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on September 6, 1998
"Don't ever say 'always,'" my mother told me. So when someone says "irrefutable" I'm quick to challenge such a too-complete assertion. But the more I've read of Maxwell's "21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership," the more I think he's nailed it.
John Maxwell has been learning and teaching leadership throughout his entire career as a Wesleyan pastor and seminar speaker. He lives and breathes leadership. And in this book he has distilled the art of leadership into 21 "simple" laws. Well, not so simple, maybe, but at least understandable.
#1 "The Law of the Lid" asserts his basic premise that leadership ability determines the ultimate level of a person's effectiveness. If you have gifts and abilities, you'll make a greater impact the better leader you become. While some people may be blessed with a natural aptitude for leadership, Maxwell contends that leadership "skills" are learnable. You don't have to be a "born leader." You can apply yourself and become a much better leader than you are.
#2 "The Law of Influence." Here's another bedrock proposition: Leadership = Influence, no more and no less. Many church and secular leaders grossly misunderstand this point. They think that Leadership = Power. Maxwell argues that your leadership scope is how many people you influence, not how much organizational power you can wield from your position or office. On the basis of these two concepts, Maxwell constructs a whole philosophy of leadership. He explains the laws of "Solid Ground," "Respect," "Intuition," "the Inner Circle" and many others.
Some are especially intriguing. "The Law of E.F. Hutton," for example, is based on a TV ad campaign that ended with the motto: "When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen." Maxwell's Law #5 says you can quickly tell who the real leader/influencer in a group is, because when this person speaks, everyone at the table listens, nods, and begins to express assent. Maxwell learned this at his first church where he discovered the real leader was Claude, even though Claude wasn't even the church moderator. Maxwell then learned to influence Claude and let Claude lead the others.
You can see how practical this kind of book could be. We bumble around for much of our lives, and stumble over these "laws," trying to learn to be leaders, often not understanding what went wrong. With some clear direction -- and that's what Maxwell provides -- you'll be able to grow more quickly as a leader.
Don't expect a "spiritual" book, however. While the "laws" are solidly founded on Scriptural principles, they are expressed in a non-religious manner. For years, Maxwell has been called on by mega-corporations to teach leadership to their executives, so this and some of his more recent books are designed to be read with profit by both Christian and business audiences.
I've read a lot in the field of leadership, and in my opinion, Maxwell is tops. He's not only humorous and easy-to-read, his analysis of the essentials of leadership is brilliant. If you're a church leader, you'll want to read this, and then buy a copy for your pastor at Christmas. If you're a pastor, this is a book to absorb and then circulate among your lay leaders to raise their level of leadership. This will also be an appreciated gift to a business executive.
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on November 5, 2012
This is a book all leaders, born or made, should read. Maxwell's leadership laws are succinct and highly useful. He supports the laws with real business stories and leadership anecdotes, then he shows you how to apply these laws (each chapter ends with practical strategies and activities to help you reflect and grow your leadership abilities). Honestly, I couldn't stop reading.

But here are the main points from each chapter/law of "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership":

I. The Law Of the Lid: Leadership ability determines a person's level of effectiveness.

II. The Law of Influence: The true measure of leadership is influence--nothing more, nothing less.

III. The Law of Process: Leadership develops daily, not in a day.

IV. The Law of Navigation: Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.

V. The Law of Addition: Leaders add value by serving others.

VI. The Law of Solid Ground: Trust is the foundation of leadership

VII. The Law of Respect: People naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves

VIII. The Law of Intuition: Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias

IX. The Law of Magnetism: Who you are is who you attract

X. The Law of Connection: Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.

XI. The Law of the Inner Circle: A leader's potential is determined by those closest to him

XII. The Law of Empowerment: Only secure leaders give power to others

XIII. The Law of the Picture: People do what people see.

XIV. The Law of Buy-in: People buy into the leader, then the vision.

XV. The Law of Victory: Leaders find a way for the team to win.

XVI. The Law of the Big Mo: Momentum is a leader's best fried

XVII. The Law of Priorities: Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment.

XVIII. The Law of Sacrifice: A leader must give up to go up.

XIX. The Law of Timing: When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go.

XX. The Law of Explosive Growth: To add growth, lead followers--to multiply, lead leaders.

XXI. The Law of Legacy: A leader's lasting value is measured by succession.

A great book and the most digestible, practical, and actionable leadership book I've come across other than Leadership 2.0
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on November 23, 2007
At the beginning of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John Maxwell, the author reminds us that any book is fixed at a moment in time. Maxwell's first version of this book captured his best thinking as it was a decade ago.

