Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership BOOK CLUB


We’re working through John Maxwell’s classic book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. This week We’ll take a look at two laws:
• The Law of the Inner Circle
• The Law of Empowerment

The Law of the Inner Circle: A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him.
Maxwell states:
• A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him. What makes the difference is the leader’s inner circle.
• No single leader can do all 21 (Laws) well. That’s why every leader needs a team of people.
• Think of any highly effective leader and you will find someone who surrounded himself with a strong inner circle.
• To practice the Law of the Inner Circle, you must be intentional in your relationship building. You must give thought to the accomplishment of your mission and the success of the people who follow you. Only if you reach your potential as a leader do your people have a chance to reach their potential.
• If you can answer “Yes” to the below questions then individuals are excellent candidates for your inner circle: • Do they have influence with others?
• Do they bring a complementary gift to the table?
• Do they hold a strategic position in the organization?
• Do they add value to me and to the organization?
• Do they positively impact other inner circle members?
• Do they display excellence, maturity, and good character in everything they do? A “Yes” answer to this last question does not automatically mean they should be in your inner circle. However, a “No” would definitely mean they should not.

• Once you’ve reached your capacity in time and energy, the only way you can increase your impact is through others.

The Law of Empowerment: Only Secure Leaders Give Power to Others
Maxwell states:
• To lead others well, we must help them to reach their potential. That means being on their side, encouraging them, giving them power, and helping them to succeed.
• Only empowered people can reach their potential.
• When leaders fail to empower others, it is usually due to three main reasons:
1. Desire for job security.
2. Resistance to change. Most people don’t like change. That’s a fact. Yet one of the most important responsibilities of leaders is to continually improve their organizations. As a leader, you must train yourself to embrace change, to desire it, to make a way for it. Effective leaders are not only willing to change; they become change agents.
3. Lack of self-worth. The best leaders have a strong sense of self-worth. They believe in themselves, their mission, and their people.

• Mark Twain once remarked that great things happen when you don’t care who gets the credit. But I believe you can take that a step further. I believe the greatest things happen only when you give others the credit.
• Lincoln’s use of the Law of Empowerment was as consistent as Henry Ford’s habit of breaking it. When his generals performed well, Lincoln gave them the credit; when they performed poorly, Lincoln took the blame.
• You don’t have to be a leader of Lincoln’s caliber to empower others. The main ingredient for empowering others is a high belief in people. If you believe in others, they will believe in themselves.


This week as we continue to work through John Maxwell’s classic book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, we’ll take a look at the following two laws:

• The Law of the Picture
• The Law of Buy-In

The Law of the Picture: People Do What People See
Maxwell states:
• People do what people see. That is the law of the Picture. When leaders show the way with the right actions, their followers copy them and succeed.
• Great leaders always seem to embody two seemingly disparate qualities. They are both highly visionary and highly practical. Their vision enables them to see beyond the immediate. They can envision what’s coming and what must be done. Leaders possess an understanding of how:
 Mission provides purpose – answering the question, Why?
 Vision provides a picture – answering the question, What?
 Strategy provides a plan – answering the question, How?
• The leader’s communication of the vision makes the picture clear. But that is not enough. The leader must also live the vision. The leader’s effective modeling of the vision makes the picture come alive!
• If you desire to be the best leader you can become, you must not neglect the Law of the Picture. As you strive to improve as an example to your followers, remember these things:
 Followers are always watching what you do. Colin Powell observed, “You can issue all the memos and give all the motivational speeches you want, but if the rest of the people in your organization don’t see you putting forth your very best effort every single day, they won’t either.”
 It’s easier to teach what’s right than to do what’s right. I believe followers have the same attitude toward their leaders. They want to see their leaders in action, doing their best, showing the way, and setting the example.
 We should work on changing ourselves before trying to improve others. To lead any other than by example, we send a fuzzy picture of leadership to others. If we work on improving ourselves first and make that our primary mission, then others are more likely to follow.
 The most valuable gift a leader can give is being a good example. More than anything else, employees want leaders whose beliefs and actions line up. They want good models who lead from the front. Leadership is more caught than taught. How does one “catch” leadership? By watching good leaders in action! The majority of leaders emerge because of the impact made on them by established leaders who modeled leadership and mentored them.

