The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization

The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization

by John C. Maxwell


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As one of the globe's most trusted leadership mentors, John C. Maxwell debunks the myths that hold people back from leaning into and developing their influence. In this inspiring call-to-action, he shows middle managers how to leverage their unique positions and become 360 degree leaders by exercising influence in all directions—up (to the boss), across (among their peers), and down (to those they lead).Readers will learn how to overcome the challenges facing the vast majority of professionals, including the pressures and pain points that come from being caught in the middle, and will gain the confidence and competence to step into their roles as significant influencers. There are endless opportunities for those trying to lead from the middle of an organization. Complete with a workbook to help you personalize your leadership journey and the authors’ plethora of stories, studies, and development models and strategies, 360 Degree Leader equips you with the skills you need to begin making a difference in your organization, career, and life, today—with or without the promotion. From what you are, your influence is already greater than you know.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400203598
Publisher: HarperCollins Leadership
Publication date: 10/18/2011
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 39,200
Product dimensions: 6.06(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.98(d)

About the Author

John C. Maxwell is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 31 million books in fifty languages. He has been identified as the #1 leader in business by the American Management Association® and the most influential leadership expert in the world by Business Insider and Inc. magazine. He is the founder of The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, EQUIP, and the John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, organizations that have trained millions of leaders from every country of the world. A recipient of the Horatio Alger Award, as well as the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership from the Luminary Leadership Network, Dr. Maxwell speaks each year to Fortune 500 companies, presidents of nations, and many of the world’s top business leaders. He can be followed at For more information about him visit

Read an Excerpt


Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization

Nelson Business

Copyright © 2005 John C. Maxwell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7852-6092-7

Chapter One

Myth #1

The Position Myth: "I can't lead if I am not at the top."

If I had to identify the number one misconception people have about leadership, it would be the belief that leadership comes simply from having a position or title. But nothing could be further from the truth. You don't need to possess a position at the top of your group, department, division, or organization in order to lead. If you think you do, then you have bought into the position myth.

A place at the top will not automatically make anyone a leader. The Law of Influence in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership states it clearly: "The true measure of leadership is influence-nothing more, nothing less."

Because I have led volunteer organizations most of my life, I have watched many people become tied up by the position myth. When people who buy into this myth are identified as potential leaders and put on a team, they are very uncomfortable if they have not been given some kind of title or position that labels them as leaders in the eyes of other team members.Instead of working to build relationships with others on the team and to gain influence naturally, they wait for the positional leader to invest them with authority and give them a title. After a while, they become more and more unhappy, until they finally decide to try another team, another leader, or another organization.

People who follow this pattern don't understand how effective leadership develops. If you've read some of my other leadership books, you might be aware of a leadership identification tool I call "The Five Levels of Leadership," which I introduce in Developing the Leader Within You. It captures the dynamics of leadership development as well as anything I know. Just in case you're not familiar with it, I'll explain it briefly here.

Leadership is dynamic, and the right to lead must be earned individually with each person you meet. Where you are on the "staircase of leadership" depends on your history with that person. And with everyone, we start at the bottom of the five steps or levels.

That bottom (or first) level is position. You can only start from the position you have been given, whatever it is: production-line worker, administrative assistant, salesperson, foreman, pastor, assistant manager, and so forth. Your position is whatever it is. From that place, you have certain rights that come with your title. But if you lead people using only your position, and you do nothing else to try to increase your influence, then people will follow you only because they have to. They will follow only within the boundaries of your job description. The lower your stated position, the less positional authority you possess. The good news is that you can increase your influence beyond your title and position. You can "move up" the staircase of leadership to higher levels.

If you move to level two, you begin to lead beyond your position because you have built relationships with the people you desire to lead. You treat them with dignity and respect. You value them as human beings. You care about them, not just the job they can do for you or the organization. Because you care about them, they begin to trust you more. As a result, they give you permission to lead them. In other words, they begin to follow you because they want to.

