By Audrey Bancroft of Regent University
I am proud to say that for this interview, I had the honor and privilege of interviewing someone who I admire greatly: the illustrious Jeanneane Maxon. Ms. Maxon is a high-profile attorney whose work over the last decade has been focused on the pro-life movement. Her cause, her leadership skills, her faith, and her bravery make her both influential and inspirational. Though in the midst of overcoming obstacles, she is as strong as ever.
The daughter of dedicated pro-life parents, Jeanneane and her siblings grew up helping around the Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC) that their mother directed. Although she had wanted to be a lawyer from the age of six, it was not until a few years into her law career that God showed her His plan for her work within the pro-life movement. After some time spent working at a private practice law firm, Maxon became discontent and restless as she heard God telling her to do something good with her law degree and her life. A devout Christian, she had always gotten perfect grades in school, including graduating summa cum laude from Westminster College and cum laude from Boston University School of Law (Smith, 2016). God clearly had amazing work for her to do to further His kingdom.
Because of the connections her mother had, Jeanneane became aware of a position at the headquarters of Care Net, one of the main parent organizations for Pregnancy Resource Centers in the United States. She became Care Net’s General Counsel and served as such for five years. In 2012, she felt God’s urging her to move on again, this time to Americans United for Life (AUL). The people at AUL are touted as being the “architects of the prolife movement” as the organization has taken great steps to pass legislation that protects at-risk unborn children and their mothers. Ms. Maxon resigned from AUL last year because of extreme headaches and the Lord’s prompting her to return home to her family in Texas. Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with malignant grade 4 brain cancer that required immediate surgery. Since then, she has been undergoing chemotherapy. Though she is currently on disability and focusing largely on her health, Jeanneane still manages to keep leading and to keep fighting for the lives of America’s pre-born citizens through her pro bono work for Care Net, her advisory roles in two pro-life organizations, her speaking engagements, and her writing. It was September of 2015 when I first met Jeanneane at a Care Net conference in San Diego, California when she was still with AUL and prior to her cancer diagnosis. It was there that I was first able to hear her speak and witness her joyful, wise, and gracious demeanor. It is abundantly clear that she is doing the work of God.
Biblically, I notice several parallels between Jeanneane’s life and leadership and that of the prophet Elijah. Ms. Maxon did not originally plan on being a leader in the pro-life movement, but God provided the opportunity and the direction that got her to where she is today. “Like many of the prophets, Elijah did not seek to be God’s messenger. Instead, God chose him for the job. Once called, Elijah did not hesitate to take on his mission, even though it appeared that his life would be threatened by the wicked king” (Moen, 2016). Similarly, the atmosphere of Ms. Maxon’s cause is oftentimes hostile and many of the rulers of our country object to her God-ordained mission. In Elijah’s time, the king and the people were largely worshipers of Baal and Ashtoreth (1 Kings 17-18) Nowadays, in Maxon’s time, the government leaders and the people are largely “worshipers” of “self” and of convenience. “Abortion has the same intended outcome of personal and family prosperity as did the sacrifice of a child at the altar of [Baal] Moloch” (Murray, 2011). Both Jeanneane and Elijah show qualities of being leaders who take action, not just make plans. “Being a [person] of action is essential in leading others because aside from thinking of the things to do, he will have to execute them and set an example for his followers” (Tan, 2016). Both completely fueled by faith in God, both Elijah and Jeanneane have used their lives as examples to others in order to lead, and both leaders have been successful in their efforts to lessen the foothold of the presence of Satan in the land and amplify God’s purposes.
Though being largely motived by the tasks at hand, when assigning a leadership style, Ms. Maxon appears to be a great balance of “task” style and “relationship” style. She told me a story about a time when she was thirteen years old. There was a death in the family and the responsibility fell on her to care for fourteen younger children (siblings and other family) while the adults took care of the tasks and experienced the grief surrounding the family’s loss. She remembers it as being challenging, but also a good introduction to leadership. She saw something that needed to be done, and though it was challenging, she stepped up to help the ones she loved. While she has always been someone that “steps up to the plate” and does what is needed, she also constantly celebrates the people in her life. Currently, while she looks ahead and dreams up what she will accomplish next, she is using this time while she is fighting cancer to homeschool her nephew. Her decisions seem to be rooted in listening to God to form a continuous fusion of task and relationship. She is always focused on how she can accomplish tasks in order to serve people.