But while the book has remained unchanged, its author has grown and matured. He has read more, worked with more people, and taught his principles over and over again. And so the book we get from this fifty-one-year-old author is a more mature and developed one than we got from John Maxwell when he was forty-one. That is a very good thing.

In the intervening decade Maxwell found that some laws needed to be combined. He also adds two new laws. The number of laws remains the same.

This book is better than the first version. You can count up the new stories and examples if you want, but the numbers aren't the story. The story is that this man who wrote one of the best books on leadership has added the growth, maturity and insights of a decade and made it even better.

As Maxwell outlines it on page 245, there has been a trajectory to his thinking. In the beginning he understood leadership development as primarily a process of personal development. That's still part of his thinking, but he's added understanding of the importance of a leadership team, and, especially, the importance of developing other leaders.

There are two key questions to ask and answer about any book like this. First: "If I read this book and apply what I learn, will I be a better leader?"

The answer to that is a resounding "yes." The content here is good and it's practical. Leadership is an apprentice trade. You learn most of it on the job, by trying things out, observing how you do, and adjusting how you do things in the future based on results and feedback.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership gives you a great starting point for learning. At the end of each chapter there's a section on applying this lesson to your life. There's also a law (number 3) called "The Law of Process" that reminds you that "Leadership develops daily, not in a day."

There's no promise of magic here. But you can count on improved results if you use the book to guide your actions.

The second question to ask and answer is: "Is the book written well enough that I can move through it easily and learn its lessons?"

The answer to that one is another "yes." There's excellent use of stories and examples, which will help you learn and understand. Key points are highlighted throughout the book. The writing is smooth and easy to read.

There are some things to quibble with. I think his description of how Robert E. Lee wound up with the generals he did is simply, historically wrong. But you can leave that example out of the book and the chapter where it appears and still get value from both.

There are also things that may trouble individual readers. Maxwell learned his leadership trade as a pastor and it's obvious from several of his personal stories. That makes some people uncomfortable. Others think that you need to learn leadership in business or the military, because a church is a "soft" environment.

Don't believe it. Maxwell learned is trade in one of the most demanding environments for a leader. Pastors and other nonprofit leaders don't have many of the tools of reward that their business colleagues have. The lack the disciplinary tools that the military gives its leaders.

The result is that people who learn their trade in the nonprofit world develop skills of communication and persuasion that can escape leaders in other sectors. The lessons Maxwell learned will work anywhere.

If you're just starting out as a leader, this book can provide you with a self-development roadmap to guide you as you work to master the leadership craft. If you've been practicing leadership for a while, this book will give you a refresher as well as new insights.
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on January 11, 2001
John Maxwell's book is by far the best leadership book I have read in the past few years. I wish I had this material available to me years ago, so that I was better prepared for the leadership challenges I would face as an officer in the US Army. I have read many leadership books the past decade in order to better develop my own skills, but none of them has put together all the pieces like John Maxwell does in this book.
Basically, the book covers Maxwell's 21 laws of leadership. Each chapter describes the law in detail, and provides many historical examples to help reinforce the principle. I think that he has done a great job of taking a lot of material and focusing in on the key points that help make a leader successful. The book's structure also allows you to put the book down for a few days, and not lose your focus or understanding when you get a chance to return to it. I particularly liked this approach since I never seem to have enough time for professional reading these days. Lastly, the material is easy to understand and apply to any leadership situation, which makes it a great resource for those leaders looking for a way to have an immediate impact on their organization.
As a military officer, I understand the principle role that leadership plays in an organization's success. During my short career (10 years), I have been in both great and lousy units. Each time, I can trace the unit's performance directly to its leader and his/her ability to influence its members to accomplish the mission and take care of its people. My personal experience only helped reinforce the material, and verified in my mind that John Maxwell is "on-target" with his laws.
I highly recommend this book for any leader. Whether you are just starting out on your career, or have been in a leadership position for years, I think this book can make an impact on your performance.
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VINE VOICEon February 2, 2008
This book review will cover The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, 10th Anniversary Revised and Updated Edition, by John C. Maxwell. Maxwell has written numerous bestselling books on leadership. Maxwell's other works include, but are not limited to; Developing the Leader Within You, The 21 Indisputable Qualities of a Leader, Leadership 101, and The 360 Degree Leader. Maxwell has a gift for relating his points to personal and historical examples that emphasize his suggested rules of leadership. These 21 Irrefutable Laws include: The Law of the... Lid, Influence, Process, Navigation, Addition, etc.

