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Summary: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (1998) collects key rules, principles, and examples from a diverse collection of inspiring leaders throughout history. We often speak about “born leaders,” as if a person either has the special X factor of leadership or they don’t. In fact, leadership is learned – and by studying what enabled the world’s best leaders to attract followers and make an impact, we too can do the same.

“The greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence needs to be. Whatever you will accomplish is restricted by your ability to lead others.” – John Maxwell

In the following book summary, you’ll learn the laws of leadership that build influence and transform you into a leader worth following.


Frequent motivational author John C. Maxwell, a former pastor, squarely based these 21 laws of leadership on enduring values. These guidelines are meant to inspire, not innovate, as they offer techniques to make leading by principle a practical reality. Maxwell’s straightforward, insightful rules are well worth the time you will spend reading them. We recommend this gem of simplicity as a game book for building stronger teams and becoming a better leader.


  • Strengthen the potential of your organization by developing leaders instead of followers.
  • Lead from your own personal integrity.
  • No matter how many followers you have, try to connect with them individually.
  • Make each action accomplish more than one goal.
  • People follow the leader first, then they follow the leader’s plan.
  • If you intend to change course, give your organization’s leaders time to accept the shift and to begin to build consensus with their followers.
  • Sometimes your best use of power is to give it away.
  • Real leaders accept nothing less than victory.
  • Leadership requires sacrifice all along the way.
  • For the good of the organization, prepare other leaders to take your place.

Introduction: Become a powerful leader by following in the footsteps of other great leaders.

What exactly does a great leader look like? Well, they come in all shapes, colors, and sizes – but in this summary to John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, you’ll learn the core principles that all great leaders live by. No leader follows every rule perfectly, and neither will you. But by cultivating several of these principles, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a standout leader.

[Book Summary] The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You

In this summary, you’ll learn

  • what it takes to get other people to believe in your vision;
  • how to ensure you’re adding value for others; and
  • what you need to give up in order to lead.

The Law of Influence and the Law of Empowerment

In 1832, a tall, gangly young man called Abraham Lincoln gathered a group of volunteers to fight in a militia in the Black Hawk War. There was just one problem: Lincoln knew absolutely nothing about being a soldier. He had no knowledge of tactics – in fact, he’d never served in the military.

During his time in the militia, Lincoln’s level of influence actually decreased. He began as a captain and ended as a mere private. Afterward, he spent time in the Illinois state legislature and the US House of Representatives with mediocre results.

Yet we know that Lincoln eventually grew enormously influential, led the Union to victory in the Civil War, and is today one of the most popular US presidents of all time. So, what changed?

The Law of Influence states that the truest measure of leadership is, well, influence. Leaders may not always look powerful, impressive, or charismatic – and they may not always have been born great. But the one thing they must have is influence.

So, how can you gain influence for yourself? Well, there are several key skills you can focus on. One central factor is character – who are you on the inside? Although this may seem like an intangible, wishy-washy concept, your followers (if you’re lucky enough to have some) will have a surprisingly good gauge on your depth of character. The more able they are to sense that character – the real you – the more likely they’ll be to keep following. Another way to obtain influence is by building up your own personal bank of knowledge. Lincoln never attended college, but if you’ve read any of his speeches, you’ll know that he was an incredibly learned man.

Lincoln embodied not only the Law of Influence but also the Law of Empowerment. This is the law that says secure leaders are willing to give power to others.

Lincoln was well known for his willingness to cede power and authority. Just look at how he selected his cabinet. Many so-called leaders choose to surround themselves with like-minded yes-men. But not Lincoln. Instead, he deliberately chose cabinet members who would challenge him and bring diverse arguments to the table. To him, that was more important than being personally comfortable.

Lincoln’s dedication to the Law of Empowerment was also evident when it came to his attitude toward choosing military generals. Lincoln chose his generals himself and wrote to them personally. When they performed well, he gave them credit. And when they performed poorly, Lincoln took the blame. The Union generals succeeded because Lincoln stood strong and secure in his leadership.

What made Lincoln’s use of the Law of Empowerment so successful was his belief in others. If you believe in another person, they’ll find it difficult not to believe in themselves too.

