21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership | Notes & Review

Posted on August 27, 2010

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John Maxwell. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You.Thomas Nelson, 1998. (231 pages)

As you read the following chapters, keep in mind:

  1. The laws can be learned.
  2. The laws can stand alone.
  3. The laws carry consequences with them.
  4. These laws are the foundation of leadership.

1 – THE LAW OF THE LID

Leadership Ability Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness

Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential. The higher the leadership, the greater the effectiveness. If your leadership rates and 8, then your effectiveness can never be greater than a 7. If your leadership is only a 4, then your effectiveness will be no higher than a 3. Your leadership ability — for better or for worse — always determines your effectiveness and the potential impact of your organization. (1)

The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership. The greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence needs to be.

I believe that success is within the reach of just about everyone. But I also believe that personal success without leadership ability brings only limited effectiveness. (6) [see graphic above.]

Personal and organizational effectiveness is proportionate to the strength of leadership.

You can find smart, talented, successful people who are able to go only so far because of the limitations of their leadership.

2 – THE LAW OF INFLUENCE

The True Measure of Leadership is Influence — Nothing More, Nothing Less

You have achieved excellence as a leader when people will follow you everywhere if only out of curiosity – Colin Powell

FIVE MYTHS ABOUT LEADERSHIP

1. The Management Myth. The best way to test whether a person can lead rather than just manage is to ask him to create positive change. Managers can maintain direction, but they can’t change it.

The only thing a title can buy is a little time — either to increase your level of influence with others or to erase it.

2. The Entrepreneur Myth. People may be buying what they sell, but they’re not following.

3. The Knowledge Myth. IQ doesn’t necessarily equate to leadership.

4. The Pioneer Myth. Being first isn’t always the same as leading

5. The Position Myth. “It’s not the position that makes the leader; it’s the leader that makes the position.” – Stanley Huffty

LEADERSHIP WITHOUT LEVERAGE

The very essence of all power to influence lies in getting the other person to participate. – Harry A. Overstreet

Here is my favorite leadership proverb: “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” If you can’t influence others, they won’t follow you. And if htey won’t follow, you’re not a leader. That’s the Law of Influence. No matter what anybody else tells you, remember that leadership is influence — nothing more, nothing less. (20)

3 – THE LAW OF PROCESS

Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day

Becoming a leader is a lot like investing successfully in the stock market. If your hope is to make a fortune in a day, you’re not going to be successful.

LEADERS ARE LEARNERS

“It is the capacity to develop and improve skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers.” – Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus. Successful leaders are learners. And the learning process is ongoing, a result of self-discipline and perseverance. The goal each day must be to get a little better, to build on the previous day’s progress.

THE FOUR PHASES OF LEADERSHIP GROWTH

1. I don’t know what I don’t know. As long as a person doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, he doesn’t grow.

2. I know what I don’t know. “To be conscious that you are ignorant of the fact is a great step to knowledge.” – Benjamin Disraeli

3. I grow and know and it starts to show. “The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his time when it comes.” – Benjamin Disraeli

4. I simply go because of what I know.

To lead tomorrow, learn today.

Champions don’t become champions in the ring — they are merely recognized there.

4 – THE LAW OF NAVIGATION

Anyone Can Steer the Ship, But It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course

A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do. – Leroy Eims, Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be.

Navigators draw on past experiences (37), listen to what others have to say (38), examine the conditions before making commitments (38), and make sure their conclusions represent both faith and fact (38).

No matter how much you learn from the past, it will never tell you all you need to know for the present. (38)

Sometimes it’s difficult balancing optimism and realism, intuition and planning, faith and fact. But that’s what it takes to be effective as a navigating leader. (39)

If the leader can’t navigate people through rough waters, he is liable to sink the ship. (39)

P.L.A.N. A.H.E.A.D.:

Predetermine a Course of Action.
Lay Out Your Goals.
Adjust Your Priorities.
Notify Key Personnel.