The third level is the production level. You move to this phase of leadership with others because of the results you achieve on the job. If the people you lead succeed in getting the job done because of your contribution to the team, then they will look to you more and more to lead the way. They follow you because of what you've done for the organization.

To reach the fourth level of leadership, you must focus on developing others. Accordingly, this is called the people-development level of leadership. Your agenda is to pour yourself into the individuals you lead-mentor them, help them develop their skills, and sharpen their leadership ability. What you are doing, in essence, is leadership reproduction. You value them, add value to them, and make them more valuable. At this level, they follow you because of what you've done for them.

The fifth and final level is the personhood level, but it is not a level one can strive to reach, because reaching it is outside of your control. Only others can put you there, and they do so because you have excelled in leading them from the first four levels for a long period of time. You have earned the reputation of a level-five leader.

Disposition More than Position

When potential leaders understand the dynamics of gaining influence with people using the Five Levels of Leadership, they come to realize that position has little to do with genuine leadership. Do individuals have to be at the top of the organizational chart to develop relationships with others and get them to like working with them? Do they need to possess the top title to achieve results and help others become productive? Do they have to be president or CEO to teach the people who report to them to see, think, and work like leaders? Of course not. Influencing others is a matter of disposition, not position.

You can lead others from anywhere in an organization. And when you do, you make the organization better. David Branker, a leader who has influenced others from the middle of organizations for years and who currently serves as an executive director in a large church, said, "To do nothing in the middle is to create more weight for the top leader to move. For some leaders-it might even feel like dead weight. Leaders in the middle can have a profound effect on an organization."

Every level of an organization depends on leadership from someone. The bottom line is this: Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit. Anyone can choose to become a leader wherever he is. You can make a difference no matter where you are.

Myth #2

The Destination Myth:

"When I get to the top, then I'll learn to lead."

In 2003, Charlie Wetzel, my writer, decided he wanted to tackle a goal he had held for more than a decade. He was determined to run a marathon. If you were to meet Charlie, you'd never guess that he is a runner. The articles in running magazines say that at five feet ten inches tall, a distance runner should weigh 165 pounds or less. Charlie weighs more like 205. But he was a regular runner who averaged twelve to twenty miles a week and ran two or three 10K races every year, so he picked the Chicago marathon and decided to go for it.

Do you think Charlie just showed up at the starting line in downtown Chicago on race day and said, "Okay, I guess it's time to figure out how to run a marathon"? Of course not. He started doing his homework a year in advance. He read reviews of marathons held around the United States and learned that the Chicago marathon-held in October-enjoys great weather most years. It utilizes a fast, flat race course. It has a reputation for having the best fan support of any marathon in the nation. It was the perfect place for a first-time marathoner.

He also started learning how to train for a marathon. He read articles. He searched Web sites. He talked to marathon runners. He even recruited a friend who had run two marathons to race with him in Chicago on October 12. And, of course, he trained. He started the process in mid-April, increasing his mileage every week and eventually working his way up to two training runs of twenty miles each in addition to his other sessions. When race day came around, he was ready-and he completed the race.

Leadership is very similar. If you want to succeed, you need to learn as much as you can about leadership before you have a leadership position. When I meet people in social settings and they ask me what I do for a living, some of them are intrigued when I say I write books and speak. And they often ask what I write about. When I say leadership, the response that makes me chuckle most goes something like this: "Oh. Well, when I become a leader, I'll read some of your books!" What I don't say (but want to) is: "If you'd read some of my books, maybe you'd become a leader."

Good leadership is learned in the trenches. Leading as well as they can wherever they are is what prepares leaders for more and greater responsibility. Becoming a good leader is a lifelong learning process. If you don't try out your leadership skills and decision-making process when the stakes are small and the risks are low, you're likely to get into trouble at higher levels when the cost of mistakes is high, the impact is far reaching, and the exposure is greater. Mistakes made on a small scale can be easily overcome. Mistakes made when you're at the top cost the organization greatly, and they damage a leader's credibility.