So a good question to ask yourself is, Do you believe in the people around you? And there’s an easy way to find out. Make a list of the people closest to you. Then rate each person’s potential on a scale of one to ten. Remember, you’re rating their potential here – not their current ability. If all of their numbers are low, then perhaps there’s a lesson to learn: your belief in other people is probably not very high.

Now, for each person on the list, take some time to write down their greatest strengths – and imagine how they might be able to leverage those strengths to achieve something spectacular. What could they become if they really made the most of their gifts? And what could you do to help them succeed?

The Law of Process and the Law of Magnetism

A French ambassador was visiting President Theodore Roosevelt. The pair were walking through the woods. Eventually, they came to a stream that they would have to cross in order to continue their journey. Without saying a word, Roosevelt stripped off his clothes and waited expectantly for the ambassador to do the same. How else would they swim over to the other side?

This behavior was normal for Roosevelt. He was a vigorous, active man who exemplified a few of the 21 rules of leadership, including the Law of Process and the Law of Magnetism.

Today, we might remember Roosevelt as being a bit of a tough guy. But, contrary to what you might think, he was actually born small and sickly. He was thin, suffered from severe asthma, and had poor eyesight. In fact, it wasn’t certain whether he would survive into adulthood.

But around the age of 12, Roosevelt began to live by the Law of Process. This law dictates that leadership isn’t built in a day. Instead, it develops over the course of a lifetime through concerted and continued effort. Roosevelt began to increase his physical strength by working out with weights, hiking, ice-skating, hunting, rowing, boxing, and horseback-riding. It was a journey that took time – and which built him into the strong figurehead we picture today.

Likewise, Roosevelt didn’t ascend to the presidency immediately. He spent time as a New York City police commissioner, a big-game hunter, and a cowboy. Roosevelt retained a lifelong commitment to growth; even on the day of his death, a book was found stashed beneath his pillow.

In addition to following the Law of Process, Roosevelt embodied the Law of Magnetism – he attracted a specific type of follower that matched his own persona. During the Spanish-American war, Roosevelt personally charged up San Juan Hill with his cavalry unit, the Rough Riders. The volunteers he recruited were specific types of people: wealthy aristocrats from the Northeast and cowboys from the Wild West. This made perfect sense because Roosevelt was both a Harvard-educated New Yorker and a big-game hunter who had traversed the Dakotas.

Effective leaders are always on the lookout for the right people. And often, they attract people who are similar to them. This was exactly the case with Roosevelt.

So, how do you tackle both these laws yourself? First, let’s look at the Law of Process. Consider what your personal plan for growth is. You might have a vague idea already, but it’s worth writing out a specific plan. Consider exactly which books you’ll read over the coming months, the conferences you’ll attend, the lectures you’ll listen to. Be specific about selecting materials and setting aside time on your calendar for them.

For the Law of Magnetism, try writing down the qualities you’d like to see in your followers. Then, put a check mark next to the qualities you possess and a cross next to the ones you lack. If you see lots of crosses instead of checks, you’ll know why you haven’t attracted the type of followers you want! To increase your chances of attracting the right kind of people, you can follow up on this exercise by identifying mentors – maybe a professional coach or a respected colleague – who will help you grow in the specific areas where you’re weakest.

The Law of Respect and the Law of Addition

You’re probably familiar with the name “Moses” – the prophet who authored the Torah and split the Red Sea to lead the Israelites to safety.

But perhaps you’re less familiar with someone else who went by the nickname “Moses.” This “Moses” was actually a woman – small in stature, with dark skin and two missing front teeth. Her name was Harriet Tubman.

In the decade between 1850 and 1860, Tubman made 19 trips from the American South to the North, leading enslaved Black people to freedom with the help of sympathizers along the way. During summers and winters, Tubman scraped together a living as a domestic servant. Then, in the spring and fall, she used her small savings to make trips to the South to rescue as many people as she could. And in all this time, Tubman never lost a single passenger because she refused to let people give up. By the start of the Civil War, she had helped more people escape from slavery than any other American in history.

Tubman embodied the Law of Respect, which says that people naturally follow leaders who are stronger than themselves. She had immense influence – and not just among enslaved people. Influential Northerners, both Black and white, would also ask her to speak at rallies and at their homes.

But how was Tubman able to command so much respect given how strongly the deck was stacked against her? After all, she was uneducated and formerly enslaved, and she lived in a country that didn’t respect Black people or women.