Allow Time for Acceptance.
Head into Action.
Expect Problems.
Always Point to the Successes.
Daily Review Your Plan

Major barriers to successful planning are fear of change, ignorance, uncertainty about the future, and lack of imagination.

The secret to the Law of Navigation is preparation. (42)

5 – THE LAW OF E.F. HUTTON

When the Real Leader Speaks, People Listen

The real leader holds the power, not just the position.

Being in power is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t. – Margaret Thatcher

If you see a disparity between who’s leading the meeting and who’s leading the people, then the person running the meeting is not the real leader.

POSITIONAL LEADERS speak first, need the influence of the real leader to get things done, and influence only other positional leaders.

REAL LEADERS speak later, need only their own influence to get things done, and influence everyone in the room.

PEOPLE BECOME REAL LEADERS BECAUSE OF…

  1. CHARACTER — WHO THEY ARE
  2. RELATIONSHIPS — WHO THEY KNOW
  3. KNOWLEDGE — WHAT THEY KNOW
  4. INTUITION — WHAT THEY FEEL
  5. EXPERIENCE — WHERE THEY’VE BEEN
  6. PAST SUCCESSES — WHAT THEY’VE DONE
  7. ABILITY — WHAT THEY CAN DO

People listen not necessarily because of the truth being communicated in the message, but because of their respect for the speaker.

6 – THE LAW OF SOLID GROUND

Trust Is the Foundation of Leadership

When it comes to leadership, you just can’t take shortcuts, no matter how long you’ve been leading your people.

To build trust, a leader must exemplify competence, connection, and character.

Character makes trust possible. And trust makes leadership possible. That is the Law of Solid Ground.

No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character – John Morley

How do leaders earn respect? By making sound decisions, admitting their mistakes, and putting what’s best for their followers and the organization ahead of their personal agendas.

The only thing that walks back from the bomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried is the character of a man. This is true. What a man survives him. It can never be buried. – J.R. Miller

7 – THE LAW OF RESPECT

People Naturally Follow Leaders Stronger Than Themselves

When people respect someone as a person, they admire her. When they respect her as a friend, they love her. When they respect her as a leader, they follow her.

When people get together for the first time as a group, take a look at what happens. As they start interacting, the leaders in the group immediately take charge. They think in terms of the direction they desire to go and who they want to take with them. At first, people may make tentative moves in several different directions, but after the people get to know one another, it doesn’t take long for them to recognize the strongest leaders and to follow them. (71)

Usually the more leadership ability a person has, the more quickly he recognizes leadership — or its lack — in others. In time, people in the group get on board and follow the strongest leaders. Either that or they leave the gorup and pursue their own agenda. (73)

The leader must know, must know he knows, and must be able to make it abundantly clear to those around him that he knows. – Clarence B. Randall

The greatest test of respect comes when a leader creates major change in an organization.

8 – THE LAW OF INTUITION

Leaders Evaluate Everything with a Leadership Bias

The best leaders read and respond. (77) The great ones can see things others can’t, make changes, and move forward before others know what’s happening. (78) It’s informed intuition. (78) Leadership is their bias (79).

A leader has to read the situation and know instinctively what play to call.

Schwarzkpof was repeatedly able to turn bad situations around as the result of his exceptional leadership intuition.

People need a goal to galvanize them.

HOW LEADERS THINK

They are readers of their situation, (82) readers of trends, (83) readers of their resources, (83) readers of people, and readers of themselves. (83)

Leaders who want to succeed maximize every asset and resource they have for the benefit of their organization.

Who you are dictates what you see.

THREE LEVELS OF LEADERSHIP INTUITION

1. Those who naturally see it, 2. Those who are nurtured to see it, 3. Those who will never see it.

Whenever leaders find themselves facing a problem, they automatically measure it — and begin solving it — using the Law of Intuition.

Improvement is impossible without a change in leadership.

Leadership is more art than science.

