21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo

If we are to talk about leadership, it would be a mortal sin not to mention the world’s leading authority on leadership, John Maxwell.  John has trained millions of leaders all over the world, and has 30 books written on leadership that are mostly best-sellers.  This book alone, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You” has sold over 3 million copies.

I’m a big fan of John, his books were the first ones I’ve read that led me to become a writer about virtues, values, self-improvement, management and leadership.  Twenty-one laws are a lot to write in just one article, I’ll just make mention here my favorite ones.  I encourage anyone who is aspiring to lead people to read this book for it’s a must for leaders. Besides the way John writes is simple and straightforward, all his books are very readable for people who have English as their second language.

The Law of Process

John says, “Leadership develops daily, not in a day.”  You might be someone who has just taken on a leadership position and so this is good news for you.  Don’t worry if you are groping in the dark so to speak because leading people is not an easy task (that’s why not everyone is a leader) and you are expected to make a lot of mistakes.  Leadership is a process which means you need a system to develop your skills such as taking note of mistakes made in your dealings with subordinates and what you could do better next time a similar situation occurs. Thus, all leaders are made not born.  And if you are a neophyte in leadership, I would suggest you read a lot of books about leadership which can help you clear many uncertainties and fears about leading others.

The Law of Solid Ground

The author says, trust is the foundation of leadership.  If people under you don’t trust you, they will not give their one hundred per cent in doing what you tell them to do and would hardly have initiatives in improving their work.  They would just obey because they are paid to do so.  The elements of trust are honesty and discipline.  I wrote about honesty in leadership in another article entitled “Leading by Example” because it is the most important trait of a leader.  General H. Norman Schwarzkopf said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.”  Honesty or character means you are truthful with your subordinates at all times, you are not corrupt or resort to illegal ways to earn more income for yourself or for the company, and you don’t pretend to be someone who you are not.  Warren Bennis, another leading authority on leadership says, trust is something you earn and not just learn.  The second element, discipline, means you get things done whether you are in a good mood to work or not.  And this will make you competent, which is another trait people under you would trust you because you could get things done.

The Law of the Picture

John says, “People will do what they see.”  Leaders are visionaries.  To have a vision means you provide the picture of where the organization is heading. Hans Finzel observed, “Leaders are paid to be dreamers. The higher you go in leadership, the more your work is about the future.” And along with the vision is the mission or purpose of the company which answers the question why we do what we do.  And to complete the law of the picture, a leader needs some strategy or “the how” in accomplishing the vision.  Vision, mission and strategy are three things that a leader has to lay out for people under him or her, so that the company or organization have a clear path to follow.

One additional leadership trait which I think is important that leaders should have, based on my experience in handling people that is not mentioned in this book, but in another book of John Maxwell, is caring for the people under you.  John says, “Subordinates don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.”  You might be the most brilliant leader in the world but unless you have a heart for your people you won’t accomplish much in influencing them to follow you.  Caring means knowing and doing something about your employees needs such as assisting them when they are in a financial constraint because of some unfortunate incident such as a child of theirs is sick or their house was blown out by a storm.  You can’t just be concerned with them showing up at work and deliver work outputs, you need to find ways to help them, like facilitating loans for their house repair.  Organizations have to be run like a family and leaders are the parents.  If you do this “caring thing” with your people, you are guaranteed to see wonders in how they would obey you and help you in achieving company goals.