The Law of Buy-In: People Buy into the Leader, Then the Vision
Maxwell states:
• Because the people had bought into Gandhi, they accepted his vision. And once they had embraced the vision, they were able to carry it out. That’s how the Law of Buy-In works. They leader finds the dream and then the people. The people find the leader and then the dream.
• People don’t first follow worthy causes. They follow worthy leaders who promote causes they can believe in.
• Once people have bought into someone, they are willing to give the person’s vision a chance. People want to go along with people they get along with.
• The following shows how people react to leaders and their vision under different circumstances:

Leader + Vision = Result
Don’t buy in + Don’t buy in = Get another leader
Don’t buy in + Buy in = Get another leader
Buy in + Don’t buy in = Get another vision
Buy in + Buy in = Get behind the leader

• When followers don’t like the leader or the vision….they look for another leader. The only time people will follow a leader they don’t like with a vision they don’t believe in is when the leader has some kind of leverage.
• When followers don’t like the leader but they do like the vision….they look for another leader. Even though people may think a cause is good, if they don’t like the leader, they will go out and find another one. That’s one reason that coaches change teams so often in professional sports.
• When followers like the leader but not the vision….they change the vision. When followers don’t agree with their leader’s vision, they react in many ways. But as long as they still buy into the leader, they rarely out-and-out reject him. They will keep following.
• When followers like the leader and the vision….they get behind both. When people believe in their leader and the vision, they will follow their leader no matter how bad conditions get or how much the odds are stacked against them.
• As a leader, your success is measured by your ability to actually take the people where they need to go. But you can do that only if the people first buy into you.


As we continue working through John Maxwell’s classic book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, this week we’ll look at the following two laws:
• The Law of Victory
• The Law of the Big Mo

The Law of Victory: Leaders Find a Way for the Team to Win
Maxwell states:
• Victorious leaders possess an unwillingness to accept defeat. The alternative to winning is totally unacceptable to them.
• When the pressure is on, great leaders are at their best.
• He lists three components of victory. They are:
1. Unity of Vision. Teams succeed only when the players have a unified vision, no matter how much talent or potential there is. A team doesn’t win the championship if its players are working from different agendas.
2. Diversity of Skills. It almost goes without saying that a team needs diversity in skills. Can you imagine a whole hockey team of goalies? Or a football team of quarterbacks? How about a business where there are only salespeople or nothing but accountants?
3. A Leader dedicated to victory and raising players to victory and raising players to their potential. Unity of vision doesn’t happen spontaneously. The right players with the proper diversity of talent don’t come together on their own. It takes a leader to make those things happen. It takes a leader to provide the motivation, empowerment, and direction required to win.
• Leaders who practice the Law of Victory believe that anything less than success is unacceptable. And they have no Plan B. That is why they keep fighting. And it’s why they continue to win!