9 – THE LAW OF MAGNETISM

Who You Are Is Who You Attract

Effective leaders are always on the lookout for good people. (89)

What you get is not determined by what you want. It’s determined by who you are.

People like you will see you out.

It is possible for a leader to go out and recruit people unlike himself, but those are not the people he will naturally attract.

If you think your people are negative, then you better check your attitude.

Take a look at the following characteristics. You will probably find that you and the people who follow you share common ground in several of these key areas: ATTITUDE, GENERATION, BACKGROUND, VALUES, LIFE EXPERIENCE, and LEADERSHIP ABILITY.

The better leader you are, the better leaders you will attract.

If you think the people you attract could be better, then it’s time for you to improve yourself.

10 – THE LAW OF CONNECTION

Leaders Touch a Heart Before They Ask for a Hand

[VIA: Reminds me of Simon Sinek’s TED Talk]

You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with emotion. The heart comes before the head.

The stronger the relationship and connection between individuals, the more likely the follower will want to help the leader.

To connect with people in a group, relate to them as individuals.

It’s the leader’s job to initiate connection with the people.

The tougher the challenge, the greater the connection. (106)

It may sound corny, but it’s really true: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

On Boss’s Day in 1994 a full-age ad appeared in USA Today. It was contracted and paid for by the employees of Southwest Airlines, and it was addressed to Herb Kelleher, the company’s CEO:

Thanks, Herb
For remembering everyone one of our names.
For supporting the Ronald McDonald House.
For helping load baggage on Thanksgiving.
For giving everyone a kiss (and we mean everyone).
For listening.
For running the only profitable major airline.
For singing at our holiday party.
For singing only once a year.
For letting us wear shorts and sneakers to work.
For golfing at The LUV Classic with only only one club.
For outtalking Sam Donaldson.
For riding your Harley Davidson into Southwest Headquarters.
For being a friend, not just a boss.
Happy Boss’s Day from Each One of Your 16,000 Employees

Don’t ever underestimate the importance of building relational bridges between yourself and the people you lead. There’s an old saying:

To lead yourself, use your head; to lead others, use your heart.

11 – THE LAW OF THE INNER CIRCLE

A Leader’s Potential Is Determined by Those Closest to Him

When you have the right staff, potential skyrockets.

THREE PHASES TO NEW GROWTH

Mentally divide the people into three groups according to their ability to lead and deliver the results. Start with the bottom third, then the middle third, then the top third, replacing them with good, better, and best leaders.

There are no Lone Ranger leaders. Think about it: If you’re alone, you’re not leading anybody, are you?

Under the best circumstances, a leader should try to raise up people for his inner circle from within his organization. (114) Hewlett-Packard manager Ned Barnhold believes there are three groups of people in an organization when it comes to their response to leadership and its impact: (1) those who get it almost immediately and they’re off and running with it; (2) those who are skeptical and not sure what to do with it; and (3) another third who start out negative and hope it will go away.

I use to spend most of my time with those who were the most negative, trying to convince them to change. Now I spend my time with the people in the first [group]. I’m investing in my best assets. – Barnholt

You should try to bring five types of people into your inner circle.

  1. POTENTIAL VALUE — those who raise up themselves. The first ability that every leader must have is the ability to lead and motivate himself. Always keep your eyes open for people with potential.
  2. POSITIVE VALUE — those who raise morale in the organization.
  3. PERSONAL VALUE — those who raise up the leader. It’s lonely at the top, so you’d better take someone with you.
  4. PRODUCTION VALUE — those who raise up others.
  5. PROVEN VALUE — those who raise up people who raise up other people.

NEVER STOP IMPROVING YOUR INNER CIRCLE

Hire the best staff you can find, develop them as much as you can, and hand off everything you possibly can to them. (117)

12 THE LAW OF EMPOWERMENT

Only Secure Leaders Give Power to Others

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. – Theodore Roosevelt

The people’s capacity to achieve is determined by their leader’s ability to empower.

