Saturday, June 28, 2008

John Maxwell's Laws of Leadership

In a previous book review, I noted that John Maxwell's books regarding the laws of teamwork were essential reading to any leader (defined as anyone in a position of influence, which includes pretty much all of us).

By the same token, Maxwell's book "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" is also a profound read for any leader.  I have listed the original 21 laws below.  Note that if you are able to obtain the newest version of his book, there are two laws that are different than my notes below.  The "Law of the Picture" replaces the "Law of E.F. Hutton" and the "Law of Addition" replaces the "Law of Reproduction".

Those interested in this book and looking for ways for their personal and spiritual life to co-exist may also be interested in "The Maxwell Leadership Bible", where Maxwell overlays his laws over the Bible.  It is an equally powerful read.

This book, with all of John Maxwell's other books, are powerful tools for today's leaders.

To your leadership success.


1. “The Law of the Lid: Leadership Ability Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness”

Brothers Dick and Maurice McDonald had a talent for the restaurant business. As American culture became dependent on cars, they developed methods to serve food to customers on the run. They eventually streamlined their business, and primarily sold hamburgers. People in the restaurant business traveled to their hamburger joint to learn their efficient methods. Yet, the McDonald brothers failed when they attempted to franchise their idea. Why? Because they lacked overarching leadership ability. Their partner, Ray Kroc, had the vision and skill to make McDonald’s a marketplace phenomenon. Dedication to success is important, and so is talent and intelligence, but without leadership ability, you’ll only get so far.

2. “The Law of Influence: The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less”

True leadership cannot be bestowed, it must be earned. In 1996, a London Daily Mail poll showed that the public considered Mother Teresa and Princess Diana to be the most caring two people in the world, though neither held political office. People listened to them, and they used their influence to accomplish great things. Leading and managing are two different tasks, but the idea that good managers make good leaders is a common misconception. Leaders influence people while managers focus on running smooth operations. Entrepreneurs are not necessarily leaders. Even innovators may lack the ability to build organizations. Another misconception is that being first, being given a leadership job, or having great knowledge makes you a leader. Only hard work and dedication can do that.

3. “The Law of Process: Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day”

If you cannot identify the subjects you’re ignorant about, you won’t know what you need to learn. Once you figure that out, you can begin to develop your leadership skills by filling in the gaps in your knowledge. As your knowledge grows, so will your leadership ability. As you absorb leadership lessons, leading will become second nature. Real success comes from building your enterprise day by day.

4. “The Law of Navigation: Anyone Can Steer the Ship, But It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course”

Leadership requires planning and forethought. Consider what you are asking others to follow you into doing. Preparedness is the main secret of this law. Decide what you’re going to do, and tell key staff members your goals. Allow time for them to accept the course you’ve proposed. Be prepared for problems, but always highlight their successes. Each day, review the course you’ve set.

5. “The Law of E.F. Hutton: When the Real Leader Speaks, People Listen”

The person with the title, the one running the meeting, may not be the real leader. True leadership depends on influence. The man or woman to whom people listen is the actual leader. Real leaders have strength of character, build good relationships and know a lot about their work. They have strong intuition and plain, raw talent.

6. “The Law of Solid Ground: Trust Is the Foundation of Leadership”

The trust of your followers is your most valuable asset as a leader. People want to believe in your character. If you make a mistake and don’t acknowledge it, you will breed mistrust.

7. “The Law of Respect: People Naturally Follow Leaders Stronger than Themselves”

Strong people look for strong leaders, based on respect and depth of character. Harriet Tubman, an African-American abolitionist, was very short, she lacked two front teeth and she never dressed well. Despite her appearance, people respected her enormously. In time, some of the country’s most important people invited her into their homes to seek her counsel.

8. “The Law of Intuition: Leaders Evaluate Everything with a Leadership Bias”

Intuition is a difficult quality to define. You develop intuition over time, through experience, but you must be ready to implement it in a heartbeat. Intuition enables leaders to read their circumstances, other people and available resources, and to integrate that understanding so they can act specifically within a broader context. Intuition offers a creative way to connect problems with solutions by viewing every situation through the lens of leadership. Apple’s Steve Jobs is an excellent intuitive leader. He has an uncanny ability to present innovations that capture consumers’ imagination. He views every technology, every partnership and every employee as a resource he can use as he leads his company into new markets.

9. “The Law of Magnetism: Who You Are Is Who You Attract”

Generally the people you attract will have qualities that are similar to yours. They will generally share your attitudes, values, abilities and life experiences. If you’re not attracting the people you want, examine your leadership skills to find any areas that need improvement.

10. “The Law of Connection: Leaders Touch a Heart Before They Ask for a Hand”

To communicate your message, you need to connect with people on an emotional level. Even when you face a room full of people, remember that they are individuals; connect with them as separate people. Some of the greatest military leaders made it their business to connect individually with their troops. Robert E. Lee spent time around the campfires with his men on nights before big battles. General Norman Schwarzkopf said in his autobiography that one Christmas during the Persian Gulf War, he “must have shaken 4,000 hands.” By taking the trouble to connect with their soldiers individually, these leaders ensured that they had their followers’ support.

11. “The Law of the Inner Circle: A Leader’s Potential Is Determined by Those Closest to Him”

To make your organization more effective, seek strong leadership potential among the people who form your inner circle. Don’t devote your time to trying to convince or inspire people who have a negative attitude. Invest your energy in those who share your vision. Populate your inner circle with individuals who boost morale and help make your load lighter.

