An Interview with John Maxwell [Video]

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of hosting the Chick-fil-A Leadercast Backstage program. I interviewed several notable authors as they came off the stage, including Seth Godin, Sir Ken Robinson, Dan Cathy, Suzy Welch, Frans Johansson, and John Maxwell. I am continuing to share these on a weekly basis.

In this interview, I talk to John Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author and uber-popular leadership speaker. I first met John in 1998, when I came to Thomas Nelson as the Senior Vice President of Marketing for the Nelson Books division. John’s breakout book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, was one of my first projects. He has since become a good friend and mentor.As I interviewed him backstage, we talked about several topics, including:

  • The growth of the Leadercast conference, which John actually started.
  • Why John could never teach a goal-setting seminar with integrity.
  • The joy of seeing someone else taking your dream and making it better.
  • The importance of surrounding yourself with great people.
  • What John is excited about in this stage of his life. (I can tell you this: he is not slowing down one bit!)
  • His new coaching company and how people can become trained and certified as a coach. (They already have 800 trained coaches.)
  • The fifth level of leadership, what it is, how many leaders make it to that level, and some real-life examples.
  • His new book, The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential, and why it should be the first book every new leader reads.
  • How the greatest leaders take people with them.

If you are interested in learning more about John, read his blog and follow him on Twitter.

Question: Which of John’s comments resonated with you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Get My New, 3-Part Video Series—FREE! Ready to accomplish more of what matters? 2015 can be your best year ever. In my new video series, I show you exactly how to set goals that work. Click here to get started. It’s free—but only until Monday, December 8th.

Get my FREE video series now!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • Geoff Webb

    “I’m not too sure that anyone who’s a self-made man ever really made much.”

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great quote, isn’t it?

    • Dylan Dodson

      That was my favorite as well.

      • Ben (of BenandJacq)

        My favorite: “If you are at the top of a mountain all alone, you aren’t a leader, you’re a hiker.”

  • Joe Abraham

    John Maxwell is one of my favorite leadership experts. During this interview, it was interesting to hear the title John gave to the one who has made it to the top all alone – hiker (not leader)! That’s really something to think about.

    Thanks Michael for posting these backstage interviews.

  • John Richardson

    I really liked his story about growing up in a little farming community in Iowa. As boring a place as that was, he woke up every morning with excitement. He wanted to see what was going on. I can really relate to that story. As a kid, I would always wake up at 5 in the morning with that same kind of excitement. I had a place in the garage where I was always experimenting with new inventions, which usually included building model rockets or airplanes. I loved anything that flew up in the air. Life was really exciting! 

    I’ll never forget watching the men land on the moon in 1969. It was truly a dream come true, that man could actually go there and come back. One of my favorite books is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. In it he talks about drawing the door to an imaginary elevator on his bedroom wall when he was a kid. He had buttons for floors, and he dreamed about getting in the elevator and going into space. Talk about excitement. Can you imagine having an elevator like that in your bedroom. I would not be able to sleep. I’d want to be on that elevator and check out every floor along the way.

    I also like that John Maxwell is just getting started. His book, Becoming a Person of Influence, is the backbone of my blog. I can’t wait to get his new book in October. The truly exciting thing for me, is that my dad told me that someday I would step foot on the moon. I haven’t made it yet. But that is an exciting reason to get up every day. Even if it is a magic elevator in my mind, someday I will make it!

    • Sundi Jo Graham

      Love the magic elevator in your mind John. Thanks for leaving me to think about that today. 

      • John Richardson

        Wouldn’t that be cool. You could have a button for the top of your roof, another about skyscraper level, another in the clouds. Imagine just opening the door in the clouds and jumping out with wings on like a bird. Ahhh to be a kid again….

        • Sundi Jo Graham

          We don’t have to be kids again to think like that. Our imagination doesn’t have to grow up, just our bodies.. :)

    • Michael Hyatt

      I pray that you do, John. You have such a GREAT attitude. I love that!

    • Steven Cribbs

      I may have to go draw or paint an elevator in my kids’ rooms (maybe my room too).  What a great picture – remembering how powerful our imaginations are and how important it is to use our imaginations!