Well, great leaders can gain respect in a number of ways. One key way is by demonstrating their own respect for other people – if you show respect toward others, you’ll gain their respect in return. Another way you can earn respect is by exhibiting courage. Few could match Harriet Tubman’s unwavering determination. For her, the choice to save enslaved Black people was binary: succeed, or die trying.

But Tubman also followed another law of great leadership: The Law of Addition, which is all about serving other people. The best leaders are less interested in their own power and position and are instead focused on positive impact. Their motive is not to win awards or accolades, but to improve people’s lives. Tubman risked everything to serve her people.

And that’s because she truly valued them. When you value other people, you naturally add value to their lives. It sounds simple, and it is. You should always be demonstrating to your followers that you care – even if it’s through small actions, like taking five minutes out of a busy day to say hello.

You also add value to other people’s lives by increasing your own value. Learn skills so that you can teach them. Acquire opportunities so you can give them out. Evaluate and reflect on your experiences so you can provide wisdom.

Finally, consider your overall attitude: Is it geared toward helping others? Think of situations where you’re required to serve other people’s needs. Do you ever become impatient, resentful, or indignant? If so, think about what needs to change. Ask yourself how can you regularly perform small acts of service for your followers without seeking recognition – and without feeling resentment.

The Law of Sacrifice and the Law of Buy-In

Life in Montgomery, Alabama, was relatively peaceful for Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1954, he accepted his first pastorate. Then, a year later, he and his wife, Coretta Scott, welcomed their first child into the world.

However, they were only able to enjoy their newly established family life for another month before the peace was shattered. In December 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested after she refused to give up her seat to a white bus passenger. Immediately, King and other Black leaders rallied together to protest Parks’s arrest and the transit system’s racist policies. What started out as a one-day boycott quickly transitioned into a continued boycott coordinated by their newly formed organization. It was called the Montgomery Improvement Association, or MIA, and King was unanimously elected leader.

He led the MIA for the next year, negotiating with city leaders and advocating for the fair treatment of Black Americans. The organization achieved a major victory in 1956 when the US Supreme Court struck down the laws that allowed segregated seating on buses.

However, King didn’t escape without paying a steep personal cost. Soon after the boycott began, the police arrested King for a minor traffic violation. Following that, a bomb was thrown onto his property, he was indicted on a bogus charge, and every day and night, King and his wife received death threats and outpourings of obscenities over the phone.

King ultimately received the Nobel Peace Prize for his courageous efforts in the US civil rights movement. But he sacrificed a lot for that success. He was jailed and arrested, stoned and stabbed, bombed and bombarded. Ultimately, he lost his life when he was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

King embodies the Law of Sacrifice to the extreme. Leaders have to be willing to give up a lot in order to succeed. They need to put others ahead of themselves and do what’s best for the group as a whole.

Sacrifices are necessary throughout the entirety of a leader’s career – not just the very beginning. Too often, people think their sacrifice is over when they do something like move to a different city or take a pay cut in the pursuit of a better position. But sacrifice is an ongoing cost; it’s not a one-time payment. And the higher the level of leadership, the higher the payment.

Even after MLK was assassinated, his followers kept his dream alive. And that’s because King was also a master of the Law of Buy-In. This principle dictates that people first “buy in” to the leader – and subsequently to their vision. In other words, people follow leaders first and embrace their causes afterward.

So, as a leader, you need to get people to buy into you. Consider what the buy-in is for the people you already lead. Make a list of your key followers, and rate each person’s buy-in on a scale of one to ten. Then, think about how you can increase your buy-in with them. Could you be more honest and authentic? Could you give them better tools with which to do their jobs? Could you help them achieve their personal goals? Develop a unique strategy with each person, put it into action, and watch your credibility rise.

The Law of Victory and the Law of Timing

During World War II, Europe was on the brink of collapse. Hitler and his Nazi army had steamrolled countries like Poland, France, and Belgium and threatened to remake them in his image. However, there were a few leaders who weren’t going to accept Hitler’s machinations without a fight. One of them was Winston Churchill, the British prime minister and a masterful practitioner of the Law of Victory.

Churchill made the word “victory” – his rallying cry – practically synonymous with his name. In his first speech after becoming prime minister, he said, “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory – victory at all costs.” Churchill was far from being all talk. He deployed troops in the Mediterranean, allied with Soviet leader Stalin despite his hatred of communism, and carefully worked on developing a relationship with the American president and ally Franklin Delano Roosevelt – another great leader.