12. “The Law of Empowerment: Only Secure Leaders Give Power to Others”

Henry Ford had an incredible vision. The car he manufactured changed modern life. And yet, he was so personally insecure that he could not keep himself from undermining the other executives at the Ford Motor Company. He would empower subordinates only to cripple their authority later. Worries about job security usually prevent leaders from empowering other people, but the ability to develop other leaders makes you invaluable to your organization. Abraham Lincoln named his political rivals and critics to his cabinet because he wanted the benefit of advice from leaders as strong or stronger than he was. When you empower others, you lift them up and, in the process, you elevate yourself.

13. “The Law of Reproduction: It Takes a Leader to Raise Up a Leader”

Some leaders are naturally gifted. Others rise to the occasion in response to crisis. However, the vast majority of leaders are inspired and mentored by other leaders. The best mentors for potential leaders are experienced leaders. You can only give to others what you already possess. Many leaders don’t see the value of generating other leaders, and may try to hold other people down at lower ranks. Be careful; the only way to limit or demote others is to lower yourself. Raising new leaders is essential for the full development of your organization. The more leaders your company has, the stronger it is, but that requires careful nurturing. As Ross Perot once said: “Leaders don’t flock. You have to find them one at a time.”

14. “The Law of Buy-In: People Buy into the Leader, then the Vision”

Mahatma Gandhi was one of the greatest leaders of all time. He led his native India to independence. He advocated nonviolence as the most effective weapon against oppression. Convincing people of this idea was terribly difficult, and yet millions followed him. Why? Because they believed in him as a leader, so they adopted his vision and his plan. Many people think vision comes first, but it doesn’t. When followers are making up their minds, the leader comes first. Build your credibility as a leader and then work on persuading others to share your vision.

15. “The Law of Victory: Leaders Find a Way for the Team to Win”

Winston Churchill spoke out against the Nazis as early as 1932, but those who led England at that time decided to pursue a reconciliatory path. When Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940, he plainly stated his position against Nazism. He made it clear that he intended to lead England to victory and that defeating Hitler was the only acceptable outcome. Despite incredible odds, Churchill did not give up until the Allies were victorious. Even a leader who is dedicated to victory must realize that winning is usually a team endeavor. Improving the team’s play leads to victory. Achieving victory requires a cohesive vision, a variety of skills and a dedicated leader exhorting his team to leave it all on the field.

16. “The Law of the Big Mo: Momentum Is a Leader’s Best Friend”

To go anywhere, you must be in motion. Ongoing momentum makes it easier to overcome challenges and obstacles when they occur. A leader must generate momentum, but once it starts, it is hard to stop. Momentum inspires followers to perform.

17. “The Law of Priorities: Leaders Understand that Activity Is Not Necessarily Accomplishment”

First analyze your obligations. Identify those areas where your strengths are greatest and, as much as possible, delegate the rest. Understand where your greatest passions reside, because they provide your motivation. Being active doesn’t necessarily mean you are accomplishing the right things, so setting priorities is crucial. Ideally, each action you execute will satisfy more than one priority. To prioritize, determine what you absolutely must do, what activity generates the largest gain and “what brings the greatest reward.” To maximize your effort, focus on the most productive areas.

18. “The Law of Sacrifice: A Leader Must Give Up to Go Up”

Sometimes you have to be willing to give something up so you can move ahead. You may be forced to take one step back in order to take two steps forward. Often that means working around the clock without compensation or appreciation. Sometimes the sacrifice is even greater. When Lee Iacocca took over Chrysler, he couldn’t stop the company’s downward trend toward bankruptcy without drastic action. As a last resort, he asked the federal government to bail out the company. He opened himself and Chrysler up to attack and ridicule. To set an example, he reduced his yearly salary to one dollar. He asked Chrysler’s executives to sacrifice as well. Because of that mutual sacrifice, they turned Chrysler around together. Getting where you’re going will require sacrifice. Staying there requires even more sacrifice.

19. “The Law of Timing: When to Lead Is as Important as What to Do and Where to Go”

So often, timing has a tremendous impact on the outcome of a battle. Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976 because voters identified with him as a Washington outsider. It was “the right time” in U.S. history for an outsider to win. The country was wary, disillusioned by Vietnam and Watergate. Chances are that Carter would not have been elected at any other time, but timing favored the underdog in 1976.

20. “The Law of Explosive Growth: To Add Growth, Lead Followers – To Multiply, Lead Leaders”

Leaders who develop other leaders multiply their own potential and activate the law of explosive growth. John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s Pizza, explains, “It’s my job to build the company.” His COO, Wade Oney, adds, “The key is to develop leaders. You do that by building up people.” You can groom leaders one by one, but for faster growth you can also enlist leaders who will bring their followers along, multiplying your growth.

21. “The Law of Legacy: A Leader’s Lasting Value Is Measured by Succession”

In 1997, Coca-Cola’s CEO Roberto Goizueta died unexpectedly. This kind of crisis is often hugely destabilizing, but Goizueta had prepared for his company’s welfare in the event of his absence. As a result, Coca-Cola remained strong. By growing leaders, you amplify your company’s potential today and provide for its sustained success in the future.

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