    • Jmhardy97


      I eat up everything Dr. Maxwell writes. Although I have never met him one on one, his teachings and long distance mentoring has really impacted my life. I have learned so many things from him. I cannot wait until his new book comes out so I can teach it to my team.


  • David Barry DeLozier

    It’s a tie: “Others took my idea and made it better than I could have done on my own.”  “Leaders are life long learners.” Looking forward to reading this book in October.

  • Chris Jeub

    And “life-long learning.” At 65, Mr. Maxwell doesn’t seem to be slowing one bit. Anxious to get up in the morning to meet new people and take notes? John Maxwell take notes? Incredible. Great interview.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I have been with him in many meetings through the years. I is a prolific note-taker.

    • Anonymous

      Not exactly my attitude when I wake up in the morning!  Guess that needs to change.

    • Steven Cribbs

      That is an inspiring way to start the day!

    • Jmhardy97

      I agree. It is impressive. I hope I have that kind of energy and passion to make a difference in people.


  • Vincent


    Thanks for this interview. I’ll be working with Mr. Maxwell at an event in the near future, and look forward to it.

    I have an off-topic question:

    As an Orthodox Christian, and knowing what we do about the Beatitudes, humility and the overall Orthodox Christian spirituality – one that is focused on humility, love for others and the like – how does one go about finding compatibility between the “ways of the world” and Orthodox spirituality?

    For example, for someone that works at a Fortune 500 company and seeks to have a long, successful career, how do they find a balance between “promoting” one’s self in order to “get ahead” and humility?

    Have you written on this sort of thing before? I hope I’m making sense.

    In peace,

    • Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think this so much an Orthodox spirituality question as a general Christian spirituality question. I think this is a constant challenge. It is easy to be sucked into worldly thinking. Perhaps at some point I will write a post on this. In short, it is easier for me if I stay focused on promoting the message rather than myself. Thanks.

  • Sundi Jo Graham

    Just because you get a leadership position doesn’t make you a leader. That is so true. I’ve watched people get a title, but that’s the only thing that changes. I have learned a lot about what not to do as a leader watching this. 

    Would love the opportunity to review that book before it comes out. Sad it won’t be out until October. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      I am really looking forward to it, too. I’m working on a doing a giveaway on my site.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Same here Sundi. I think this is especially true at churches.

      • Sundi Jo Graham

        Very true!

    • Jmhardy97

      I agree. I can’t wait.


  • Dylan Dodson

    “I’m not too sure that there is a self made man who ever made much.” Great perspective. A lot of our success does happen with the help of others.

  • Flafferty

    What a life of influence. I have most of his books as permanent references in front of me and have lead or participated in workshops or staff studies reviewing them. They all have impacted my life personally and professionally. I look forward to the newest release and am always inspired by John’s tireless effort.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I don’t know of anyone who has influenced the topic of leadership more than John.

  • Anonymous

    My notes:

    1)  I love how he gives credit to others for taking his dreams and expanding on them.
    2)  “I’m not sure that anyone who is a self-made man really made much.”
    3)  Examples of Pinnacle Level:  Nelson Mandella, Jack Welch, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, FDR, Mother Teresa, MLK, Gandhi.
    4)  Upcoming book, Oct. 2011, answers the questions, “How do I become a leader?” or “How do I help others become leaders?”
    5) “If you’re at the top of the mountain by yourself, you’re not a leader. You’re a hiker.”  Take other people with you.
    6)” Leaders are learners.”

    • Joe Lalonde

      I enjoyed your list Karl. A lot of those overlapped with the ones that struck me.

      I must have missed when he stated your number 5. I really like that quote though.

      • Anonymous

        I hope I quoted him correctly. It was a great line.

    • Jmhardy97


      great quote!


  • Bill Bliss

    As one of the people on his founding team as a coach, I have been so excited to learn all the materials that he has made available.  The John Maxwell Team will have coaches all over the world helping leaders and other people be better than they ever thought they could be. 

    Thanks Michael for the interview with John – I also love the quotes that others have mentioned, especially that Leaders are Learners.  If a leader stops learning, he or she stops leading.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Bill, great to hear that his coaching program went well for you. Coaching is an area I’ve been thinking of as a possible career change. I may have to check it out.

