Interview with John Maxwell on the Neuroscience of Leadership + Tips on How to Lead During a Crisis, and Why We Need to Fail More

Yes, we are in the midst of a global crisis. For many people, life is incredibly challenging right now. It is easy to lose hope, and fear what will happen in the future. But did you know that you can also use this time to grow as a person, learn how to make the most of living in the moment and discover the unique opportunities that present themselves?

It is often the case in life that something good is birthed out of something bad. Crises can be watershed moments, compelling us to get out of our comfort zones, teaching us to embrace our fears and helping us make the most of living in the moment, as I discuss in this week’s podcast with leadership expert and best-selling author John Maxwell. Even though events like the current COVID-19 pandemic can disrupt our schedules and plans, we can still find clarity in the present, and make the most of the only time we know we have: right now.

As John points out, it’s okay to be uncertain but it is not okay to be unclear. Today matters: you want to be very clear on what to do right now. Whether you are a leader or not, you can learn how to live in the moment and make the most of today, getting through the problem to find the opportunity, rather than begrudging the crisis and how it has changed your life. Don’t undervalue the power of the present, don’t overexaggerate what happened yesterday, and don’t overestimate the value of tomorrow.

The thing is, true leaders don’t provide all the answers in a time of crisis. They provide awareness and help prepare, which allows people to do well in the moment. They take it day by day, thinking about what they do now that can bring great value, and asking themselves three essential questions:

  1. What are my responsibilities? What or who do I have to take care of today?
  1. What are my priorities? What can I do right now to get the highest return?
  1. What are my possibilities? Many of us have something that we needed or wanted to do but didn’t have the time. Well, now we have the time! So, lay out your plans, write that book, start learning that language—there is no time like the present.

It is important to remember that crisis causes distraction, which is opposite of traction (as I discussed in recent blog and podcast episode #127). When we focus on the moment, however, we bring a degree of stability and clarity to an uncertain situation, which opens up possibilities for the present and the future, allowing us to get creative and use our imagination.

The truth is, you can choose to focus on what you can do now, rather than what you fear may happen. Remember, where you put your focus is where you put your mental energy, which shapes your perspective. The more we think about something, the more it will grow and become a mental habit!

Yes, we are going to be afraid at times, especially during a pandemic—this is completely normal! In fact, this fear creates a shift, moving us out of homeostasis and getting us out of out comfort zones. Fear can be a powerful motivator: we want to get back to feeling balanced, which can help us find opportunities to learn and grow during a crisis, if we embrace and face our fears and reconceptualize them. If we give up and just let our fears take over, however, we will fall, but, even then, we can pull ourselves up again! The human mind is incredibly resilient, and it is never too late to change the way we think and deal with any situation, so don’t beat yourself up if you fail!

Fear of the unknown and failure are actually an important part of the success cycle, which has three main elements:

  1. Testing: we have to try a lot of new things we don’t know, which is the only way to find answers.
  2. Failing: when we do a lot of testing, we do a lot of failing. We are never good the first time
  3. Learning: when we test and fail, we learn a lot about what does and doesn’t work.

Failure has terrific value. It goes along with success: the more we fail, the more we learn. Failure is an essential part of success, because if we don’t learn from something then we repeat it!

Failure also helps us keep on keeping on. When we keep testing, failing and learning, we keep moving; we don’t just rest on our laurels and become stagnant. The cycle of success never let’s us say we are finished. This works in tandem with the brain, which is designed to be constantly stimulated. When we cross the finish line, we are finished, mentally and physically!

For more information on leadership, success and mental health, listen to my podcast with John (episode #154), check out his website, podcast, books, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. If you enjoy listening to my podcast please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing! And keep sharing episodes with friends and family, and on social media (don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).

My new app SWITCH is a great tool for helping people deal with the root of their anxiety and burnout, overcome negative thought patterns and behaviors through the mental process of reconceptualization, that is facing and dealing with what is causing them distress before it takes over their lives. It is now on sale less 50% for a 3-month subscription, so check it out today!

Podcast Time Stamps

7:29 Why leaders have to lead differently in times of crisis

9:00 The power of living in the moment 

14:10 The scientific value of the present 

16:30 If we prepare today, we don’t have to repair tomorrow

21:00 How to use fear to your advantage 

29:22 The cycle of success 

42:29 Uncertainty as an opportunity 

46:30 The secret power of creativity 

If you would like to learn more about success and mental health, join me at my Mental Health Solutions Summit in Dallas, TX December 3-5, 2020! This conference is for everyone: teachers, CEOs, students, parents, doctors, life coaches...everyone! For more information and to register click hereEarly bird special pricing end 4/30!

Switch On Your Brain is providing this podcast as a public service. Reference to any specific viewpoint or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by our organization. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. If you have any questions about this disclaimer, please contact

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