Leadership / Maxwell Ideas

Leading People: A Guide to Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws (Part 1)


Saturn 5 RocketThink the Law of Gravity, not criminal law…

The other day I was talking to somebody about the 21 Irrefutable Laws and their comment was, “I don’t think I can remember 21 things I have to do if I’m going to be successful as a leader.” I had to agree with him. But the 21 Irrefutable Laws are not so much rules you have to follow, like the traffic laws of the criminal code. Rather, they are more like the physical laws – they govern the universe and explain how natural forces operate. You don’t have to think about gravity in order to apply it. You don’t even have to believe in it. It works regardless. But understand the Law of gravity and you are suddenly able to loose the bounds of the earth and travel into space – to the Moon and back, just as the Apollo astronauts in the 1970’s. And so it is with the 21 Irrefutable Laws.

In this seven part series, we will introduce each of the laws and provide an illustration to show how the law supports a leader. (Want to see the list of the 21 Irrefutable Laws? Go here to download a complimentary list formatted as a single page.) So let’s role with the first 3 laws: The Law of the Lid; The Law of Influence; and The Law of Process.

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

What is a lid? In leadership, a lid is the skill and ability of a leader. This law says that you cannot (for long) lead an organization that is at a higher level than your ability to lead. So, if on a scale of 1 to 10, somebody has level 5 leadership ability, they can only lead an organization that is a 4. It must be less mature than the leader. The good news is that leaders can grow. My friend Marcus understands The Law of the Lid. He owns a landscaping business that has prospered even in a down economy. But he wants it to grow even more. He as a great right hand man in whom he sees potential, but recognizes that if his associate is to become a real crew chief he is going to have to grow as a leader so that he can ably and successfully represent him and the business.

#2 – The Law of Influence – The true measure of Leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less.

People think leadership is many things. People often confuse what somebody does with being a leader. Just because you have some sort of position of authority because you have a title, job, special skills, etc., does not automatically confer the role of leader on you. But people who learn to motivate others to action – to inspire others – become leaders. Consider Mother Theresa. Some twenty years after leaving home to become a missionary teacher in India, she founded the Sisters of Charity. With time, her passion grew her ministry from 13 to over 4,000 nuns, serving the poor and indigent, especially the orphan and the dying. Heads of State and captains of industry sought her advice and supported her plans. She was able to establish such influence because she practiced all 21 Laws. But her ability to influence others has left a lasting impression on the 21st Century world.

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

Growing something of value requires time. Small decisions compounded over time yield significant results. Do you want to become a leader of significance? Want to lift your Lid (Law #1)? Then you need to implement The Law of Process. All great leaders developed over time – learning AND APPLYING the lessons gained thru their experiences. Take Colin Powell. He progressively learned his craft as a soldier, being assigned ever more important tasks as he learned and demonstrated excellent soldiering and leadership skills. His ability to lead and influence led to his being selected as a White House Fellow, an opportunity to see first hand the interaction between the civil-military relationships. He continued to accept tough assignments and honed his skills working with diverse types of people, eventually becoming the National Security Advisor then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf War. Leading a grand coalition prepared him for service as Secretary of State, the nation’s senior diplomat. Great service requires great people; who are developed over time, not plucked whole from a secret leadership garden.

In our next installment, we will look at The Laws of Navigation, Addition, and Solid Ground. If you would like a complimentary listing of the 21 Irrefutable Laws, please follow this link.

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3 thoughts on “Leading People: A Guide to Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Leading People: A Guide to Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws (Part 3) « Leading in the 21st Century

  2. Pingback: Leading People: A Guide to Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws (Part 4) « Leading in the 21st Century

  3. Pingback: Empowerment is Influence | Leaderclip

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