The Law of Victory is about performing under peak pressure, and there are three components to doing this well. The first is unity of vision. Groups must share a vision in order to succeed. During the war, the British army and citizens were united in their dedication to Churchill’s cause.

Another factor in achieving victory is diversity of skills. You can’t have a football team, for example, that consists only of quarterbacks – just as you can’t have an army made up of only generals. Ensure that your group, team, or organization has the diversity it needs to flourish.

Finally, to perform well, you need a leader who is dedicated to raising their followers to their full potential. Leaders must provide the motivation, empowerment, and support that a team needs to thrive. Churchill did this through his famous speeches broadcast over the radio, which raised the collective spirit and prevented morale from collapsing. A good question to ask yourself is, Are you as committed to the success of your team as Churchill was? If the answer is no, you may run into problems along the way. Remember, think victory – and you’ll inspire your team to be victorious.

The final law that Churchill followed religiously was The Law of Timing, because doing even the right things at the wrong time can spell disaster. In addition to being a master of the Law of Victory, Churchill was skilled in the Law of Timing. In fact, his victory depended on it. If Churchill had made an error in timing – said the wrong words in the wrong speech, or acted rashly when he should have been cautious – the war could have very well been lost.

When leading, it’s important to think about both the timing and rightness of your actions. It can help to review your recent successes and failures, and to analyze the effects of your timing on each. Were the failures caused by the wrong action or the wrong timing? Would your initiatives have been more successful if they had been launched either earlier or later? What factors were working against them? What were the market or industry conditions at the time? Exploring these questions can help you understand your own relationship to timing and thereby improve it.

Insights from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell

A “team lead” role or “manager” position will give you temporary influence over the people you lead. But if you don’t obey the laws of leadership, you’ll squander that influence. When you instruct, your team will delay and second-guess your decision. And when you try to go in a new direction, no one will follow. But if you learn and honor The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, you’ll become more and more influential as a leader.

What follows are three irrefutable laws of leadership but woven into each of these three laws are elements of the eighteen other irrefutable laws of leadership.

The Law of Addition

When a leader feels like their people should serve them, they feel superior, which breeds impatience and contempt and diminishes the team’s desire to support the leader. To be a great leader, flip the org chart upside down so the people on your team sit above you. From this perspective, think, “What can I do to serve and add value to their lives?”

If you need a guide, remember the PROMISE acronym:

  • Provide honest and actionable feedback that helps your team members improve their skills and performance.
  • Remove obstacles and preempt problems that could slow your team down.
  • Own the problems on your team so your team doesn’t have to carry the burden.
  • Make time to meet with everyone and actively listen to their ideas, concerns, and issues.
  • Influence upper management to give your team the resources they need.
  • Spotlight the efforts and contributions of each team member.
  • Encourage your team to make decisions and take on more responsibility.

These small but impactful acts of service may be uncomfortable at times, but they demonstrate a genuine commitment to your team’s welfare. Your daily promise to your team assures them they are valued and not merely a disposable asset, fulfilling two other leadership laws: “The Law of Process” and “The Law of Solid Ground.”

The Law of Buy-in

People only buy in to your call to action if they buy in to you. Maxwell says, “People don’t at first follow worthy causes. They follow worthy leaders who promote causes they can believe in.”

But how can people know if you are someone worth buying into? Live by “The Law of the Picture” and be a good example. Take Gandhi’s famous words to heart: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If you want a loved one to change their diet, change yours first. If you want a friend to exercise more, raise your exercise routine to the next level.

After reading this summary, name three to five things you wish your team members did better and then grade your performance for each (or ask someone else to grade you on them). If you score low in any area, change yourself in that area before urging others to change. If you score high in an area, you need to be more intentional about displaying the changes you’ve made. The most valuable thing you can do as a leader is to be a good example.

The Law of Priorities

Your team needs to truly understand their priority and what they must make time for, no matter what. Give your team that clarity and they will reward you with incredible execution. To identify your team’s priorities, ask three questions around the 3Rs:

  1. What is required of us? (Who is depending on us?)
  2. What gives the greatest return? (How can we better utilize our strengths and multiply output?)
  3. What will bring the greatest reward? (What will provide the most satisfaction and sustain our drive to continue working hard?)