How do you become the person you desire to be? You start now to adopt the thinking, learn the skills, and develop the habits of the person you wish to be. It's a mistake to daydream about "one day when you'll be on top" instead of handling today so that it prepares you for tomorrow. As Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden said, "When opportunity comes, it's too late to prepare." If you want to be a successful leader, learn to lead before you have a leadership position.

Myth #3

The Influence Myth: "If I were on top, then people would follow me."

I once read that President Woodrow Wilson had a housekeeper who constantly lamented that she and her husband didn't possess more prestigious positions in life. One day the lady approached the president after she heard that the secretary of labor had resigned from the administration.

"President Wilson," she said, "my husband is perfect for his vacant position. He is a laboring man, knows what labor is, and understands laboring people. Please consider him when you appoint the new secretary of labor."


Excerpted from THE 360° LEADER by JOHN C. MAXWELL Copyright © 2005 by John C. Maxwell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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360 Degree Leader 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
themiraclesnook More than 1 year ago
The 360 Degree Leader by John Maxwell is a winner in my world. I have to say that this book is a learning experience. So many times it is easy for us to get stagnant working in the places where we are. I have to say, lets face it a lot of us are somewhere in the middle, in our jobs, churches and lives. This book makes it ok. Not only it is ok, this book makes it a great place to be. John Maxwell is a great encourager and teacher for where you are. You have more leading capabilities that you thought possible in those positions or where you are now. I love that he gives you a website to go to and take a test to help you read the book to better you. To know your very own style of leading. It truly helps you based you your own qualities. I like that he takes you through all the myths so you can not use them as an excuse or crutch. I love to quote John Maxwell he is just so good. I will give you a one that I found so true, simple and profound "Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape". I loved this book. I always feel smarter after having read anything by John Maxwell. My advice is get this book and learn about you. It will help you better yourself. It will help you have a different attitude for where you are and where you could be going. I give this book five stars. I rate the books I read on a scale of one to five one being the worst five being the best. I must also let you know that I got this book as a complimentary copy from Book Sneeze in exchange for my reading it and reviewing it. The reviews I have written are all my true opinions. It was a pleasure to read this book.
Xaivier More than 1 year ago
The 360 degree Leader starts with the 7 myths believed by many people who lead from the middle of organizations, followed by the 7 challenges, the 9 principles to lead up, the 7 principles to lead across, and the 7 principles to lead down. The 360 degree Leader explains clearly that leadership is important for everyone at every level of an organization (i.e. lead up, lead across and lead down); leadership is about influence instead of position. Influence means to become a person whom people will want to follow. Besides, John C. Maxwell also shows the difference between developing versus equipping people. A workbook is also provided so that readers can immediately validate their understanding about the idea of the 360 degree leadership. A free of charge 360 Degree leadership assessment is provided to those have purchased the book.
danblackonleadership More than 1 year ago
John Maxwell says, ¿90% of all leadership in most organizations takes place in the middle.¿ This being the case, a leader needs to be able to effectively lead people who are above them, across from them, and below them. While remembering the most important person they need to lead is themselves. The book begins by sharing 7 myths of leading from the middle of an organization. Some of those myths include, ¿The Position Myth, The Influence Myth, and The Potential Myth.¿ Then John Maxwell talks about some challenges a 360 degree leader faces which are, ¿The Ego Challenge, The Fulfillment Challenge, The Vision Challenge, and The Multi-Hat Challenge.¿ These first two sections build a foundation to each of the following sections that share principles about how to successfully lead, up, across, and down. I found this book full of great leadership principles and insights. I believe no matter your leadership position this book will help you become a better leader and influencer. The book also provides a free 360 degree self-assessment. This is helpful when it comes to understanding where you are at and applying the principles.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book gave me the confidence and empowerment that I needed to be an all around leader. I was also able to share some of the things that I learned with my team to give them the same outlook on their positions and how they can lead each others and those above them.
SeekOutWisdom More than 1 year ago