BARRIERS TO EMPOWERMENT: Desire for job security, resistance to change, lack of self-worth.

The only way to make yourself indispensable is to make yourself dispensable.

Great things can happen when you don’t care who gets the credit. – Mark Twain

13 – THE LAW OF REPRODUCTION

It Takes a Leader to Raise Up a Leader

What prompted men and women who attended [my leadership conferences] to become leaders?

Natural Gifting – 10%
Result of Crisis – 5%
Influence of Another Leader – 85%

People cannot give to others what they themselves do not possess. Followers simply cannot develop leaders.

To keep others down, you have to go down with them. (137)

WE TEACH WHAT WE KNOW — WE REPRODUCE WHAT WE ARE

Leaders who develop other leaders…

  • SEE THE BIG PICTURE.
  • ATTRACT POTENTIAL LEADERS. “Leaders don’t flock. You have to find them one at a time.” – Ross Perot. True. But as the Law of Magnetism also suggests, if you first develop your leadership qualities, you will be capable of attracting people with leadership potential.
  • CREATE AN EAGLE ENVIRONMENT. An environment where leadership is valued and taught becomes an asset to a leadership mentor. It not only attracts “eagles,” but it also helps them to learn to fly.

14 – THE LAW OF BUY-IN

People Buy Into the Leader, Then the Vision

The leader finds the dream and then the people. The people find the leader, and then the dream. (145)

People don’t at first follow worthy causes. They follow worthy leaders who promote worthwhile causes. In other words, YOU ARE THE MESSAGE. [VIA: Reminds me of McLuhan]

People want to go along with people they get along with.

You cannot separate the leader from the cause he promotes. It cannot be done, no matter how hard you try. It’s not an either/or proposition. The two always go together. (147)

  • When followers don’t like the leader or the vision, THEY LOOK FOR ANOTHER LEADER.
  • When followers don’t like the leader but they do like the vision, THEY STILL LOOK FOR ANOTHER LEADER.
  • When followers like the leader but not the vision, THEY CHANGE THE VISION.
  • When followers like the leader and the vision, THEY WILL GET BEHIND BOTH.

As a leader, you don’t earn any points for failing in a noble cause. You don’t get credit for being “right.” Your success is measured by your ability to actually take the people where they need to go. (151)

15 – THE LAW OF VICTORY

Leaders Find a Way for the Team to Win

Victorious leaders feel the alternative to winning is totally unacceptable, so they figure out what must be done to achieve victory, and then they go after it with everything at their disposal.

What is our aim? I answer in one word: Victory — victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. – Winston Churchill

When the pressure is on, great leaders are at their best. Whatever is inside them comes to the surface.

THREE COMPONENTS OF VICTORY:

1. Unity of Vision. A team doesn’t win the championship if its players have different agendas.

2. Diversity of Skills.

3. A Leader Dedicated To Victory and Raising Players To Their Potential.

You’ve got to have great athletes to win, I don’t care who the coach is. You can’t win without good athletes, but you can lose with them. This is where coaching makes the difference. – Lou Holtz

Leaders who practice the Law of Victory have no Plan B. That keeps them fighting.

16 –  THE LAW OF THE BIG MO

Momentum Is a Leader’s Best Friend

TWO KEYS: Preparation and Motivation. Leaders always find a way to make things happen. (168)

ONLY A LEADER CAN CREATE MOMENTUM: Harry Truman once said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” But for leaders, that statement should be changed to read, “If you can’t make some heat, get out of the kitchen.” (171)

TRUTHS ABOUT MOMENTUM:

  • Momentum makes leaders look better than they are.
  • Momentum helps followers perform better than they are.
  • Momentum is easier to steer than to start.
  • Momentum is the most powerful change agent.

With enough momentum, nearly any kind of change is possible.