Find the work that fits these three Rs and make it top of mind. Then, as a leader, stay true to your priorities by obeying “The Law of Sacrifice.” Create two lists:

  • List #1: What daily or weekly tasks am I willing to give up? This includes busy work that could be easily delegated or eliminated or tasks that you’re great at but could easily train someone to do 80% as well.
  • List #2: What things will I not sacrifice? This may include your morning workout or time with your family on the weekend. Having clear boundaries ensures you stay mentally sharp and committed as a leader.

“How well you lead determines how well you succeed. Leadership is the lid to your potential.” – John Maxwell


“The Law of the Lid: Leadership Ability Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness”

Brothers Dick and Maurice McDonald had a talent for the restaurant business. As American culture became dependent on cars, they developed methods to serve food to customers on the run. They eventually streamlined their business, and primarily sold hamburgers. People in the restaurant business traveled to their hamburger joint to learn their efficient methods.

“True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed or assigned. It comes only from influence and that can’t be mandated. It must be earned.”

Yet, the McDonald brothers failed when they attempted to franchise their idea. Why? Because they lacked overarching leadership ability. Their partner, Ray Kroc, had the vision and skill to make McDonald’s a marketplace phenomenon. Dedication to success is important, and so is talent and intelligence, but without leadership ability, you’ll only get so far.

“The Law of Influence: The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less”

True leadership cannot be bestowed, it must be earned. In 1996, a London Daily Mail poll showed that the public considered Mother Teresa and Princess Diana to be the most caring two people in the world, though neither held political office. People listened to them, and they used their influence to accomplish great things.

“Personal and organizational effectiveness is proportionate to the strength of leadership.”

Leading and managing are two different tasks, but the idea that good managers make good leaders is a common misconception. Leaders influence people while managers focus on running smooth operations. Entrepreneurs are not necessarily leaders. Even innovators may lack the ability to build organizations. Another misconception is that being first, being given a leadership job, or having great knowledge makes you a leader. Only hard work and dedication can do that.

“The Law of Process: Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day”

If you cannot identify the subjects you’re ignorant about, you won’t know what you need to learn. Once you figure that out, you can begin to develop your leadership skills by filling in the gaps in your knowledge. As your knowledge grows, so will your leadership ability. As you absorb leadership lessons, leading will become second nature. Real success comes from building your enterprise day by day.

“The Law of Navigation: Anyone Can Steer the Ship, But It Takes a Leader to Chart the Course”

Leadership requires planning and forethought. Consider what you are asking others to follow you into doing. Preparedness is the main secret of this law. Decide what you’re going to do, and tell key staff members your goals. Allow time for them to accept the course you’ve proposed. Be prepared for problems, but always highlight their successes. Each day, review the course you’ve set.

“The Law of E.F. Hutton: When the Real Leader Speaks, People Listen”

The person with the title, the one running the meeting, may not be the real leader. True leadership depends on influence. The man or woman to whom people listen is the actual leader. Real leaders have strength of character, build good relationships and know a lot about their work. They have strong intuition and plain, raw talent.

“The Law of Solid Ground: Trust Is the Foundation of Leadership”

The trust of your followers is your most valuable asset as a leader. People want to believe in your character. If you make a mistake and don’t acknowledge it, you will breed mistrust.

“The Law of Respect: People Naturally Follow Leaders Stronger than Themselves”

Strong people look for strong leaders, based on respect and depth of character. Harriet Tubman, an African-American abolitionist, was very short, she lacked two front teeth and she never dressed well. Despite her appearance, people respected her enormously. In time, some of the country’s most important people invited her into their homes to seek her counsel.

“The Law of Intuition: Leaders Evaluate Everything with a Leadership Bias”

Intuition is a difficult quality to define. You develop intuition over time, through experience, but you must be ready to implement it in a heartbeat. Intuition enables leaders to read their circumstances, other people and available resources, and to integrate that understanding so they can act specifically within a broader context. Intuition offers a creative way to connect problems with solutions by viewing every situation through the lens of leadership. Apple’s Steve Jobs is an excellent intuitive leader. He has an uncanny ability to present innovations that capture consumers’ imagination. He views every technology, every partnership and every employee as a resource he can use as he leads his company into new markets.