John C. Maxwell has enough leadership books to fill up a library all by himself. While The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is his masterpiece, and his new The 5 Levels of Leadership is getting most attention right now, I found The 360° Leader to be a fantastic read. Maxwell explains in detail the principles for a leader to lead not only their followers, but also their peers and their own leaders. For someone in middle of their organization, with some followers below them, many peers beside them, and a few leaders above them on the organization chart, The 360° Leader is a great addition to your bookshelf.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Frequent author John C. Maxwell applies his career counseling formula to another aspect of leadership: how people in the middle of large organizations can add to their company¿s leadership equation. His popular books rely on long lists of myths, challenges, principles, rules or values. Each one is identified, numbered (Maxwell is a firm believer in the power of numerical orderliness) and accompanied by an example or uplifting story - often making it unclear whether the book is inspirational, instructional or both. In practice, will people refer to these lists, or simply draw from Maxwell¿s major concepts? Although leadership defies a static definition, we believe this book may come in handy for enlightened senior and middle managers, as well as for those who are involved in developing up-and-coming managers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a senior executive who has to deal with bosses and employees with different temperaments, strategies and work habits. This book broadened my perspective. Showing your people how you care builds trust, and trust is essential for people and organizational success. I recommend this book for middle managers and senior executives in tandem with Optimal Thinking: How to Be Your Best Self, which I also recommend for employees.
libvictor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
No matter what position you have in your organization, you can make significant impact to your workplace. This book tells you even you are not the boss, you can still be a 360-degree leader. A great book to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ReadWorm More than 1 year ago
The 360° Leader – John C Maxwell Leading from any position in an organisation This book is so well written, its a delight to read with many insights that John C Maxwell has gained through a long career of mentoring leaders throughout organisations from top to bottom. Discover your leadership capabilities and realise the possibilities that are unleashed when you know how to lead those around you – even if you are not the head of a corporation or organisation. The idea that anybody can lead, their subordinates is an accepted standard, the idea that anybody can lead their peers, is generally accepted on proviso’s and the idea that anybody can lead their superior, well this hasn’t really been an understood standard to base one’s efforts in the workplace on. Maxwell puts forward really viable arguments that this is possible and backs them up with time proven examples. The effective leader impacts everybody around them – no matter what their title is. Written with clear examples of great leaders, the issues leaders face and the solutions to just about any leadership issue, I do highly recommend this book as a lifelong reference for anybody in the world of work – it inspired me, let it inspire you. I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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WingedOne More than 1 year ago
John Maxwell has done it again. In his latest offering, "The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization", he has addressed a question heard time and time again - how do I apply leadership principles if I'm not the boss? It is a valid question that John Maxwell answers in The 360 Degree Leader. He offers specific principles for Leading Down, Leading Up, and Leading Across; a nice change from so many of the books now on store shelves that deal with hypothetical and generic solutions. His book provides real solution to a real issue. if I had to pick my top 3 chapters, they would span 3 of the 6 sections. In section 1, The Myths of Leading from the Middle of an Organization - couldn't get enough of Myth #2 The Destination Myth: "When I get to the top, then I'll learn to lead.", and in section 3, The Principles 360-Degree Leaders Practice to Lead Up, couldn't stop reading Lead-Up Principle #4 Do More than Manage - Lead! and my final favourite was in section 7, The Value of 360-Degee Leaders, one section really resonated and that was Value #2 Leaders Are Needed at Every Level of the Organization. This book is great for those already in leadership positions, those aspiring to have leadership positions and anyone who wants to use really take full advantage of their talents. It can be personal or professional. This would be great for book clubs and to discuss at office meetings as well. Highly recommend this book (but get your own because this one is staying on my shelf for future reference). Well written, John Maxwell. You've done it example of your own ideas of choosing to use your talents. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
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