The Law of the Big Mo: Momentum is a leader’s best friend.
Maxwell states:
• If you’ve got all the passion, tools and people you need to fulfill a great vision, yet you can’t seem to get your organization moving and going in the right direction, you’re dead in the water as a leader. If you can’t get things going, you will not succeed. What do you need in such circumstances? You need to look to the Law of the Big Mo and harness the power of the leader’s best friend: momentum.
• When you’ve got great momentum, you don’t want to do anything to get in its way.
• Why is momentum a leader’s best friend? Many times momentum is the only thing that makes the difference between losing and winning.
• He lists seven things about momentum that a leader needs to know:
1. Momentum is the great exaggerator. It is like a magnifying glass; it makes things look bigger than they really are.
2. Momentum makes leaders look better than they are. When leaders have momentum on their side, people think they’re geniuses. They look past shortcomings. They forget about the mistakes the leaders have made. Momentum changes everyone’s perspective of leaders. Momentum exaggerates a leader’s success and makes him look better than he really is. It may not seem fair, but that’s just the way it works.
3. Momentum helps followers perform better than they are. When an organization has great momentum, all participants are more successful than they would be otherwise.
4. Momentum is easier to steer than to start. Getting started is a struggle, but once you’re moving forward, you can really start to do some amazing things.
5. Momentum is the most powerful change agent. Given enough momentum, nearly any kind of change is possible in an organization. People like to get on a winning bandwagon. Followers trust leaders with a proven track record. They accept changes from people who have led them to victory before. Momentum puts victory within reach.
6. Momentum is the leader’s responsibility. Creating momentum requires someone who has vision, can assemble a good team, and motives others. It is the leader’s responsibility to initiate momentum and keep it going.
7. Momentum begins inside the leader. It starts with vision, passion, and enthusiasm. It starts with energy. If you model enthusiasm to your people day in and day out, you attract like-minded people to your team, department, or organization and motivate them to achieve. You will begin to see forward progress. Once you do, you will begin to generate momentum.


As we continue working through John Maxwell’s classic book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, this week we’ll look at the following two laws:
• The Law of Priorities
• The Law of Sacrifice

The Law of Priorities: Leaders Understand that Activity is Not Necessarily Accomplishments
Maxwell states:
• First, when we are busy, we naturally believe that we are achieving. But busyness does not equal productivity. Activity is not necessarily accomplishment.
• Second, prioritizing requires leaders to continually think ahead, to know what’s important, to know what’s next, and to see how everything relates to the overall vision. That’s hard work.
• Third, prioritizing causes us to do things that are at the least uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful.
• One of the principles I use during this process is the Pareto Principle. The idea is this: if you focus your attention on the activities that rank in the top 20 percent in terms of importance, you will have an 80 percent return on your effort.
• The other guideline I use whenever I evaluate my priorities are the three R’s – requirements, return and reward.
• What is required?
 The question I ask myself is, What must I do that nobody can or should do for me?
• What gives the greatest return?
 As a leader, you should spend most of your time working in your areas of greatest strength. Leaders should get out of their comfort zone but stay in their strength zone.
 Here’s my rule of thumb. If something I’m doing can be done 80 percent as well by someone else, I delegate it.
 Just because you can do something does not mean that you should do it.
• What brings the greatest reward?
 The final question relates to personal satisfaction.
• To the hundreds of businesses and product lines that make up the company, we applied a single criterion: can they be number 1 or number 2 at whatever they do in world marketplace?
• Jack Welch never mistook activity for accomplishment. He knew that the greatest success comes only when you focus your people on what really matters.
• But the best leaders seem to be able to get the Law of Priorities to work for them by satisfying multiple priorities with each activity. This actually enables them to increase their focus while reducing their number of actions.
• Like all good leaders Coach John Wooden did the work of thinking ahead for his team. Wooden always maintained his focus and he found ways for his players to do the same thing. His special talent was for addressing several priority areas at once.

The Law of Sacrifice: A Leader Must Give Up to Go Up
Maxwell states:
• The Law of Sacrifice demands that the great the leader, the more he must give up.
• The life of a leader can look glamorous to people on the outside. But the reality is that leadership requires sacrifice.
• Effective leaders sacrifice much that is good in order to dedicate themselves to what is best. That’s the way the Law of Sacrifice works.
• Leaders must be willing to give us more than the people they lead.
• If leaders have to give up to go up, then they have to give up even more to stay up.
• Sacrifice is an ongoing process, not a one-time payment.


