John Maxwell receives honorary doctorate, shares leadership advice with students at Liberty University Commencement

Lynchburg, VA —During Liberty University’s Friday morning Commencement ceremony, keynote speaker John C. Maxwell, the world’s foremost authority on business and leadership training, received an honorary Doctor of Business.

“We’d like to present him an honorary degree because of his outstanding service of being a Champion for Christ, loving the Lord, serving the Lord, and training leaderships across this country and around the world,” said President Jerry Prevo, who presented the doctorate along with Provost and Chief Academic Officer Scott Hicks.

Maxwell has advised Fortune 500 CEOs, the presidents of nations, and entrepreneurs worldwide. The multiple #1 New York Times bestselling author, speaker, coach, and leader has sold more than 34 million books in 50 languages. He is the founder of Maxwell Leadership — a leadership development organization that has trained tens of millions of leaders in every nation. 

Liberty’s Commencement was a special family celebration for Maxwell. He received a surprise introduction by his granddaughter, Hannah Maxwell, a Liberty graduate, and was joined on stage by his son, Joel, also a member of the Class of 2022.

In his Commencement address, Maxwell shared advice that he said he wishes he had been given when he crossed the graduation stage.

He told the students to focus on “getting better” instead of gravitating toward getting bigger, sharing the story of how the late Chick-fil-A founder and his friend Truett Cathy found this to be true for building what is now one of the most popular and successful fast food companies in America.

“Truett Cathy realized that you’ve got to be bigger on the inside before you can be bigger on the outside,” Maxwell said. “You’ve got to be better on the inside before you can be better on the outside.”

Maxwell encouraged students to take a different view of failure than the world — to understand that you can receive an ROF, or “a return on failure,” and use it to learn humility and resilience.

“All your life, in our culture, you’ve been taught to separate success and failure. I’m here to tell you today … I want you to keep success and failure side by side. They belong together, they do not belong separated. … They not only belong together, they need each other. You separate them and you get arrogance in success and defeat in failure.”

He shared his personal definition of success, which is when those closest to him are the people who love and respect him the most.

“If people who don’t know you well like you better than those who do (know you well), you’re in trouble,” he said.

Liberty celebrated over 23,000 graduates in the Class of 2022. The Commencement was a culmination of the university’s 50th Anniversary celebration, honoring the original vision and the unwavering mission of Training Champions for Christ.