Thoughts on “A Leader’s Greatest Things”

This was in a great blog post by John Maxwell on leadership titled A Leader’s Greatest Things. Some of these things surprised me, but, as I thought about them, I realized how very true they all were. More thoughts after the excerpt.

1. The Leader’s Greatest Victory — Victory over Self.
2. The Leader’s Greatest Asset — Confidence.
3. The Leader’s Greatest Weight — Final Responsibility.
4. The Leader’s Greatest Discipline —Taking Time to Think.
5. The Leader’s Greatest Handicap — Pride.
6. The Leader’s Greatest Opportunity — Today.
7. The Leader’s Greatest Loss — Hope.
8. The Leader’s Greatest Mistake — Putting Self before Others.
9. The Leader’s Greatest Prayer — Wisdom.
10. The Leader’s Greatest Joy — Adding Value to Others.


These are all iterations of three main pillars: selflessness, discipline and work.


The greatest things that fall under selflessness are final responsibility, putting self before others, and adding value to others.

Taking the final responsibility for a project or a product means that you take the blame when something or everything goes wrong. This is the constant belief of a leader that, “It’s my fault.

Putting self before others is the constant err of humans, not just leaders. For leaders, this is a particularly serious mistake because other people’s time, resources, and sometimes lives are placed in your trust.

Adding value to others is similar to putting self after others. It is simply making sure that you are bettering other’s lives instead of just your own. It is making sure you show up for someone before expecting them to show up for you. This is being a servant rather than a tyrant.



A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Proverbs 25:28

The victories in the pillar of discipline include victory over self, taking time to think, and wisdom. Discipline is often under-appreciated, though every great leader practiced it. To have self-mastery, you must take time to reflect and understand who you are and what you believe. A leader who has mastered himself will also be far better equipped to grow a team. It takes time and mental energy to know each person on your team and to learn what they need to grow.

Wisdom is gained both in experience and through reflection. There are young men who are much wiser than some old men. This isn’t because of experience, it’s because the young man has taken the time to think and reflect on situations and the courage the think about them honestly.



One of the things I say to myself constantly is, “Work hard. Stay humble.” Hard work leads to confidence and today. Work is what stands between you and any dream you have. With work, you can be confident in high-stakes situations, prepared for emerging opportunities and able to make the most of opportunities.

The great opportunity in our lives is what we can do with today. We can relax, sit on the sofa, watch television, and enjoy a day of rest. Of course, rest is vital to a healthy life and I am an absolute believer in the value of true rest.

However, time is so often lost in partial rest, e.g. checking Facebook at work, watching television all weekend, putting off the things that matter for the things that satisfy in the moment. Bottom line: work harder than anyone else you know for your dreams and you will hit them or hit close.


The belief behind every mission statement, motivation and vision of a leader is that there is hope. Without hope, where would we go?

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What did I miss about a leader? Tweet or email me and let me know!


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Chris Cottrell

Chris Cottrell

Hi, I'm Chris, an MBA student at Georgetown. I write about business school, tech, and startups. Find me on Twitter.

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