“The Law of Magnetism: Who You Are Is Who You Attract”

Generally the people you attract will have qualities that are similar to yours. They will generally share your attitudes, values, abilities and life experiences. If you’re not attracting the people you want, examine your leadership skills to find any areas that need improvement.

“The Law of Connection: Leaders Touch a Heart Before They Ask for a Hand”

To communicate your message, you need to connect with people on an emotional level. Even when you face a room full of people, remember that they are individuals; connect with them as separate people.

“If you’re starting in a new position and you’re not the leader, don’t let it bother you. The real test of leadership isn’t where you start out. It’s where you end up.”

Some of the greatest military leaders made it their business to connect individually with their troops. Robert E. Lee spent time around the campfires with his men on nights before big battles. General Norman Schwarzkopf said in his autobiography that one Christmas during the Persian Gulf War, he “must have shaken 4,000 hands.” By taking the trouble to connect with their soldiers individually, these leaders ensured that they had their followers’ support.

“The Law of the Inner Circle: A Leader’s Potential Is Determined by Those Closest to Him”

To make your organization more effective, seek strong leadership potential among the people who form your inner circle. Don’t devote your time to trying to convince or inspire people who have a negative attitude. Invest your energy in those who share your vision. Populate your inner circle with individuals who boost morale and help make your load lighter.

“The Law of Empowerment: Only Secure Leaders Give Power to Others”

Henry Ford had an incredible vision. The car he manufactured changed modern life. And yet, he was so personally insecure that he could not keep himself from undermining the other executives at the Ford Motor Company. He would empower subordinates only to cripple their authority later. Worries about job security usually prevent leaders from empowering other people, but the ability to develop other leaders makes you invaluable to your organization. Abraham Lincoln named his political rivals and critics to his cabinet because he wanted the benefit of advice from leaders as strong or stronger than he was. When you empower others, you lift them up and, in the process, you elevate yourself.

“The Law of Reproduction: It Takes a Leader to Raise Up a Leader”

Some leaders are naturally gifted. Others rise to the occasion in response to crisis. However, the vast majority of leaders are inspired and mentored by other leaders. The best mentors for potential leaders are experienced leaders. You can only give to others what you already possess. Many leaders don’t see the value of generating other leaders, and may try to hold other people down at lower ranks. Be careful; the only way to limit or demote others is to lower yourself. Raising new leaders is essential for the full development of your company. The more leaders your firm has, the stronger it is, but that requires careful nurturing. As Ross Perot once said, “Leaders don’t flock. You have to find them one at a time.”

“The Law of Buy-In: People Buy into the Leader, then the Vision”

Mahatma Gandhi was one of the greatest leaders of all time. He led his native India to independence. He advocated nonviolence as the most effective weapon against oppression. Convincing people of this idea was terribly difficult, and yet millions followed him. Why? Because they believed in him as a leader, so they adopted his vision and his plan. Many people think vision comes first, but it doesn’t. When followers are making up their minds, the leader comes first. Build your credibility as a leader and then work on persuading others to share your vision.

“The Law of Victory: Leaders Find a Way for the Team to Win”

Winston Churchill spoke out against the Nazis as early as 1932, but those who led England at that time decided to pursue a reconciliatory path. When Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940, he plainly stated his position against Nazism. He made it clear that he intended to lead England to victory and that defeating Hitler was the only acceptable outcome. Despite incredible odds, Churchill did not give up until the Allies were victorious. Even a leader who is dedicated to victory must realize that winning is usually a team endeavor. Improving the team’s play leads to victory. Achieving victory requires a cohesive vision, a variety of skills and a dedicated leader exhorting his team to leave it all on the field.

“The Law of the Big Mo: Momentum Is a Leader’s Best Friend”

To go anywhere, you must be in motion. Ongoing momentum makes it easier to overcome challenges and obstacles when they occur. A leader must generate momentum, but once it starts, it is hard to stop. Momentum inspires followers to perform.

“The Law of Priorities: Leaders Understand that Activity Is Not Necessarily Accomplishment”

First analyze your obligations. Identify those areas where your strengths are greatest and, as much as possible, delegate the rest. Understand where your greatest passions reside, because they provide your motivation. Being active doesn’t necessarily mean you are accomplishing the right things, so setting priorities is crucial. Ideally, each action you execute will satisfy more than one priority. To prioritize, determine what you absolutely must do, what activity generates the largest gain and “what brings the greatest reward.” To maximize your effort, focus on the most productive areas.

