Good Leaders ask Great Questions; book summary

John C . Maxwell is by far one of my favorite authors and speakers.  In his book Good Leaders ask Great Questions he outlines what good questions are.  He outlines a playbook for leaders as well as anyone else who wants to influence other people.  These questions transfer across all walks of life.  The book link is below.

In this book summary I will follow the table of contents and how it is laid out and give some of my key insights/notes that I took from each of the chapters.  In this book there are  2 parts.  Then there are the 10 main questions as outlined below numerically.  The bullet points within each of the chapters and main questions are designed around the key concepts within the chapter.

PART 1:  Questions I ask

1.  Why are questions so important?

  • Richard Thalheimer, the founder of Sharper Image, once asserted, “It is better to look uninformed than to be uninformed.”
  • Questions unlock and open doors that otherwise remain closed.
  • Questions are the most effective means of connecting people
  • My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions–Peter Drucker.
  • The most effective way to connect with others is by asking questions.
  • Questions connect people.
  • All fear stems from either “I am not enough” or “I don’t have enough.”
  • Questions allow us to build better ideas.
  • Questions give us a different perspective.

2.  What questions do I ask myself as a leader?

  • Am I investing in myself?
  • Am I genuinely interested on others?
  • Am I grounded as a leader?
  • As a leader your goal is to lift people up.

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. 

  • Am I adding value to my team.
  • If you are giving 50% today, you can’t give 150% tomorrow. You can never give more than 100%.
  • CS Lewis: God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons we could not learn in any other way.
  • Samuel Johnson: Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities he does not possess.
  • Focus on your strength zone.
  • Am I investing my time with the right people?
  • The unexamined leader is not worth following.

3.  What questions do I ask my team members?

  • How good of a listener are you?
  • Mary Kay Ash asserted: If you listen long enough the person will generally come up with an adequate solution.
  • What do you think?
  • Decisions should always be made as close to the problem as possible.
  • How can I serve you?
  • What do I need to communicate?
  • Did we exceed expectations?
  • What did you learn?
  • Did we add value?
  • How do we maximize this experience?
  • What do I need to know?
  • How are the numbers?

Part 2:  Questions leaders ask me

4.  What must I do to lead myself successfully?

  • Identify your blindspots
  • Don’t let ego, pride, or insecurity get in your way.
  • Succesful people do what unsuccessful people do occasionally.
  • True Leaders serve people. Serves their best interests, and in doing so will not always be popular.
  • Warren Bennis observed: It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from followers. 
  • You do not have to pay the price to grow and expand intellectually.  The mind nether requires it or demands it.

5.  How does leadership work?

  • Leadership is influence, the ability of one person to influence others to follow his or her lead.
  • Leadership is developed not discovered.
  • What is your plan for leadership growth? The odds are against you if you don’t have a plan.
  • You’re not made in a crisis, you’re revealed.  When you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. When you squeeze a lemon, you get lemon juice. When a human being gets squeezed you get what is inside, positive or negative.
  • The first and last task of a leader is to keep hope alive, the hope that we can finally find our way through to a better world.

Growth by age:

  • Twenties–Alignment: We build our foundation and prepare for future success. 
  • Thirties–Adjustment: We try different things and find out what does and doesn’t work. 
  • Forties–Advancement: We focus in our strength zone and make the most out of what works. 
  • Fifties–Assessment: We reevaluate our priorities and hopefully shift from success to significance.
  • Sixties–Ascendance: We reach the top of our game and the height of our influence. 

6.  How do I get started in leadership?

  • Pay attention to the need you see.
  • Leadership begins with a need, not when someone wants to fill an empty leadership position.
  • Specialize until you’re special.

7.  How do I resolve conflict and lead challenging people?

  • Two questions: Can they change?  This deals with ability.   Will they change? This deals with attitude.
  • The bookends of success are starting and finishing.

Questions you should ask yourself as a leader dealing with challenging people.  

  • How much of my energy will I let them take?
  • How much of my time will I let them take?
  • How much of my focus will I let them take?
  • How much of my joy will I let them take?
  • How much of my resources will I let them take?
  • no job has a future. Only people have a future. If people keep growing, learning, and expanding their potential, their future is bright. If not, its uncertain at best.
  • Most people do not push themselves to their full capacity to reach their potential. Gerald Brook says it this way: If life is like an elevator ride, most people will get off one floor lower than they have to.

8.  How can I succeed working under poor leadership?

  • Consider whether or not you might actually be the problem?
  • Determine whether or not you have specific evidence to support your opinion?
  • Ask to speak with your leader privately.
  • Determine whether or not you should stay or move on?
  • A person with a clear purpose will make progress on even the toughest road.  A person with no purpose will make no progress on even the smoothest road.

9.  How can I successfully navigate leadership?

  • Don’t leave something, go to something.
  • Weigh the risks and rewards.
  • All change does not represent progress, but without change there can be no progress.
  • Bill Gates said this:  In three years every product my company makes will be obsolete. The only question is whether we will make it obsolete or someone else will. 
  • Most entrepreneurial leaders don’t struggle to find opportunities. They struggle to focus on the best opportunities.
  • Succession plans do not develop anyone, only development experiences develop people.

10.  How can I develop leaders?

  • Look for potential leaders.
  • Leaders are catalysts.
  • Leaders are influencers.
  • Leaders are relationship builders.
  • Leaders are value adders.
  • Leaders are gatherers.
  • Leaders by definition are out in front.
  • Leaders are finishers.

How to identify your TOP 20 Percent

  • Passion:  Are they excited.
  • Teachability: Are the growing now and are they open to growing more.
  • Capacity: What is their potential? Is there plenty of room for growth.

The desire to stay ahead of my best people drives me to keep growing and learning. 

There is only one way to lead leaders. Become a better leader yourself. Good leaders do not follow poor ones. People naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves. 

This book was a great read and is in an easy format.  I suggest reading this book if you seek to have influence.

To your success and your future.



One response to “Good Leaders ask Great Questions; book summary”

  1. theodore Avatar

    Wow, this is so great! I’ve been looking for this book, but found it nowhere. Great Summary!

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