If you ask 10 of your respected leaders to recommend 5 books on leadership, I suspect 1 of John Maxwell's books will be on their lists. Of those books, most people will cite The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership as his best work (It's certainly his most well-known). I've read the book once, taking notes and I listened to an audiobook at least twice per year. This good!
In this book, Maxwell dictates the 21 "laws" (not "principles") a leader must follow to get others to follow the leader. "He who thinks he leads," said the author, "but has no followers, is only taking a walk." Using numerous examples drawn from a variety of people from Mother Teresa to the founders of McDonald's, Maxwell shows how people have either used the laws successfully or ignored the laws and failed. Most of the laws are obvious, for example, #14 The Law of Buy-In states that people buy into the leader and only then do they buy into the vision. That makes sense and has a practical application in the real world (example, how we vote leaders).
Some readers have dismissed the book because the laws are easy to understand. These critics miss two significant points: #1 This book codifies and reinforces our thinking. For example, Law #17 The Law of Priorities, cautions against equating activity with achievement. Maxwell points out that we must constantly review our priorities to make sure that we are "steering the ship in the right direction" (this include Law #4 The Law of Navigation). Far beyond leaving it there and stating only the obvious, Maxwell adds that we must always evaluate our priorities with the 80/20 rule in mind. Focus 80 percent of your time on the 20 percent of your priorities that will provide the largest return. He notes that the rule applies equally to developing strategic sales accounts as does it in developing people; #2 This book is a reminder that leadership is a daily commitment. As Maxwell notes in Law #3 The Law of Process, leadership is a process that "develops daily, not in a day." Reading Maxwell's book reinforces what many of us already know about leadership and reminds us to put those theories into practice every day.
Many books on leadership are long on theory but don't help the reader understand how to put the theory into practice. Maxwell does not fall into that trap. At the end of every chapter, he lists three activities we can do to apply the law to our lives. But the truth is Maxwell himself admits that not every leader will have a proficiency in all 21 Laws. Leaders are learners. The author notes that leadership skills can and should be improved through practice. Remember this: "Everything falls and rises on leadership." So, learn!
Here is the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership list, and the tagline for each of the laws:
- The Law of the Lid: Leadership Ability Determines a Person's Level of Effectiveness
- The Law of Influence: The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence – Nothing More Nothing Less
- The Law of Process: Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day
- The Law of Navigation: Anyone Can Steer the Ship, but It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course
- The Law of Addition: Leaders Add Value by Serving Others
- The Law of Solid Ground: Trust Is the Foundation of Leadership
- The Law of Respect: People Naturally Follow Leaders Stronger Than Themselves
- The Law of Intuition: Leaders Evaluate Everything with a Leadership Bias
- The Law of Magnetism: Who You Are Is Who You Attract
- The Law of Connection: Leaders Touch a Heart Before Ask for a Hand
- The Law of Inner Circle: A Leader's Potential Is Determined by Those Closest to Him
- The Law of Empowerment: Only Secure Leaders Give Powers to Others
- The Law of the Picture: People Do What People See
- The Law of Buy-In: People Buy into the Leader, Then the Vision
- The Law of Victory: Leaders Find a Way for the Team to Win
- The Law of the Big Mo: Momentum Is a Leader's Best Friend
- The Law of Priorities: Leaders Understand That Activity Is Not Necessarily Accomplishment
- The Law of Sacrifice: A Leader Must Give Up to Go Up
- The Law of Timing: When to Lead Is As Important As What to Do and Where to Go
- The Law of Explosive Growth: To Add Growth, Lead Followers – To Multiply Lead Leaders
- The Law of Legacy: A Leader's Lasting Value Is Measured by Succession
[Leader is Influencer and a Reader: My Top 15 Book on Leadership Lists, CLICK HERE]
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.