that for everyone in my inner circle, I will gladly and without hesitation, do this all in return. I’m there when you need me.

Bringing people into our inner circle:

1. Time — prove themselves over a long period of time.
2. Trust — we cannot be questioning their motives or they won’t be able to help in the way we need them to.
3. Experience — they need life experience and an understanding and perspective that comes with it.
4. Success — they need to have proven themselves, they need to be good, not just have the potential to be good.
5. Compatibility — they need to mesh well if they are to be part of the inner circle, life is too short to work with people you don’t like.
6. Capacity — they need to be able to keep up to the pace that we operate under and be willing to jump in at any time.

I gave this book a 4.5/5

Join my weekly newsletter to see all of my writing here.

Read this article on

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published