  • Aaron Harris

    I was at the event painting live and tried to listen to his talk while painting but I could catch it all.
    Good insights from him – I love the coach training/certification – I wasn’t aware of that.  I am going to look into doing that because I get told about once or twice a week that I should become a life coach.  Thanks for sharing!

  • Cyberquill

    So Mr. Maxwell’s first book was titled The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, and his most recent one is The 5 Levels of Leadership. Do all the ones in between feature enumerations in their titles as well? 

    It seems to me that the numbers-in-title conceit is becoming increasingly popular, for books as well as for blog posts. I constantly come across “Five ways to …” and “Seven strategies for…” and “Ten reasons why…”, etc. 

    Are people more likely to read or buy something which promises a recipe approach to the subject matter at hand? Is it because such titles suggest that, in order to succeed, all one has to do is follow a simple list? 

    To me, these titles have a bit of  a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all flavor to them. I guess because they’re so overused these days. Somehow, they always make me suspect that the author couldn’t think of a real title. (In fairness, at least when it comes to books, it is usually the publishers who pick the title based on what the marketing department thinks will sell best.)

    • Joe Lalonde

      Cyberquill, not all of John’s books feature enumerations in the title. He has quite a few that do but looking at his list of over 30 books, most of them do not.

      I think most people are more likely to purchase a book that has enumeration in the title. It gives them the feeling that there are steps that they can take to reach a certain point. It may not always be accurate, but I think it works for selling books.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I do this intentionally as well. Advertising research (and extensive testing on my own part) leads to the conclusion that numbers in titles get more responses. I think it is because it builds curiosity. For example, “I wonder what those five items are?”

      • Steven Cribbs

        I think there is also a sub-conscious concept at play as well…

        For many people it is difficult to think about digesting a 200 (or more) page book – being able to remember and apply everything written in all of those many pages.  A small specified number of main points changes that outlook into something that we believe (or at least hope) we can really get our hands around.

      • Cyberquill

        Interesting. I should try it some time (“Five Reasons to Avoid Numbers in Your Titles”).

    • Jmhardy97

      It does help break down the books and make them easier to read. If you are a busy person, you  will find that the chapters are well written and it is easy to find places to stop.


  • Joe Lalonde

    It was great being able to listen to John sit down and talk with you Michael. Since I received his newest book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect I’ve been interested in hearing more from him. In fact, I went out and purchased 4 of his other books. I’m learning a lot from him.

    Here are the things that stood out to me in the John Maxwell video…

    He Couldn’t Lead A Goal Setting Seminar With Integrity – I would think a man like John Maxwell would be able to do it well. Having written as many books, done as many seminars, starting as many things as he has, I would think that he would be a good choice to do teach a seminar on Goal Setting.

    Others make your dreams great – Great point by John. How often do we shun others when they’re the ones that could help make that dream or goal great? I think it goes back to the scripture: Ecclesiastics 4:12 – A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand
    back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided
    cord is not easily broken.

    Coaches are his legacy – Knowing that John is raising up others to continue with his work. John has touched so many lives it’s great to see it will be ongoing even after he is gone.

    Leadership is not a title – I like this. I see so many who have the “title” of leadership given to them. Yet these “leaders” do not lead.

    Who do you lift with you – I think this is at the core of leadership. Great leaders often lift others up with them.

    His excitment for who is at the leadercast – It’s great to see a man such as John excited to learn and see others at the conference. There have been plenty of “leaders” who just do their thing at a conference and leaves. John seemed genuinely interested in getting as much as he can at this conference.

    Leaders are learners  – So much truth in this statement.

  • Jessica Schildman

    Just wanted to say that I’m loving these interviews- your style of leading the conversation is great!  Thanks!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jessica.

  • Chrissie Noncedo Sam

    A leader leads by example, he 1st ahow moves in the dance floor with his/her team then move to the balcony to see how well or even better they  can do.

  • Robert Ewoldt

    The fact that he’s a lifetime learner, and will stay at the conference and listen to the other speakers, and come away with a notepad full of things that he can apply to his life, is motivating to me.  I love that!

    • turner_bethany

      Agree. I definitely loose respect for speakers when they aren’t really willing to listen to the other speakers. 

  • Anonymous

    Great interview! The biggest take away for me was the eye contact John Maxwell had while talking *with* you.

