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Book Summary – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – Written by John C Maxwell
The study of leadership is a lifelong pursuit. It is not a destination but a journey. The results can be staggering for organizations with strong leadership. Jim Collins in Good to Great profiled highly successful companies and one of the key elements is what he coined the Level 5 leader. These people were not what you think. Most people when they hear “leader” think of flamboyant CEO’s or fast talking politicians. When you dig deeper the opposite holds true. I recommend all of Mr. Maxwell’s work. One thing that makes his work real is that John has built non-profit organizations throughout his life with great success. When you build a company, people have to follow you if they work for you because their livelihood depends on it. Building a non-profit organization is not the same. People CHOOSE to follow you and that is what makes his work so profound.
Why is this important to me? Let’s show this with an example and I think you will see why it is critical to make Leadership a lifelong study. I am a big fan of OPE, OPT and OPM (Other Peoples Expertize, Time & Money). This allows leverage and expansion of your organization when balanced correctly. From a strict performance standpoint, think about the following. Let’s suppose you have an organization that has 100 team members. If you work on yourself and improve your own performance by say 20% then that is a really good improvement and should be done. But if you extend your focus and strive to get each of your team members to improve by say 5% then the impact on the organization is a 500% improvement. So let’s monetize this example. Let’s suppose the organization makes $1,000,000. Improve yourself 20% and perhaps the organization will see $1,200,000. Improve the team members by 5% each and the organization sees $5,000,000. Which would you rather have? Note that this is without increasing your costs… Needless to say that Leadership is a study that needs to be pursued.
This book is packed with profound knowledge and should be used like a desk reference. Keep it handy and review it every quarter. I will profile a few key points because of our time constraints but encourage you to read this book and the others from John Maxwell. You can check out his other works on the site as well.
If you were to graph leadership then think of it as a scale with Leadership ability (1-10) on the Y axis and Success Dedication (1-10) on the X axis. In the book, John talks about the McDonald brothers. They built a good restaurant chain and were successful. They had a leadership ability of 1 and a success dedication of 8. Thus their total area of coverage was 1×8 or 8. Ray Kroc bought the franchise rights and McDonald’s is one of the world’s most successful corporations. Mr. Kroc’s success ability was say a 9 with his leadership ability a 9 as well. His total effectiveness chart was 9 x 9 for a total of 81. You see his effectiveness in growing the business and recruiting good people to help him was at least 10 times better than the McDonald brothers.
As you can see if you commit to pursuing excellence on both the X and Y axis then you will multiply your effectiveness. The total spread is from 1 to 100 so there is a lot to learn.
I am going to highlight 4 of the 21 laws for the sake of time. All the laws are critical and they all can be studied and improved upon independently so you do not have to master one to get to the next one.
1. The Law of Solid Ground – Trust is the foundation of Leadership. When you look at Apple, people trust Steve Jobs. There is no two ways about it. You cannot build a billion dollar business over decades without it. Likewise think of Enron. These executives were building a house of cards. Now they hid their motives and lied to their employees but once the trust was broken then their careers were over. None of those executives could run another company again because they violated the Law of Solid Ground. It takes 30 years to build trust, integrity and character and 30 seconds to lose it.
2. The Law of Influence – The True measure of leadership is influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less. Think about this. Why would anybody retell history from 480BC? The Spartan King Leonidas lead 300 Spartan soldiers into battle against the Persian army rumored to be in the millions. The Persian army was made of slaves while the Spartans were free men. The Law of Influence is seen in the fact that Xerxes the Persian leader would kill any of his men for victory and Leonidas would die for any of his men. Needless to say the stand of the famous 300 Spartans is still remembered today as one of the greatest battles in history. All the Spartans stayed and died because they were fighting for what they believed in and following a leader bigger than themselves. That is Influence.
3. Law of the Inner Circle – A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him. This law is very important. If you are just starting out in your career then really watch who you are working for. Where do they spend their time? With whom do they spend it? This is critical because the top 5 people you associate with on a regular basis determine where you are in life. You have heard companies say that their people are their biggest asset. The Law of the Inner Circle says the RIGHT PEOPLE ARE YOUR BIGGEST ASSET. This is critical for success and the heart of this law.
4. The Law of Victory – Leaders find a way for the team to Win. Everybody knows that in business or war there is no Silver medal. Here is a quote from Winston Churchill that sums this up. When he was asked what is our aim with regard to World War II, Churchill replied – “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.”
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is a great book packed with excellent lessons for EVERYBODY to study. I recommend the book even if you are not in a positional leadership role. If you want to increase your effectiveness then this books provides the road map to do it. I have a long way to go on the leadership journey but Mr. Maxwell’s work provides the road map.
I hope you have found this short summary useful. The key to any new idea is to work it into your daily routine until it becomes habit. Habits form in as little as 21 days.
One thing you can take away from this book is the multiplying effect of leadership. This is the result you will get when studying and practicing all the laws daily. I have started doing this and our organization has had some success. I personally have a long way to go but will continue using this book and the other works of John Maxwell to guide me.
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