CNLP 407: John Maxwell on How to Develop Next Generation Leaders, When to Step Back, and What You Can Learn About People from Playing Golf and Eating at Buffets

Leadership expert, John Maxwell, talks about how to develop next generation leaders before they’re ready, how and when to hand things off, and what playing golf and eating at buffets can teach you about who people really are.

Welcome to Episode 407 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey talks about his favorite John Maxwell teaching: 5 Levels of Leadership.

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Insights From John

1. Before you hire someone, take them golfing, and take them to a buffet

A golf course and a buffet can teach you a lot about a person. On a golf course, John looks to see if someone is honest (by keeping an honest score), if they’re efficient (by re-hitting when a shot gets lost, rather than searching for it) and their temperament and comfort with themselves (by watching how emotional they get).

In a buffet line, John is looking for someone who will work around lines and pick and choose where and when to get their food. This marks a leader rather than a follower.

2. Most leaders try to hold onto what they have for too long

Most leaders wait until they get tired to pass on leadership to the next generation. John thinks this is a tragic mistake. Like in a relay race, he recommends that leaders get themselves and their organization to the top of their game, and then hand it off to the next generation.

3. A leader is in trouble when they need to be needed

During a succession, John takes an intentional step to say, “If you ever feel like not bringing me back to speak into this organization, that’s totally fine.” He does this because he wants what’s best for the organization, whether it involves him or not. He doesn’t need to be needed by them.

If someone transitions out of an organization and still has an emotional need to be loved by that organization, it’s not a great sign, and that leader is at risk of hurting the organization by hanging around for too long.

Quotes from Episode 407

The value of a failure is learning, and the value of learning is improvement. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet A leader is in trouble when they need to be needed. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet Honor is for what I did yesterday, but respect is for what I can do today. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet You cannot pour into, equip and add value to leaders without it coming back to you in a greater return than what you gave. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet Invest in yourself in personal growth, and invest in others in leadership, and you'll have an inevitable return. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet A great way to build leaders is by letting them practice leadership. And the way to build confidence is to celebrate wins. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet What you focus on expands. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet The question isn't, 'How do I get rid of my fear?' The question is, 'How do I make my faith stronger?' @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet When you start growing intentionally, you increase growth capacity. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet I quit asking the question, 'How long will it take,' and I started asking the question, 'How far can I go?' @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet Criticism isn't what kicks me out of the game. Not having a mission and a vision that is greater than that criticism is what kicks me out of the game. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet If my faith is stronger than my fear, then my faith will win. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet During difficult times you've got to ask yourself, 'Am I going to curse the darkness or I'm going to turn on the light?' @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet The value of celebration is you do it with others. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet Success is having people who know me the best love and respect me the most. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet I don't hand the ball off to somebody who already knows something. I hand a ball off to somebody who has a potential to do something. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet I have no desire in having workers, I have desire of having leaders, and leaders reproduce other people. @JohnCMaxwell Click To Tweet People development is when people are better because they worked with you. Click To Tweet

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Next Episode: Jon Acuff

New York Times bestselling author, Jon Acuff, returns to the podcast to talk about how he reinvented himself in 2020 when his speaking career came to an abrupt halt thanks to the pandemic. Jon also shares insights on how to reinvent yourself online, pro tips on creating content for YouTube, podcasting and social media, and discusses his new book on how to stop overthinking issues.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 408.

CNLP 407: John Maxwell on How to Develop Next Generation Leaders, When to Step Back, and What You Can Learn About People from Playing Golf and Eating at Buffets


  1. Matthew Mills on March 31, 2021 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks Carey, appreciate your response. I read Jim Collins and listen to several other (not nearly as good) 🙂 podcasts where this idea keeps showing up as ‘new info’ and yet God saw fit to place it as a key character quality a couple thousand years ago (if the KJV people had merely switched the two words around.
    (Also, I like your wife’s podcast on Smart Family Podcast.)
    Matthew Mills

  2. Matthew Mills on March 30, 2021 at 10:01 pm

    Dear Carey,
    I’ve listened to all your podcasts for several years now. I’ve learned a lot and thank you for your show and interviewing skills. I’m an elder / unpaid pastor at a church in the Kansas City area. To get right to the point. I noticed on your podcast and others how many times the idea of humility shows up as a successful leadership characteristic/character quality.
    I’d just like to add, I got this from a retired Bible college professor, who mentioned that he had done a paper on the two times the word Didaktikos (– translated “apt to teach”). It appears in the list of character qualifications written to both Timothy and Titus. The word didaktikos is made up of two compound words – “teach” and “able”. In extra-biblical texts he discovered the same word translated “teachable” instead of “able to teach”. It does seem to fit the context in both letters of Paul – you be the judge – that in the midst of this listing of character qualities there would be a skill required – “able to teach” instead of another important character quality “teach able”.
    It does seem, in my opinion, to bolster the last several years of social science recognizing that the best leaders seem to bear the quality of humility. My personal experience finds that quality, more than that of being able to teach produces the best leaders. And it so often dovetails with what you’ve said so many times in so many interviews with people about the need to have leaders with humility. Food for thought. Social science catching up to the Bible?
    thanks for reading

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