We began our summary of John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership in Part 1 posted on January 29. In Part 2, we will look at seven more of the laws discussed in the book and how we can leverage these truths to become better leaders in our sphere of influence. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.
LAW #8 – THE LAW OF INTUITION
Maxwell says that “every person possesses intuition” and “people are intuitive in their area of strength.” Therefore this law says that using intuition, “leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias.” The Law of Intuition is based on facts and instinct as well as other ever-changing factors such as “employee morale, organizational momentum, and relational dynamics.” Out of all of the leadership skills one can develop over time, intuition may be the hardest because it relies on more than just leadership experience. It has a lot to do with your natural aptitude for seeing all of these factors at once and naturally discerning possible actions and probable outcomes. Maxwell says of intuitive leaders, “they ‘tune in’ to leadership dynamics. Many leaders describe this as an ability to ‘smell’ things in their organization. They can sense people’s attitudes. They are able to detect the chemistry of a team… They don’t need to sift through stats, read reports, or examine a balance sheet. They know the situation before they have all the facts. That is the result of their leadership intuition.” This ability is one that is either natural or must be nurtured, and for many people who refuse to grow as a leader, it means they will never have this ability. Developing this intuition through experience and growth is invaluable because, as Maxwell says, “whenever leaders face a problem, they automatically measure it — and begin solving it — using the Law of Intuition.”
LAW #9 – THE LAW OF MAGNETISM
The Law of Magnetism states, “who you are is who you attract,” or more simply, you will attract people like yourself. This can be a good thing in many cases, but is also a call to action to know your weaknesses and seek to grow out of them. Maxwell says, “Leaders help to shape the culture of their organizations based on who they are and what they do,” and “not only do people attract others with similar attitudes, but their attitudes tend to become alike.”
I have heard it said before that in five years, the things you won’t like about your organization is what you don’t like about yourself today. Your personality, character traits, quirks, and mannerisms will both attract people like yourself to your organization as well as rub off on the existing people within. According to Maxwell, “Like attracts like. That may seem pretty obvious. Yet I’ve met many leaders who expect highly talented people to follow them, even though they neither possess nor express value for those people’s giftedness.” Therefore, “if you want to grow an organization, grow the leader” and “if you want to attract better people, become the kind of person you desire to attract.” Then, once you are attracting the people you want to have following you, then its time to take yourself and those people to the next level together.
LAW #10 – THE LAW OF CONNECTION
Maxwell summarizes The Law of Connection by saying, “leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.” Another way to say this is that people will not follow you until they are emotionally bought into the vision you are casting. There is also some tie in here with the famous quote, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Maxwell says, “you develop credibility with people when you connect with them and show that you genuinely care and want to help them.”
To truly connect with people you have to value them, learn about them, and then adapt to who they are. Do not expect people to change themselves in order to follow you. You must change yourself in order to invite them in. Even the Apostle Paul understood this principle when, in his evangelistic efforts, he declared, “for though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).
The law of connection means that we understand people’s self-identity, meet them where they are, and build connection with them first before we try to get them to follow us or buy into the vision of where we want to go.
LAW #11 – THE LAW OF THE INNER CIRCLE
The Law of the Inner Circle states that “a leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him.” This is similar in effect to the law of magnetism, which says your followers will look like you, except that this says you will begin to look like those with whom you surround yourself . When I was in high school, the guidance counselor would say, “you show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” I hated that quote at the time since I wanted to be in control of my own destiny, yet because this law is universal, time has proven that statement true every time.
To leverage the law of the inner circle then, we must surround ourselves continually with people we admire and respect; people we want to become like as we grow. Unfortunately this is counter-intuitive to the leadership style of most. Insecure leaders feel threatened when they are not the smartest and most talented people in the room, so they surround themselves with people weaker than themselves. This, however, means that their potential for growth themselves is stunted by the capacity of those they keep near.
Maxwell says in order to leverage the law of the inner circle and “to increase your capacity and maximize your potential as a leader, your first step is always to become the best leader you can. The next is to surround yourself with the best leaders you can find.”
LAW #12 – THE LAW OF EMPOWERMENT
Following closely behind the law of the inner circle is the Law of Empowerment. This law states that “only secure leaders give power to others.” This means that secure leaders spend their time “identifying leaders; building them up; giving them resources, authority, and responsibility; and then turning them loose to achieve…” Insecure leaders, on the other hand, spend their time suspicious of those around them, and do everything they can to undermine people’s potential and growth.
Former U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Maxwell says this is because, “to keep others down, you have to go down with them. And when you do that, you lose any power to lift others up.”
Maxwell says, “The truth is that empowerment is powerful-not only for the person being developed but also for the mentor. Enlarging others makes you larger.” Therefore, to take advantage of this law in our lives, we must come to understand that as we develop the leaders around us we not only inadvertently raise our own value as a leader, but our organizations are benefitted in the process as well.
LAW #13 – THE LAW OF THE PICTURE
The Law of the Picture says that “people do what people see.” This may be one of the highest laws in understanding that everything rises and falls on leadership. Character matters. Maxwell says, “When the leaders show the way with the right actions, their followers copy them and succeed.” Corrupt leaders will turn every leader around them into corrupt leaders because their own lives demonstrate that it is good and acceptable.
From the Christian perspective as leaders, we must understand that integrity must come first in everything we do, because other people are watching us, and they will follow our example. One scripture that comes to mind here is the command in Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”
LAW #14 – THE LAW OF BUY-IN
The Law of Buy-In says, “people buy into the leader, then the vision.” Maxwell writes, “many people who approach the area of vision in leadership have it all backward. They believe that if the cause is good enough, people will automatically buy into it and follow. But that’s not how leadership really works. People don’t at first follow worthy causes. They follow worthy leaders who promote causes they can believe in.” If we roll this back to the law of the picture, this means that if your credibility as a leader is questionable at best, you are not going to have people willing to follow the vision you are casting because they doubt you can get them there.
One of the biggest leadership lessons I took away from my own experiences in 2014 was that leadership is inevitably connected to the opportunities they present. Sometimes saying “no” to a bad leader means saying “no” to a good opportunity, and sometimes saying “no” to a bad opportunity means saying “no” to a good leader. This was my personal realization of the law of buy-in. Maxwell says it this way, “You cannot separate leaders from the causes they promote. It cannot be done, no matter how hard you try. It’s not an either/or proposition. The two always go together.”
As a leader, you cannot just promote your vision and the good work you are doing through websites and social media, and expect that people will jump on board to volunteer or give money. If they do not trust you, it does not matter what opportunity you put in front of them. From my own observation in global ministry, I think this may be the biggest issue those of us in the non-profit and humanitarian world need to learn.