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

John C. Maxwell the author of The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization is a leadership maestro who has been one of the most vocal writers with international recognition for his exemplary pieces of writings. John C. Maxwell is a man who holds many titles among them being a Christian author, pastor and speaker who has written a record breaking number of more than 50 books which mainly focus on the leadership topic. The author who was born in 1947 has some of the highly commendable titles such as The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader among others. The author has taught leadership for over 30 years and therefore his experiences come in handy in his books.

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John mainly focuses on the ardent dilemmas that face a middle manager in any organization. His highly critical articulations of a middle manager have earned him unrivalled acclamation among top flight leadership gurus in the industry. Most of his theories in The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization are unobjectionable and so most of those who go through his exceptional pieces of writings often find them inspiring. His self acclimatized style of writing offers fascination but at the same time critical insight which has the overall effect of motivating middle level managers to think critically on the mentalities they have on leading in their current positions.

His 2005 book The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization goes along the grain of his ideologies by highlighting the middle manager’s plight. The book taps directly to the day to day activities of a middle manager pointing out the diverse responsibilities that lies on their shoulders while at the same time pointing out their lack of power as a great hindrance to their success. Maxwell in this book gives the manager an array of options that should be considered in order to enhance the chances of success in the work place. One of the main highlights of the book as Maxwell seems to argue is that a manager when faced with a crisis should be able to find its solution.

Maxwell right from the beginning of this book argues that true leadership in any organization does not actually come from the top but has its epicenter at the middle level of an organization. Maxwell asserts that there is usually a misconception that true leadership comes from the top. He supports his arguments by giving examples of some of the most famed leaders such as “Winston Churchill defying the Nazi threat” and leading an army in opposition against the threat. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. also make the shortlist. The author argues that the wide acclamations that these leaders received after motivation masses could lead to a misconception that leadership has its root embedded at the top.

Maxwell however points out that “99% of all leadership occurs not from the top but from the middle of an organization”. With this conception as the author seems to argue then middle managers will actually find it easier to take a central part in the running of the organization. The author argues that no matter the position that one is in, making a difference is possible and should be viewed as a priority rather than an option. Maxwell clearly states that a position at the top does not necessary make one a leader and he borrows this thinking from one of his previous works The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership which one law states that “The true measurement of leadership is influence-nothing more, nothing less”.

One of the main highlights in this book as the author seems to stress out is that leadership is dynamic. The author goes ahead to assert his position that leadership is to be earned in what he describes as the all round relationship with each person in an organization. The author critically analyzes the various myths that are characteristic of many middle mangers about leading from their positions. Maxwell in doing this analysis uses clear cut examples and at times even gives situations that may arise in the thinking mentality of a middle manager. His vast experience in teaching leadership in his career that he says has span over thirty years or so comes in handy and this is evident by the examples he vividly describes from his subjects.

Maxwell in his book gives examples of some of the most ardent challenges that most leaders in the middle class of management face in their day to day activities. The author suggests that middle managers in any organization will always have the hardest part of tasks to do. He points out through his experiences that “many of the middle leaders I meet are frustrated, tense, and sometimes tempted to quit”. The leadership guru gives his insight to this by arguing that the only way for a manager to avoid this situation is only by becoming a “360-degree leader”. He further says that it is necessary for a manager to identify, define and then finally find ways in which to navigate through various problems that arise in an organization.

The author stresses the point that leading from the top just like leading from the middle is not easy at all. He then asserts his position that for one to be successful then one has no choice but to deal with all the shortcomings that may come in whichever position one is. The only key to success according to Maxwell is finding ways around the obstacles and most of all making the most of “its advantages and opportunities”. This as he seems to argue is the recipe to succeed in any position in any organization.

Maxwell in his book goes an extra mile to highlight various principles which he deems fit for a 360 leader to follow. He points out that the ability of a middle manager to lead themselves well is one of the main reasons that some middle managers have excelled head over hills in some of the most exceptional organizations. One of the highlights that Maxwell tries to distinguish in his book is the difference between a “competent leader” and the one who always “goes to the next level”. He argues that a competent leader has the ability to lead followers but leading followers as the author points out, limits this type of leaders. He says that true leaders however, lead leaders and this as he puts it is the only way they make it to the next leadership levels.

Being a competent leader according to Maxwell is a process that takes time especially when one strives to be a 360 leader. He argues that the reason why most mangers fail to excel is mainly because their visions are usually shortsighted. He asserts that desisting from taking shortcuts and learning to “understand, practice and complete the leadership loop” is the best path to follow. The author of this book goes a step further to give a seven arrowed loop towards success. The loop as he suggests is usually a cycle with the first arrow being that of caring and with it the climax then becomes success.

The book generally gives valuable insight for any middle level manager in the ways in which to become a 360 degree leader. The main gist in Maxwell’s book is basically to progress his school of thought that true leadership has its roots firm on the middle level. With this thinking as he points out, middle level managers should strive to be the most hardworking if a company is to succeed. The essence of being a 360 degree leader according to Maxwell is the enhanced mentality that any middle level manager has that they can lead from anywhere.

Although Maxwell has tried his best to answer the question of how can one lead in the position one is his advice is a bit wanting. Although his theories may be true to some aspect, their practicality when judged from a layman’s perspective seem to be blurred. An example is when he says that if one has a boss who “collects rare books or porcelain, then spend time on the internet finding out of these hobbies”. This example is vague and many may not find it all interesting. The author seems to suggest that one should take time in analyzing an individual rather can concentrating on ones work.

The author has also neglected the influence that many top leaders have on an organization. One of the aspects that he assumes in this book is the motivation part of it which a top manager usually has. Although his sentiments can be echoed among various leadership gurus his approach towards asserting his theories by examples is wanting. The author has however done a good job in publishing this book which gives middle managers a thought to think about in influencing changes in an organization. His experiences also in teaching leadership skills, as can be seen by his examples which also add to the overall high rating of this book.

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