The 21 Laws of Leadership

Follow These Laws and People Will Follow You

Last week we reviewed The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell. If you didn’t have an opportunity to read that post, I’d highly recommend reading it before diving into this one.

This week we’re going to study more wisdom on leadership from John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership. These laws carry consequences with them. Apply the laws and people will follow you. Violate or ignore them, and you will not be able to lead others. The good news is everyone of the 21 laws of leadership can be learned.”


1. The Law of the Lid: Maxwell believes The Law of the Lid is the most important leadership principle we will ever learn. Maxwell states, “Leadership ability is always the lid on personal and organizational effectiveness. If the leadership is strong, the lid is high. But if it’s not, then the organization is limited. That’s why in times of trouble, organizations naturally look for new leadership.”

2. The Law of Influence: “The true measure of leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less. True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that can’t be mandated. It must be earned.”

3. The Law of Process: “Successful leaders are learners. Leadership develops daily, not in a day.”

4. The Law of Navigation: “First-rate navigators always have in mind that other people are depending on them and their ability to chart a good course.”

5. The Law of E.F. Hutton: “When the real leader speaks, people listen.”

6. The Law of Solid Ground: “Trust is the foundation of leadership. People will tolerate honest mistakes, but if you violate their trust you will find it very difficult to ever regain their confidence.”

7. The Law of Respect: “People naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves.”

8. The Law of Intuition: “Leaders see everything with a leadership bias, and as a result, they instinctively, almost automatically, know what to do. The great ones can see things others can’t, make changes, and move forward before others know what’s happening.”

9. The Law of Magnetism: “Who you are is who you attract. In most situations, you draw people to you who possess the same qualities as you do.”

10. The Law of Connection: “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand. The greatest leaders are able to connect on both levels: with individuals and with an audience.”

11. The Law of the Inner Circle: “A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him. If those people are strong, then the leader can make a huge impact. If they are weak, he can’t.”

12. The Law of Empowerment: “Only secure leaders give power to others. The number one enemy of empowerment is the desire for job security.”

13. The Law of Reproduction: “It takes a leader to raise up a leader. People cannot give to others what they themselves do not possess. Followers simply cannot develop leaders.”

14. The Law of Buy-In: “Every message that people receive is filtered through the messenger who delivers it. If you consider the messenger to be credible, then you believe the message has value.”

15. The Law of Victory: “Victory is possible as long as you have three components:

  • Unity of vision
  • Diversity of skills
  • A leader dedicated to victory and raising players to their potential”

16. The Law of the Big Mo: “Strong leaders understand that to change direction, you first have to  create forward progress. When leadership is strong and there is momentum in an organization, people are motivated and inspired to perform at higher levels.”

17. The Law of Priorities: “Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment. To be effective, leaders must order their lives according to these three questions:

  • What is required?
  • What gives the greatest return?
  • What brings the greatest reward?”

18. The Law of Sacrifice: “Usually, the higher that the leader has climbed, the greater the sacrifice he has made. Effective leaders sacrifice much that is good in order to dedicate themselves to what is best.” Just a caveat on this quote; knowing John Maxwell as I do, he would not advocate sacrificing your health, your marriage or family relationships for the sake of climbing the corporate ladder!

19. The Law of Timing: “When to lead is just as important as what to do and where to go. Only the right action at the right time will bring success. Anything else exacts a high price.”

20. The Law of Explosive Growth: “To add growth, lead followers—to multiply, lead leaders.”

21. The Law of Legacy: “A leaders lasting value is measured by succession. A legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.”


I hope you’ve enjoyed soaking in this very brief wisdom-filled overview of John Maxwell’s laws of leadership. Just like last week, it’s just the very tip of the iceberg relative to the wealth of knowledge and wisdom you’ll find in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

You can download a free copy of John Maxwell’s 21 laws of leadership that I’ve outlined above at my website Wisdom-Matters by clicking on the “Free Resources” tab.

Also, if anyone has read this book, or any other book written by Maxwell, I’d love to read your comments.

NOTE: Please see my full disclosure policy on my usage of Hyper-Links for additional information.

See you next Sunday for more Wisdom-Matters!

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