The Grey Chronicles


Maxwell’s 21 Laws of Leadership, Part I

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

John C. Maxwell, drawing from his own experiences as well as those of other leaders, discovers The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (2004). Laws are principles or basic generalizations that are accepted as true and can be used as a basis for reasoning or conduct.

These 21 Laws were practiced by great leaders: CEOs Maurice Saatchi, Lee Iacocca of Chrysler, Jack Welch of GE and Roberto Goizueta of Coca-Cola; Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, John F. Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and Nelson Mandela; heavyweight champion Joe Frazier; Roald Amundsen, the South Pole explorer; Mother Teresa of Calcutta; Mahatma Gandhi; and Martin Luther King.

Maxwell identifies the five myths about leadership.

The Management Myth. “Management can maintain direction. Influential leadership is what changes the direction of an organization toward positive change.”

The Entrepreneur Myth. “People may be buying what somebody is selling, but they are not necessarily buying into his leadership or vision.”

The Knowledge Myth. “Mental superiority does not necessarily equate to leadership.”

The Pioneer Myth. “The one in front is not necessarily the leader. The leader is the one with the vision that people want to follow.”

The Position Myth. Maxwell quotes Stanley Huffty, “It’s not the position that makes the leader; it’s the leader that makes the position.”

In each book chapter, Maxwell describes each law which anyone in any position, in any field, and in any culture, can learn and practice to become a successful leader. These 21 laws are:

1. The Law of the Lid: Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness.

“The Lid represents the limit of our leadership abilities. Hard work, efficient management, and knowledge can only bring us so far. If the lid of one’s leadership is low, then the potential for success is also low. . . When a company is in a state of trouble, check the leadership. Chances are the leadership lid of its leader is low.”

2. The Law of Influence: The true measure of leadership is Influence—Nothing More, Nothing Less.

“Maxwell’s favorite leadership proverb is, ‘He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.’ Leadership is influence; without influence one cannot lead.” L

3. The Law of Process: Leadership develops daily, not in a day.

“No one becomes a leader overnight. Even when someone is gifted with natural abilities, one still has to build one’ collection of leadership skills.”

4. The Law of Navigation: Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.

“Seeing the trip ahead, charting a plan to get to the destination, and remaining focused on the vision; the leader is the one who sees farthest into the future, making him the best person to guide his followers. . . A navigator starts with a vision, and then knows what it takes to reach that vision, who they will need on the team, and what obstacles to anticipate and overcome. . . Navigating entails research of information, gathering ideas from grassroots to mentors, balancing positive thinking with realism, and having a strategy for success.”

5. The Law of E.F. Hutton: When the real leader speaks, people listen.

“Regardless of who has title or position, the leader is the one with the power to command people’s attention. The E.F. Hutton [*] of a group can rally people to a cause.”

There are seven key areas that reveal leadership: (1) Character, who they are (2) Relationships: who they know; Knowledge: what they know; Intuition: what they feel; Experience: what theyˆve been; Past Success: what they’ve done and Ability: what they can do.

6. The Law of Solid Ground: Trust is the foundation of Leadership.

“Trust is earned and maintained by the leader’s history of success; the leader’s competence, connection and character; the leader’s ability to face up to a mistake; and the leader’s ability to put what is best for the followers and the organization ahead of personal agenda.”

7. The Law of Respect: People naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves.

“The Law of Respect works when people are compelled to follow somebody who is stronger than them. People have the instinct to recognize and follow leadership.”

8. The Law of Intuition: Leaders evaluate everything with leadership bias.

“Leaders cannot rely on just facts. Great leaders have to have intuition. . . Intuition requires a reading of the situation, trends, resources, people and the selves. . . Three levels of leadership intuition are: those who naturally see it; those who are nurtured to see it; and those who will never see it.”

9. The Law of Magnetism: Who you are is who you attract.

“A leader attracts people who possess the same characteristics. People tend to flock with people of similar attitude, generation, background, values, life experience and leadership ability. . . Attracting to your organization people of certain characters, backgrounds, and qualifications do not depend merely on the hiring process. It depends greatly on the kind of person and leader you are.”

10. The Law of Connection: Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.

“Great leaders instinctively know that to lead successfully, they have to touch people’s hearts. Moving people into action requires moving them with emotion. Leaders with the power of connection can reach out to individuals as well as audiences. . . There’s an old saying, ‘To lead yourself, use your head; to lead others, use your heart’”

The other eleven laws will be continued tomorrow.


[*]. E.F. Hutton is a financial services compan whose motton was “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.” back to text

Maxwell, John C. (1998). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1998. 226pp. back to text

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