In the book by Northouse (2015, p. 123), leadership skills are grouped into three categories, “administrative skills, interpersonal skills, and conceptual skills”. Of these three areas, I am inclined to believe that Ms. Maxon’s strengths in these areas are mostly a combination of interpersonal skills and conceptual skills. Her interpersonal skills are made evident with her ability to stand for life during all of its stages, while also understanding the plight of women and families facing unintended pregnancy. She combines grace and justice, fighting for truth while remaining loving and tender to those on the other side of the issue. She clearly has a strong sense of humanity and empathy. Her conceptual skills are made evident in her influential work as a lawyer and the strides made within the pro-life community in the years since she has been a part of the mission. Last year, a press release by pro-life group Operation Rescue celebrated Jeanneane’s achievements saying:
Maxon’s instrumental and sacrificial team-building work with AUL contributed to a flood of new pro-life legislation that has led to a dramatic number abortion clinic closures and a reduction in abortions in America to historic new lows (Operation Rescue, 2016).
Though she herself is being celebrated as the one implementing change and influencing hearts, when asked what makes a good leader, she said, “an element of humility and perspective” and also to listen to others with different beliefs and views (J. Maxon, personal communication, September 23, 2016). The idea that we as leaders know more than everyone else is completely incorrect and harmful. If we keep the lines of communication open in our leader and follower relationships, it is beneficial for everyone involved. She spoke of how Christian leaders cannot get too wrapped up in what they themselves are trying to do, but rather must realize that “it’s about the mission and Christ” (J. Maxon, personal communication, September 23, 2016). Listening to all members on a team and also listening to opponents is important for a well-rounded view.
That being said, knowing that these traits make a good leader does not mean that what has occurred from implementing these ideas has always been easy for her. One of the greatest challenges of leadership, she said, involves when we do listen but we do not see eye-to-eye with people. The thing to meet this challenge, is good communication and the leader’s ability to “rise above… even when people are nasty” (J. Maxon, personal communication, September 23, 2016). Basically, leaders need to remember how to deal with difficult people graciously. She spoke of the strength that comes when leaders can take the challenge of “not seeing eye-to-eye” and use it as a strengthening thing instead of a problem. Taking differences in perspective as an opportunity for the leader to grow is what she recommends. Another thing she has struggled with more personally in her leadership, is her ability to delegate tasks: she wants to be able to do everything on her own. Although this is her natural inclination and weakness, she acknowledges it and works to keep it in check. This idea fits in well with the Centre of Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) Assessment and the advice that comes with it when the text “suggests that effective people try to minimize their weaknesses so as to make them irrelevant or of less concern” (Northouse, 2015, p. 60).
Jeanneane Maxon is a highly-influential woman who was created by God for great purposes. Her strong faith, flexibility, and influence will surely continue to help her advance. When asked about her plans for the future, she spoke of how every time she has thought she knew what “the plan” was, it has ended up changing; plot twist after plot twist. I can relate to this concept as I am sure many people can. Keeping the vision of “serving God” as our driving force, obeying Him, and leaving the details to Him is a wise practice. Nowadays, she aspires to be healthy, to travel, and to be a consultant and speaker. She hopes to use her experience with cancer to bring others to Christ.
In my opinion, the key to her continuing to live up to her potential is to focus on balance. She is on the right track in this regard; neither overdoing her activities nor letting her talents atrophy as her body heals. Since delegating tasks has always been a challenge for her, this season of life as she fights cancer gives her an opportunity to grow in this area since more than ever she needs to accept support and more than ever she needs to rely solely on God. It is a chance to rejuvenate, grow, reflect, and see what God’s will is in this next chapter. Jeanneane, both as a leader and as a person, is like the woman of noble character spoken of in Proverbs 31:
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness (NLT, 25-26).
I am certain that Jeanneane has endless potential for advancement and growth. She is a visionary whose passions are for serving Christ, defending the weak, and bringing justice to a depraved world. She is always eager to both learn and teach, and when she looks at challenges she sees them as opportunities. With strengths like hers, great things are bound to happen.
Murray, William. (2011). http://www.religiousfreedomcoalition.org/2011/01/21/worshiping- moloch-%E2%80%93-the-human-sacrifice-of-children-to-assure-prosperity/
Northouse, Peter. (2015). Introduction to Leadership (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE
Operation Rescue. (4 January, 2016). Pro-Life Person of the Year Recipient: Jeanneane Maxon.
Retrieved from http://www.operationrescue.org/archives/operation-rescues-2015-pro- life-person-of-the-year/
Smith, Warren. (7 January, 2016). Pro-life Leader Jeanneane Maxon on Hearing God.
Retrieved from https://world.wng.org/2016/01/pro_life_leader_jeanneane_maxon_on_hearing_god
Tan, Karel. (2016). Leadership Quality from the Prophet Elijah. Leadership Qualities From the Bible, Infogram. Retrieved from https://infogr.am/LEADERSHIP-QUALITIES-FROM-THE-BIBLE