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

By John C. Maxwell

Summary by Susan Williams, Business Book Summaries

The frustrating tensions battled every day in leadership are universal, and leaders today face the challenge of influencing people from all sides of an organization. Ninety-nine percent of all leadership occurs not from the top but from the middle of an organization.

John C. Maxwell, author of The 360-Degree Leader explains the principles leaders can use to bring value and influence to and from anywhere in the organization, enabling them to lead up, lead across, and lead down.

Many managers with leadership responsibilities feel that because they are not the main leader, that they cannot influence their bosses, peers, and subordinates. Even if managers report to someone else, they can use the three different skills of leading up, leading across, and leading down the enterprise. Once leaders can incorporate these principles into their own style of management, they will be able to influence others in every direction and become a 360-Degree Leader.

Leaders at the top of an organization may be able to choose what they do, but they also feel the weight of success or failure of the whole organization. While leaders need to be able to do many things well, top leaders need to do fewer things with outstanding skill. People in the middle of an organization experience demands from leaders at the top, customers, expectations from followers, and vendors, all on a daily basis. These leaders have to get along with everyone and survive the dynamics of leadership. The right attitude, strong relationships, and a desire to win with the team lead to fulfillment anywhere in the organization.

Leading up is the process of influencing a leader. The principles of leading up greatly increase the chance for success. Success in this case would mean leaders above will learn to trust and rely on subordinates in addition to seeking advice from them. As mentioned earlier, leadership is an ongoing process that takes time and energy. This is especially true when working with peers. The term "leadership loop" contains the following seven elements: caring, learning, appreciating, contributing, verbalizing, leading, and succeeding. The challenge here is to practice all of these components to help others succeed without taking short cuts. The leadership loop needs to be addressed constantly to lead across the organization successfully.

Leaders who lead down help people realize their potential, become a strong role model, and encourage others to become part of a higher purpose. Exceptional leaders develop their people so that those people get the job done at the highest level. Successful leaders find strength zones in their people. If employees are continually asked to work in their areas of weakness, they will quickly become demoralized and less productive.

No matter how many leaders an organization has, it always needs more 360-Degree ones to add value to the company. Good leaders build teams by being willing to hire people better than themselves, staying secure in their own roles, and by listening. The ongoing development of strong teams enables members of these groups to be leaders at every organizational level.

Organizations depend on leadership for them to be successful, and they must have 360-Degree Leaders. These leaders make an impact no matter where they are in the organization. Being a 360-Degree Leader is about winning respect and influencing peers to build a successful team environment. People can usually trace their successes and failures to the relationships in their lives. The quality of the relationship people have with their leaders impacts this success or failure, and is certainly worth the investment.

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