“The Law of Sacrifice: A Leader Must Give Up to Go Up”

Sometimes you have to be willing to give something up so you can move ahead. You may be forced to take one step back in order to take two steps forward. Often that means working around the clock without compensation or appreciation. Sometimes the sacrifice is even greater. When Lee Iacocca took over Chrysler, he couldn’t stop the company’s downward trend toward bankruptcy without drastic action. As a last resort, he asked the federal government to bail out the company. He opened himself and Chrysler up to attack and ridicule. To set an example, he reduced his yearly salary to one dollar. He asked Chrysler’s executives to sacrifice as well. Because of that mutual sacrifice, they turned Chrysler around together. Getting where you’re going will require sacrifice. Staying there requires even more sacrifice.

“The Law of Timing: When to Lead Is as Important as What to Do and Where to Go”

So often, timing has a tremendous impact on the outcome of a battle. Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976 because voters identified with him as a Washington outsider. It was “the right time” in U.S. history for an outsider to win. The country was wary, disillusioned by Vietnam and Watergate. Chances are that Carter would not have been elected at any other time, but timing favored the underdog in 1976.

“Just as in sports a coach needs a team of good players to win, an organization needs a team of good leaders to succeed. The larger the organization, the stronger, larger and deeper the team of leaders needs to be.”

“The Law of Explosive Growth: To Add Growth, Lead Followers – To Multiply, Lead Leaders” – Leaders who develop other leaders multiply their own potential and activate the law of explosive growth. John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s Pizza, explains, “It’s my job to build the people who are going to build the company.” His COO, Wade Oney, adds, “The key is to develop leaders. You do that by building up people.” You can groom leaders one by one, but for faster growth you can also enlist leaders who will bring their followers along, multiplying your growth.

“The leader finds the dream and then the people. The people find the leader and then the dream.”

“The Law of Legacy: A Leader’s Lasting Value Is Measured by Succession” – In 1997, Coca-Cola’s CEO Roberto Goizueta died unexpectedly. This kind of crisis is often hugely destabilizing, but Goizueta had prepared for his company’s welfare in the event of his absence. As a result, Coca-Cola remained strong. By growing leaders, you amplify your company’s potential today and provide for its sustained success in the future.


The most important takeaway from all this is:

No one leader can perfectly obey or embody every single rule of leadership. But leadership skills are absolutely necessary in order to successfully run an organization, grow a company, or make an impact on the world. By challenging yourself to improve in each of the key dimensions of leadership, you’ll make great strides in increasing your people skills, gaining followers, and transforming your vision into reality.

And here’s some more actionable advice:

Rethink your priorities.

Prioritizing enables – in fact, requires – leaders to think ahead and see how each of their actions contributes to their larger vision. So make certain that every action you take in pursuit of your goal is something only you can do. If something you’re doing can be done 80 percent as well by someone else, delegate it! Also, make sure you’re always doing what brings you the greatest reward. Never sacrifice the things you love, whether it’s playing golf or spending time with your children.

About the author

John C. Maxwell is a New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker who has sold more than 30 million books in fifty languages. He has been identified as a leader in business by the American Management Association and the most influential leadership expert in the world by Business Insider and Inc. magazine. He is the founder of The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, EQUIP, and the John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, organizations that have trained millions of leaders from every country of the world. The recipient of the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership from the Luminary Leadership Network, Dr. Maxwell speaks each year to Fortune 500 companies, presidents of nations, and many of the world’s top business leaders.

Consultant and former pastor John C. Maxwell writes frequently about leadership and regularly gives workshops on leadership principles. He is the author of several other books, including The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork and Winning with People.


Management, Leadership, Business Culture, Business Motivation, Self-Improvement


“The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” is a comprehensive guide that provides practical and applicable principles for effective leadership. The book is divided into 21 chapters, each focusing on a specific law that is essential for leadership success. John C. Maxwell, a renowned leadership expert and author, shares his insights and experiences to help readers understand and apply the laws in their personal and professional lives.