  • Robert Ewoldt

    I want to read his book now, when it comes out!

  • Steven Cribbs

    “Leadership is not static.  It’s a verb; not a noun.”

    “Great leaders take people with them.”

    “All the good things that have happened to me in life are because I had good people around me.”

  • Cassandra Stafford

    I loved that he could never lead a goal setting seminar with integrity. Because often our goals are so much smaller than the things God wants to achieve through us and in us and we just set too small of goals. That was great.

  • Joel David

    What I liked the most was the incredible humility John Maxwell displays:

    1. his comment about teaching a goal-setting seminar;

    2. his excitement about life-long learning;

    3. his continuing, almost effortless, focus on others (taking notes as others speak, taking/helping/coaching others along the leadership journey, taking time to compliment Michael on his leadership…) and

    4. communicating well his sense that he feels he is just getting started!

    Inspiring!  Thanks for sharing this interview!

  • TalkYourWalkorg

    Being a Founder’s Circle member of John Maxwell Coaching Team, I was thrilled that you posted the interview. I was able to repost on the John Maxwell Team site which has almost 1000. I recognize he was there for the Leadercast Conference, but I am thankful he mentioned not only his new book but all of us on the Team who have been studying to be coaches. Our curriculm has been up to John Maxwell excellence and so appreciate his authencity. The world is in for another treat. What a Team he has put together, again!

  • Mail

    Thanks again for sharing this interview. I resonated with Johns comments about curiosity and being a life long learner. Curiosity is beautiful and gets even more exciting when you recognize that it is a journey. Never a dull moment!

  • Ian

    Love the point that God births dreams in us that are so much bigger than we can ever imagine. So important we take that first step in faith.

    Thanks for sharing this video Mike.

  • Jmhardy97

    great quote Jeff. He sure has a point


  • Daren Sirbough

    If you climb to the top on your own, you’re a hiker. If you take people with you, that’s when you’re a leader. That’s some tough words there.

  • Beck Gambill

    He’s infectious, isn’t he! I also love the quote “I’m not too sure that anyone who’s a self-made man ever really made much.” I appreciated the truths he pulled out of that, sharing success, learning and partnering with others, allowing others to build on your own vision. Great truths, leadership isn’t great without humility and he’s certainly an example of that.

  • Bogdan Babalau

    John Maxwell is a model for me and every time I listen to him I have a lot of things to learn. This was AMAZING!

  • TNeal

    John’s enthusiasm shines through as he speaks. He brings an increased energy level into the conversation that excites a person and encourages him or her to join in the conversation. His desire to continue to learn reminds me of a comment a friend made about Jerry Jenkins at the Christian Writers Guild conference. He said that he saw Jerry taking notes during a keynote presentation just as if he were new to the writing experience. That’s a noteworthy attitude and contagious for those who want to excel. Thanks for sharing these interviews with us.–Tom

  • Youthconnex

    Listening to this interview was exciting since I have always been a follower of Dr. Maxwell. I too grow up in a little city but in Guyana, South America that was a big town and to hear a horn every morning at 5:30 am was truly exciting. What I cannot say is today, I have the same excitement getting up but to hear that at age 65 yrs Dr. Maxwell is making new programs, writing new books and still have all the excitement, I was given a change attitude check and that was important with my current fears of joining his coaching program.

  • Darren Price

    Thanks for this post along with the many others you have done on leadership.  As I reflect on both some of Maxwell’s comments and your other blog posts, the concept of job search comes to mind.  It is evident from your blog that you want to motivate people to effectively impact those around us in the 21st century context which I enthusiastically applaud as a younger leader.  We need more experienced Christian leadership to be intentional to develop the future in a variety of fields. How does the next generation of young professionals and leaders find effective mentors and organizations that will continue growing their skills to reach toward a pinnacle type position later?  I’m referencing more than a career ladder but perhaps developing leadership skills and growth through new job opportunities.  And often these opportunities tie closely with life mission and goals.  Is there any organizations, individuals, resources that you might point people towards to search out opportunities?

  • Pingback: An Interview with Alison Levine [Video]()

  • Priacta

    This is one of my favourites from John’s wisdom; “The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.” 
    Thank you Michelle for sharing this interesting piece of knowledge.