Shreedhar on Maxwell’s Leadership Key #17 – Tenacious.

Review of Maxwell’s Leadership Keys: #17 – Tenacious

He’s a New York Times Bestselling management-guru and in “The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player” John C. Maxwell writes about being adaptable, or, as he puts it at the preface of the chapter, quoting Constantin Brancusi, “To see far is one thing; going there is another (Maxwell, 2002, p. 141).” He then quotes Rick Mears: “To finish first, you must finish (Maxwell, 2002, p. 141).”


In the final chapter of this powerful motivational book, Maxwell provides a personal example to drive home the concept of Tenacity….

When faced with the challenge of trying to accommodate the lifelong ambition of a friend, Dan, as they vacationed together as a group in England, Maxwell and friends, who came all the way from the United States, overcame seemingly huge obstacles to fulfill his wish, a trip which would have otherwise felt incomplete. The team’s objective, and especially Dan’s was to get a picture done in the exact manner and location where the Beatles had last recorded together, in the manner of one of their famous album covers – featuring John, Paul, George and Ringo, the ‘Beatles,’ walking across a pedestrian crosswalk. There were however a major impediment or two: getting the photograph done had been left until the very last day before departure, and construction equipment and workers were all around Abbey Lane making physical access to the location difficult:

“When we got there, we couldn’t believe it. The street was closed (Maxwell, 2002, p.143)!”

Then when they understood why we were there, they folded their arms, stood as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar, and told us it couldn’t be done (Maxwell, 2002, p. 144).”

Amidst strong opposition from the construction workers working in Abbey Lane, and a tiny window of opportunity, using cajoling and a never-give-up attitude, the group eventually succeeded in taking the photograph as the burly construction workers ultimately came on-side to facilitate instead of to impede progress. It was a job well done, as the photograph was taken on the very last day the friends would be returning back to theU.S.! Now the prize photograph sits as a reminder on Maxwell’s desk.

Despite poor timing, ordinary skills, and few people, Maxwell and his team succeeded in getting the picture done, which he attributes to sheer tenacity.

Maxwell advises checking for the following characteristics to see if you have developed tenacity. Thus here is how tenacity is defined: Giving All That You Have, Not More Than You Have, Working With Determination, Not Waiting On Destiny and Quitting When The Job Is Done, Not When You’re Tired. 

Fleshing it Out

Giving All That You Have, Not More Than You Have. Being tenacious, and affording yourself every opportunity to succeed, means …giving your all – though not necessarily more than 100%- certainly not less than 100%: “…General George Washington…during the entire course of the Revolutionary War…won only three battles…but he gave all he had, and when he did win, it counted (Maxwell, 2002, p.145).”

Working with Determination, Not Waiting on Destiny. As T. Edison once quipped, “I start where the last man left off (Maxwell, 2002, p.146).”

Quitting When the Job Is Done, Not When You’re Tired, or as put by motivational speaker and author Napoleon Hill, “Every successful person finds that great success lies just beyond the point when they’re convinced their idea is not going to work (Maxwell, 2002, p.147).” 

Reflecting on it

Maxwell asks us to reflect on how tenacious we are…if your team is down in the last few minutes of a game – do you give up, or can you be resilient or tenacious enough to win? I can relate to this from a personal example as I enjoyed Dragon boat racing the summer of June 2010, and our team struggled hard to eventually take second place in our first race! It was an upwind battle all the way through as Dragon boats were neck to neck….we were proud of our strong second place accomplishment. Tenacity meant us being adaptive and asking ourselves: could we push harder to finish? As Maxwell states, tenacity requires that we come back stronger next year, that we adapt for the team, and not expect the team to adapt for us.

Bringing it home

(Tips on becoming a more tenacious team player)

These tips are: working harder and/or smarter, to stand for something and to make work a game…. 

To work harder may mean putting in an additional 60 – 90 minutes daily (30 to 45 min. before and after work hours). To work smarter may mean optimizing the use of your time, especially if you are already burning the midnight oil just trying to keep up.

Maxwell says we should stand for something….how does daily work relate to your overall purpose? Review daily to stay emotionally involved with your purpose.

Maxwell’s idea of making work a game involves friendly competitions with colleagues at work to positively motivate one another.

grass in snow


Daily Take-Away

1859 was a year when the remarkable tenacity of one Ernest Malinowski was demonstrated, as he slowly but surely, carved a railway from sea level on the Pacific Ocean coast into the AndesMountains, a range second in height in the world only to the Himalayas. People said it wasn’t possible. TheAndes embody frigid conditions, glaciers, and a potential for volcanic activity. To cut through such a terrain requires remarkable engineering skills and abilities to motivate men. Switchbacks, zigzags and numerous major engineering feats including 100 tunnels and bridges, using relatively primitive construction equipment amidst high altitudes and mountainous terrain as obstacles – all were encountered – but in the end Malinowski and his men prevailed remaining a testament to the courage and tenacity of man over mountain as well as to someone we can all learn a great deal from.

Nilésh (Neil) Shreedhar.


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