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Hold the Door Open

At first glance, I thought I wasn’t seeing clearly.


The Facebook post with a room full of folks dressed in workout attire wasn’t particularly surprising.


But the man wiping sweat from his brow was…


Because this is the guy, typically styling in a suit or business casual clothing while perched on a stool with iPad in hand, delivering nuggets of gold about leadership or personal growth.


But last week, apparently, John Maxwell decided to go public with his commitment to working out with a room full of fellow fitness enthusiasts.


In a few seconds it was abundantly clear that HE was not the one leading the class… far from it.


And during a couple of breaks he even talked about it and said, “I’m at the bottom of this class!”


Now you might be wondering… why in the world would a 71-year-old, bestselling author, known for training leaders worldwide, put himself in such an unflattering, awkward situation?


I mean... he let the camera zoom in on his sweaty, red face.


I actually know why.


And it has everything to do with what he teaches and stands for; leadership and growth.


See, I’ve heard him say (and have quoted in these posts before), “If you’re always at the head of the class… then you’re in the wrong class.”


Now that sounds good in theory, but the practical reality is that we humans much prefer to be in that “head” position.


We strive for it!


It feels good to be “at the top of our game,” “killing it in our field,” and “have all of the bases covered.”


The thought of being open about our deficiencies and willing to put ourselves in a position where we look “less than” is not something most gravitate toward.


But what John has figured out and lives out…. is that people connect best with people who are real.

And being real means being willing to admit that as a leader, there are others ahead of us in certain areas.


It also means owning our own need for continued growth.


I have to tell you… there is something almost mystically alluring about a man who speaks with kings and presidents who is also willing to allow others to watch as he sweats with his own team members.


It’s such a dichotomy…. and one that few leaders truly demonstrate.


Just last week I heard John tell about the first-time he heard Zig Ziglar speak.

“I got there three hours early because I was so excited to hear him. I was in the middle of the front row. Zig talked about the importance of adding value to people and said, ‘You can get everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.’”


He and Zig eventually became friends and golfing buddies; all that because of action John took when he was 24 years old.


Nearly five decades later, he’s still living out the truth of Zig’s words.


A couple of weeks ago I attended the Live 2 Lead event that John hosts every year where he brings in high-profile speakers to share their thoughts about leadership (this year’s line-up: Carly Fiorina, Daniel Pink, Debra Searle and Tyler Perry).


I could write an entire post on what each of them said (maybe I will)!


But Tyler said something that really connected the dots for me about John and his Facebook workout.

“When you think you’ve made it… just beyond THAT is the place of greatest impact—significance for others. You’re not your own as the leader… you’re holding the door open for other people.”


From where I sit… that’s exactly what John was doing. (At one point he even said, “If I can do it, you can do it.”)


He was “walking the talk” when it comes to creating a growth environment—this time in the fitness world, where he is in process with the masses.


His action moved beyond theory and concept to give legs to the “growth is modeled and expected” characteristic of a growth environment.


I often hear leaders say they create a good environment for their team by having a birthday party once a month or buying pizza on a Friday.


Happy food celebrations are great…


But the willingness to step into something WITH the team where you are not the expert… THAT is where the rubber meets the road (or sweat hits the mat) when it comes to truly holding that door open for others.

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