Leadership / Maxwell Ideas

Leading People: A Guide to Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws (Part 4)

Think the Law of Gravity, not criminal law…

If you love Civil War history, then I live in one of your favorite parts of the country: Fredericksburg, VA. There were numerous important battles in the region, including two Battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania Courthouse, and 2 Battles of the Wilderness—plus numerous smaller skirmishes. Civil War leaders make great case studies for the 21 Irrefutable Laws, especially in the next three we’ll examine. So, let’s get to the Laws of Connection, Inner Circle, Empowerment.

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

Arguably the most popular soldier of the Civil War was General Robert E. Lee. Most know that he turned down command of the Union army to defend his native state of Virginia. But this did not guarantee him any respect as a leader. In fact, between staff work and some early disasters, he was referred to as “Granny Lee” in the Confederate press for appearing too timid. But when Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia and chased McClellan out of Virginia and then defeated Pope at Second Manassas (Bull Run), people could see that he had a big heart for the fight. His men loved him for it, and they were willing to do incredible things for him after that. Even the defeat in Gettysburg and the subsequent decline of the Southern Cause was not so much blamed on Lee as the lack of logistics that the agrarian-based Confederacy could muster to support their army. Following the war, his genuine concern for finding reconciliation between North and South have caused all succeeding generations of American leaders, both military and civilian, to study Lee’s leadership qualities. Why? Because he cared.

#11 – The Law of the Inner Circle – A Leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him.

Abraham Lincoln was faced with a daunting challenge when he began the war—He was neither military man, statesman, nor diplomat. Yet he was handed a war at the outset of his presidency that required him to supervise multiple armies in the field, attempt to reconcile with the states in rebellion, and work tenaciously to keep European, especially British, influence out of the war. Lincoln sought to surround himself with those who had the skills he lacked. Among others, he brought into his circle General George McClellan, Salmon P. Chase, and William H. Seward. The latter two had been rivals for the Republican nomination and figured that they would control Lincoln, but soon saw the skill with which the President handled the myriad of challenges he faced with a unique blend of careful patience and understanding. These men began to advise him in earnest, helping establish the frameworks within which Lincoln managed domestic and European relations. McClellan had made a name for himself as a soldier and railroad executive. It was believed that he would be uniquely qualified to lead the Army, but McClellan wanted to be both General-in-Chief and Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac. While his care and concern for the training and morale of the Army won him accolades from his troops, his wariness to engage in battle limited the Army’s ability to win in the field. Lincoln had no choice but to remove him from command in order to raise the level of effectiveness of the Union war effort. After several tries, Lincoln appointed Ulysses S. Grant, resulting in a major shift in the Union’s effectiveness to confront and defeat the Confederate armies.

#12 – The Law of Empowerment – Only secure leaders give power to others.

General Grant was empowered by Lincoln to prosecute the war and win victory. Lincoln was secure in his choice because Grant had proven himself an able strategist and logistician. As Grant focused his efforts at defeating General Lee, seen as the key to breaking Confederate will, Grant developed a strategy that became the Overland Campaign, he knew that he had to hit the Confederates on many fronts simultaneously to put enough pressure on them to breakdown their resistance. Like Lincoln, Grant had developed his own Inner Circle that had helped him in his earlier campaigns. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses, he was confident that he could delegate responsibility for the three supporting axes of the Campaign to Generals William T. Sherman, Phillip Sheridan, and George Thomas. Their efforts, the March to the Sea, the Shenandoah Campaign, and the Nashville-Franklin Campaign all served to isolate Lee while spreading the rest of the Confederate forces preventing reinforcement. Grant took heat from politicians for some of these actions. Sheridan, for example, was slow to get his Army of the Shenandoah moving as quickly as hoped. But in the end, the capable and canny Grant’s lieutenants came through.

The Civil War is an excellent historical laboratory to study the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. These three laws do an excellent job of illustrating the value of studying other leaders to understand what made them effective, allowing us to discern the principles involved and apply them to our own situations.

In our next installment, we will look at The Laws of the Picture, Buy-in, and Victory. If you would like a complimentary listing of the 21 Irrefutable Laws, please follow this link.

Click here to review my post on the Laws of the Lid, Influence, and Process.

Click here to review my post on the Laws of Navigation, Addition, and Solid Ground.

Click here to review my post on the Laws of Respect, Intuition, and Magnetism.


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