As we continue working through John Maxwell’s classic book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, this week we’ll look at the following two laws:
• The Law of Timing
• The Law of Explosive Growth

The Law of Timing: When to Lead Is As Important at What to Do and Where to Go
Maxwell states:
• When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go.
• The way Katrina was handled shows leadership timing at its worst. It was botched at every level.
• Every time a leader makes a move, there are really only four outcomes:
 The wrong action at the wrong time leads to disaster. A leader who takes the wrong action at the wrong time is sure to suffer negative repercussions. That was certainly the case in New Orleans as Katrina approached.
 The right action at the wrong time brings resistance.
 Good leadership timing requires many things:
o Understanding
o Maturity
o Confidence
o Decisiveness
o Experience
o Intuition
o Preparation
• When the right leader and the right timing come together, incredible things happen.
• Reading a situation and knowing what to do are not enough to make you succeed in leadership. If you want your organization, department, or team to move forward, you must pay attention to timing. Only the right action at the right time will bring success. Anything else exacts a high price. No leader can escape the Law of Timing.

The Law of Explosive Growth: To Add Growth, Lead Followers – To Multiply, Lead Leaders
Maxwell states:
• It wasn’t until I began to focus on developing leaders that my leadership really took off. I had discovered the Law of Explosive Growth: to add growth, lead followers – to multiply, lead leaders.
• Becoming a leader who develops leaders requires an entirely different focus and attitude from simply attracting and leading followers. It takes a different mind-set.
• If you develop yourself, you can experience personal success; if you develop a team, your organization can experience growth; if you develop leaders, your organization can achieve explosive growth.
• Leaders who attract followers…need to be needed. Leaders who develop leaders…want to be succeeded.
• Leaders who attract followers…develop the bottom 20 percent. Leaders who develop leaders…develop the two 20 percent.
• Leaders who attract followers….focus on weaknesses. Leaders who develop leaders….focus on strengths.
• Leaders who attract followers….treat everyone the same. Leaders who develop leaders….treat individuals differently.
• Leaders who attract followers…spend time with others. Leaders who develop leaders…invest time in others.
• Leaders who attract followers….grow by addition. Leaders who develop leaders…grow by multiplication. Leaders who develop leaders multiply their organization’s growth, because for every leader they develop, they also receive the value of all that leader’s followers.
• Leaders who attract followers….impact only people they touch. Leaders who develop leaders….impact people beyond their reach.
• If developing leaders has such a great impact, then why doesn’t everyone do it? Because it’s hard. Here’s why:
 Most people are followers. Some are producers. Few are leaders. Leaders are like eagles – they don’t flock. That’s why they are so hard to find.
 Most organizations place a high value on following rules. Leaders want to think outside the box. If you want to gather leaders, you must create a place where they can thrive.
 As hard as it is to find and gather good leaders, it’s even more difficult to keep them.
• Leadership development compounds. The more you invest in people and the longer you do it, the greater the growth and the higher the return.   


As we complete our review of John Maxwell’s classic book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership we’ll look at the following law:

The Law of Legacy: A Leader’s Lasting Value is Measured by Succession

Maxwell states:

  • If you want your leadership to really have meaning, you need to take into account the Law of Legacy. Why? Because a leader’s lasting value is measured by succession.
  • My life sentence is, “I want to add value to leaders who will multiply value to others.”
  • Success doesn’t count for much if you leave nothing behind. The best way to do that is through a leadership legacy.
  • If you want to create a legacy, you need to live it first. You must become what you desire to see in others.
  • Legacy comes when they put leaders in position to do great things without them.
  • A legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.
  • Our ability as leaders will not be measured by the buildings we built, the institutions we established, or what our teams accomplished during our tenure. You and I will be judged by how well the people we invested in carried on after we are gone.

In the book’s “Conclusion”, Maxwell states:

  • 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

The book also includes the following helpful appendices:

Appendix A: 21 Laws Leadership Evaluation

Appendix B: 21 Laws Growth Guide

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