Book Spotlight: ‘Leadershift’ by John Maxwell

When I surveyed readers of A Deliberate Life, one of the themes you said you most enjoyed was content was around ideas and reading, and my annual ‘Top 10 Reads’ posts are consistently among the most popular, so I thought I’d start featuring particular books I’m reading. I’d love to hear if there are particular books from former lists that you’d like to see featured!

I’m kicking off today with a book I just finished – the most recent release from leadership guru and prolific author, John Maxwell.


Leadershift: 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace

by John Maxwell

Released 2019


Maxwell is now 72, and has achieved phenomenal success as a leadership expert, author, and even the recipient of the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership. Yet in Leadershift you find the voice of someone not content to rest on the former things or the ‘good old days’, but still passionate about change, growth, learning and adaptation to a rapidly changing world.

In some ways Leadershift is a treasure trove of the principles and hard-fought learnings present in Maxwell’s long list of books to date, whilst at the same time talking about how his approach and thinking has continued to develop over the years, and bringing so much new wisdom.

Maxwell identifies 11 shifts he has made over his time as a leader, that he encourages the reader to embrace in his or her own leadership journey:

  • from Soloist to Conductor
  • from Goals to Growth
  • from Perks to Price
  • from Pleasing People to Challenging People
  • from Maintaining to Creating
  • from Ladder Climbing to Ladder Building
  • from Directing to Connecting
  • from Team Uniformity to Team Diversity
  • from Positional Authority to Moral Authority
  • from Trained Leaders to Transformational Leaders
  • from Career to Calling



A few things that particularly stood out to me from the book were –

  • The chapter on Team Uniformity to Team Diversity, and Maxwell’s candid discussion of his personal journey towards better understanding the dynamics around power and diversity, and the intentional steps he has taken to value diversity in his actions and thinking. I felt as though I had never heard that kind of leader share about his journey in that area in such an honest and refreshing way before.


  • Maxwell talks about a lesson he learnt from both a business consultant, Bob Biehl, that he hired to coach him personally, as well as a basketball coach, Pat Summit, whom he observed coaching her team at the University of Tennessee. Both demonstrated how  important it is to ‘find’ people – who they are, where they are, what they’re thinking – before you can ‘lead’ them effectively.


  • One of the consistent messages of the book is that the learnings of yesterday will not necessarily help you today – and in fact, could be hindering you. Constant growth, change, adaptability and unlearning and relearning is critical to effectiveness as a leader.



“As a young leader, I was taught that to be effective in leading my organisation, I should create a long-range plan of ten years, a medium-range plan of five years, and a short-range plan of two years. That seems absurd now. Today a long-range plan may be two years. Technology and innovation move so quickly that everything is going forward in a shorter time frame. As leaders, we can’t drag our feet or take too long making assessments. We have to change, re-read our situation, and change again. And continue changing.”


“If what you did five years ago still excites you, you’re in trouble. There’s nothing worse than leaders who are historians.”


“As Malcolm Gladwell said, ‘That’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being – constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.’ Maybe as leaders we need to recognise the value of ‘mental floss’. Dentists encourage us to use dental floss daily to promote the health of our teeth; we need to use mental floss to get rid of old thinking and promote the health of our leadership.”


“Educator and authority Bruna Martinuzzi cited a study conducted by an organisation called the Economist Intelligence Unit. It identified the top three leadership qualities that will be important in the years ahead: ‘the ability to motivate staff (35 percent); the ability to work well across cultures (34 percent); and the ability to facilitate change (32 percent).’ All three of these qualities require adaptability…Perhaps at no other time in recent history has adaptability been more important than it is now.”

Recommended for

Anyone who leads, or hopes to lead, anything or anyone.


Check out the book here