17 – THE LAW OF PRIORITIES

Leaders Understand That Activity Is Not Necessarily Accomplishment

A leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, “Wrong jungle!” – Stephen Covey

There are many things that will catch my eye, but there are only a few things that will catch my heart – Tim Redmond

To be effective, leaders must order their lives according to these three questions:

  1. What is required? Always begin with what is required of you.
  2. What gives the greatest return? If something can be done 80 percent as well by someone else in your organization, delegate it. If a responsibility could potentially meet that standard, then develop a person to handle it.
  3. What brings the greatest reward?

18 – THE LAW OF SACRIFICE

A Leader Must Give Up to Go Up

Leadership means setting an example. When you find yourself in a position of leadership, people follow your every move. – Lee Iacocca

As you rise in leadership, responsibilities increase and rights decrease.

When you become a leader, you lose the right to think about yourself. – Gerald Brooks

If leaders have to give up to go up, then they have to give up even more to stay up.

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The higher the level of leadership people want to reach, the greater the sacrifices they will have to make.

19 – THE LAW OF TIMING

When to Lead Is As Important As What to Do and Where to Go

Every time a leader makes a move, there are really only four outcomes that can result:

  1. The wrong action at the wrong time leads to disaster.
  2. The right action at the wrong time brings resistance.
  3. The wrong action at the right time is a mistake.
  4. The right action at the right time results in success.

If a leader repeatedly shows poor judgment, even in little things, people start to think that having him as the leader is the real mistake.

When the right leader and the right timing come together, incredible things happen.

20 – THE LAW OF EXPLOSIVE GROWTH

To Add Growth, Lead followers — To Multiply, Lead Leaders

It’s my job to build the people who are going to build the company. – John Schnatter.

Any leader who practices the Law of Explosive Growth makes the shift from follower’s math to leader’s math.

A DIFFERENT FOCUS:

Leaders Who Develop Followers

  • Need to be needed
  • Focus on weaknesses
  • Develop the bottom 20 percent
  • Treat people the same for “fairness”
  • Hoard power
  • Spend time with others
  • Grow by addition
  • Impact only people they touch personally

Leaders Who Develop Leaders

  • Want to be succeeded
  • Focus on strengths
  • Develop the top 20 percent
  • Treat their leaders as individuals for impact
  • Give power away
  • Grow by multiplication
  • Impact people far beyond their own reach

21 – THE LAW OF LEGACY

A Leader’s Lasting Value Is Measured by Succession

Leadership is one of the things you cannot delegate. You either exercise it, or you abdicate it. – Robert Goizueta

LEADERS WHO LEAVE A LEGACY OF SUCCESSION…

  • Lead the organization with a “long view.” They lead with tomorrow as well as today in mind.
  • Create a leadership culture.
  • Pay the price today to assure success tomorrow.
  • Value team leadership above individual leadership. The larger the organization, the stronger, larger, and deeper the team of leaders needs to be.
  • Walk away from the organization with integrity.

A legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.

When all is said and done, your ability as a leader will not be judged by what you achieved personally or even by what your team accomplished during your tenure. You will be judged by how well your people and your organization did after you were gone. (224)

CONCLUSION

Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership

The more you try to do in life, the more you will find that leadership makes the difference. Any endeavor you can undertake that involves other people will live or die depending on leadership. As you work to build your organization, remember this:

  • Personnel determine the potential of the organization.
  • Relationships determine the morale of the organization.
  • Structure determines the size of the organization.
  • Vision determines the direction of the organization.
  • Leadership determines the success of the organization.

— VIA —

I read this years ago, and I felt it truly set me on a track for being a better leader. Years later, in the midst of a very, very challenging leadership situation at our church, I decided to pick it up again (after one of my staff members referenced one of the laws in one of our many discussions about our current reality). I find that these principles ring more true now than they did almost 10 years ago when I bought this book.

May I become truly the best leader God has designed me to be. May I live these principles well, with humility, respect, passion, and commitment.




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