The book is organized into 21 chapters, each dedicated to exploring one of these laws. Maxwell’s writing style is clear, concise, and engaging, making it accessible to readers from all walks of life. He presents each law in a structured manner, providing real-life examples, anecdotes, and practical applications to illustrate their significance.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The Law of Leadership: The book begins by emphasizing the importance of leadership, defining it as the “ability to influence others to achieve a common goal.”
  2. The Law of Influence: Maxwell stresses the significance of influence in leadership, stating that leaders must be able to influence others to follow their vision.
  3. The Law of Intentionality: The author emphasizes the importance of intentionally building leadership skills, rather than simply relying on innate abilities.
  4. The Law of Integrity: Maxwell highlights the significance of integrity in leadership, stating that leaders must be truthful, transparent, and honest.
  5. The Law of Innovation: The book emphasizes the importance of creativity and innovation in leadership, encouraging readers to embrace new ideas and approaches.
  6. The Law of Responsibility: Maxwell stresses the need for leaders to take responsibility for their actions and decisions, as well as those of their team.
  7. The Law of Respect: The author highlights the importance of respecting others, including their time, opinions, and contributions.
  8. The Law of Reproduction: Maxwell discusses the importance of reproducing leadership qualities in others, stating that leaders must be able to develop and empower their team members.
  9. The Law of Solid Ground: The book emphasizes the need for leaders to establish a solid foundation of trust, credibility, and character before attempting to influence others.
  10. The Law of Significance: Maxwell stresses the importance of leaders creating a sense of significance for their team members, helping them understand their purpose and contribution to the organization.
  11. The Law of Growth: The author emphasizes the importance of leaders fostering a growth mindset in their team members, encouraging them to continuously improve and develop their skills.
  12. The Law of Preeminence: Maxwell highlights the importance of leaders establishing themselves as preeminent in their field, setting the standard for excellence and innovation.
  13. The Law of Leadership Presence: The book emphasizes the significance of leaders having a strong presence, both physically and virtually, to inspire and influence their team.
  14. The Law of Practice: The author stresses the importance of leaders practicing what they preach, leading by example, and demonstrating their values and principles.
  15. The Law of Placement: Maxwell discusses the importance of placing people in the right positions to maximize their strengths and abilities.
  16. The Law of Developing Others: The book emphasizes the need for leaders to invest time and effort in developing the skills and abilities of their team members.
  17. The Law of E.L.F. (Educate, Lift, and Fulfill): Maxwell introduces the E.L.F. principle, which involves educating, lifting, and fulfilling the needs of others to build trust and loyalty.
  18. The Law of Magnetic Leadership: The author highlights the importance of leaders being magnetic, attracting and retaining top talent, and creating a culture of excellence.
  19. The Law of Command: Maxwell stresses the importance of leaders commanding respect, rather than simply demanding obedience.
  20. The Law of Buy-In: The book emphasizes the need for leaders to obtain buy-in from their team members, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment.
  21. The Law of Reviews: The author stresses the importance of regular reviews and evaluations, ensuring that leaders and team members are on the same page and working towards common goals.

One of the key strengths of this book lies in its ability to present complex leadership concepts in a straightforward and relatable manner. Maxwell draws upon his own experiences and the experiences of well-known leaders to demonstrate how these laws have been applied successfully in various contexts. This approach helps readers grasp the principles more effectively and envision how they can be implemented in their own lives and organizations.

The laws covered in the book encompass a wide range of leadership aspects, including influence, trust, vision, character, communication, and teamwork. Maxwell emphasizes the importance of self-development, integrity, and building strong relationships with followers. He stresses the significance of leading by example and encourages leaders to cultivate a positive and empowering environment that fosters growth and productivity.

Furthermore, the book provides practical steps and strategies for implementing each law, enabling readers to apply the principles immediately. Maxwell’s emphasis on personal growth and continual learning resonates throughout the book, reminding readers that leadership is a journey of continuous improvement.

While “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” offers a wealth of valuable insights and actionable advice, it is important to note that leadership is a complex and multifaceted subject. Maxwell’s laws serve as guiding principles, but they should be viewed as a starting point rather than an exhaustive framework. Different leadership situations may require adaptations and additional strategies beyond those presented in the book.

In conclusion, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You” is an exceptional resource for individuals seeking to enhance their leadership skills. John C. Maxwell’s expertise, combined with his engaging writing style, makes this book an invaluable guide for aspiring and experienced leaders alike. By internalizing and applying these 21 laws, readers can develop the necessary qualities and mindset to inspire and lead others effectively.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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