John Maxwell on Leadership

Best Practices of Leading Down


Leadership isn’t about position. Leadership is about using your influence exactly where you are.

“For teams to develop at every level, they need leaders at every level.” 1

Teams need 360-Degree Leaders. These are the type of leaders who lead up (to the boss), across (among peers), and down (to others). A 360-Degree Leader leads through influence, not position, power, or leverage.
Often times they face the myth that they can’t lead unless they are at the “top” of the totem pole. However, we can better our organizations and help fulfill a grander vision by serving as a 360-Degree Leader.

Throughout the month of June, we’ll discuss best practices for 360-Degree Leaders. Today, we’ll highlight principles of “leading down.” These 7 principles will help fill in holes and bring leaders closer to 360-degree leadership.

1. Walk slowly through the halls.
“One of the greatest mistakes leaders make is spending too much time in their offices and not enough time out among the people.” 2
Take the chance to build relationships with your team. Make a point to focus less on “task” and more on the “people” of your organization.

2. See everyone as a “10.”
“360-Degree Leaders get more out of their people because they think more of their people. They respect and value them, and as a result, their people want to follow them.” 3
Encouragement for and recognition of your team reminds them that you believe in their abilities. When you see the best in someone, they will want to rise to the expectations set of them – not out of obligation, but out of motivation and excitement.

3. Develop each team member as a person.
“Getting the job done through others makes you a leader. But developing the people while helping them get the job done at the highest level makes you an exceptional leader. When you develop others, they become better, they do the job better, and both you and the organization benefit.” 4
As leaders, our goal is to help others improve as individuals. Developing means the qualities a person gains will benefit them in multiple areas of life, not just their jobs. Their development will ultimately prepare them for future leadership positions.

4. Place people in their strength zones.
“Successful people find their own strength zones. Successful leaders find the strength zones of the people they lead.” 5
Finding the right person for the right job can be tough. But taking the time to get the right people in the right places results in greater success.

5. Model the behavior your desire.
“Leaders need to be what they want to see.” 6
What kind of team members do you want? Leaders show the way for their team. If you desire a culture of excellence, model excellence. If you don’t like what your team members do, first take a look at yourself and then take action.

6. Transfer the vision.
“When preparing to cast vision, ask: What do I want them to know, and what do I want them to do?” 7
While you may not be transferring your own vision, you are certainly the interpreter. Prepare for the vision casting conversation by ensuring you are clear about the vision. In doing so, you’ll create clarity for the team.

7. Reward for results.
“Whatever actions leaders reward will be repeated.” 8
Giving praise publicly and privately for things you’d like to see again will guarantee that team members continue to strive for success. And remember, rewards may be different for each team member. Find out what motivates each individual.

Overall, these seven principles will help 360-Degree Leaders in leading those they manage or develop. As you continue through your week, aim to practice one each day. Take note of how your team members respond, as well as the impact on your organization.

What principle for “leading down” would you add to this list? Comment below or let us know on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #360Leader.
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1 The 360 Degree Leader, pg. 265
2 The 360 Degree Leader, pg. 213
3 The 360 Degree Leader, pg. 221
4 The 360 Degree Leader, pg. 229
5 The 360 Degree Leader, pg. 239
6 The 360 Degree Leader, pg. 243
7 The 360 Degree Leader, pg. 249
8 The 360 Degree Leader, pg. 249


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