Monday, September 21, 2009

#54-John Maxwell/Lists of Keys to success

I am going to straight with this one: I don't like John Maxwell (not as a person, but rather in his influence). He has been the thorn in my flesh for much of my existence....

Quick summary:
He writes leadership books. And a lot of them...
His most famous are The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, the 360 degree leader, Leadership 101, and any other book that includes a numeric value and has leadership in the title.

To sum up his books and writing style, John Maxwell gives us very broad and obvious statements about leadership. He then tries backing up what we already know is true with a parable or actual story of a great leader or person who was courageous in spite of facing a difficult situation in their life. If the story is not directly inspirational, it will leave us in stitches of laughter.

Essentially John Maxwell writes Chicken Soup for the Soup books for leaders without the crying.

He also organizes his thoughts and points into lists: 21 irrefutable laws of leadership, 10 questions to put your dreams to the test, 17 irrefutable laws of teamwork, 11 ways highly successful people approach life & work, 25 ways to win with people, 12 daily practices to guarantee tomorrow's success, etc....

I am kind of paranoid to believe anyone who claims they can make people successful by a certain number of rules within the entirety of one book...the bigger question is why 21 laws of leadership? Are you sure there are not 22 John? Is there a 26th way to win with people?

But none of this is what is so painstaking to me about Maxwell....

The Lists to Success
You know those seminars we all find ourselves at within either our church or some other nearby church which teaches us how to be a leader or a prayer warrior or a good Sunday School Teachers?

While there is a lot of good stuff to take from these things, 80% of the time, the seminars will teach success based on the application of a certain number of steps (sound familiar?)...

5 steps to being a better Christian, 14 steps to emotional health, 4 steps to staying mediocre, etc....

And we sit there and go through the list as if within these exact points all wisdom of the topic is found...

If only we apply ourselves to the finite number of steps mentioned, then things will be heaven on earth...

But what if the teacher is missing a point?

And this is why I don't like John Maxwell's influence....Most of our classes/seminars about improving a certain area in our lives are organized solely by lists and we all have John Maxwell to thank for this trend. Sure the speaker maybe trying to simplify the message for us,

but I would argue that the tendency to make lists for success severely oversimplifies the problem, and places limitations on our capacity to learn. It tells us the the solutions to our limitations are single handedly found within these 7 steps when in reality the solution to success is much more complicated and much more in-depth than the lists would allow us to believe.

The worst part of defining success by lists is the list tells us how long until the seminar is when we should be paying attention to the teacher, we are actually just agonizing how the speaker has been on step 2 for 20 minutes now and we still have 7 more steps to go.

Song for Sufjan Stevens Week (see post #53 for more information)

The Transfiguration:


  1. It's my experience, that if you've read one of his books, you've read them all. He just rehashes books over and over again.

  2. Worse...he is not a leader himself. He writes about things he does not do in his own life. No real "leadership" accomplishments as leading a church is not the same as combat or business. As an theist; I have a prejudice view of religion anyway. The bane of society in many ways...especially from this money motivated person.