With each Law, the author describes the theory behind the Law. For example, with the Law of Sacrifice, the theory is that a leader must be willing to sacrifice in order to achieve. He expounds upon his point by explaining that a leader gives up rights - in exchange for responsibilities - the higher the leader rises. The example that he gives in this chapter is the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The author shows how the more sacrifice King made in terms of sacrificing his personal rights and freedoms, the more the Civil Rights movement gained. This is indicative of the way a leader must sacrifice for the good of the organization.

Maxwell suggests that all of the Irrefutable Laws are important for a leader, but admits that it is rare for everyone to do each perfectly. This is where the Law of Inner Circle comes in. The author opines that a leader's potential is determined by those closest to him/her. Thus, if you are weak in certain areas, you can strive to get better. But if you know that you have a weakness in a specific area, you should ensure that your inner circle comprises leaders that have the skills you lack. A real life example that Maxwell gives is Lance Armstrong. Although Armstrong was a wonderful bike rider, he always credited his team for helping him reach the great achievements he enjoyed in the Tour de France. The author quotes another great leader in Mother Teresa - whose life embodied many of the Laws; especially Sacrifice and Legacy - who stated, "You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things." This is one of the examples that Maxwell uses to drive points home.

Every chapter in this book covers a Law, and every Law is like a quick course on Leadership. Leadership can be learned, but the effort must be put forth to recognize your strengths and to work on your weaknesses. There are several self-quizzes and exercises in this book to help you achieve your potential in these 21 Laws. Maxwell writes, "To become an excellent leader, you need to work on it everyday." Leaders must strive for excellence and they must strive to prepare others to take over for them when they move on. This is an excellent book on leadership. Maxwell has a way of speaking directly to the reader.

Reading this book was a rewarding experience that had me wearing out the yellow highlighter as there were valuable insights on page after page.

I highly recommend this 5 star book
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on September 3, 2001
This book is a descent book on leadership, but if you are actually looking to take your first steps forward to being a great leader, this book isn't a guide to help you get there, but to tell you that you are, or aren't.
This book is more helpful in identifying and aiding people in the understanding of leadership qualities or characteristics. I wouldn't really call them 'laws', but they are characteristics that a leader must have in order to be successful to lead their organization, whatever that is.
I found the book to tell too many stories, especially where many of them were identical in their themes, but with different scenarios. I felt they concentrated too much on sports and his experiences with the church. Countless number of times he would say, 'When I was a pastor at Skyline, my church in San Diego...', and then generally lead on to some story that I felt lacked depth - although the stories did demonstrate the law in the chapter.
I think there should have been more focus on business, with only very few examples of Apple, McDonalds, etc. With over 15 examples related to sports and his church, I didn't relate very well being an entrapreneur in the high-tech field.
Needless to say, all these 'laws', (or rather leadership qualities) are indeed true and this book is a good resource for assessing yourself to see if you are the leader you thought you were. Obviously the stories are just assertion material, so the laws will uphold for anyone who wishes to start learning leadership.
As for developing skills? It's really up to you. this book will help you identify where you are weak so that you can improve, but as to what path to take for improvement, you are left alone in the dark. I would say this book is 3 1/2 stars.
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on December 13, 2009
As an instructor at the Marine Corps' leadership school, I'm always reading leadership books to help with my classroom presentations. This book has changed countless Marines. Many never took the time to read leadership books, because they thought they needed to stay in battle history. After reading this, they almost always comment on how frustrated they are for having served in the Marine Corps for so long with blinders on. Many now mix leadership study in with their battle history because of Maxwell's insight and easy to read format. Semper Fi.
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on January 23, 2000
1. This is a great investment of your money, because you can always refer to it and remind yourself quickly and efficiently what's important and what you must focus on. Maxwell distills what you need to know in a caring and giving manner.
2. His work will remain among the classics along with new works that should be part of your personal and professional library, which my company uses. Further recommend any hard-hitting and best-selling book on leadership, such as (1-Minute Manager) and (The Leader's Guide: 15 Essential Skills).
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on January 14, 2010
The title sums up what you will get. Maxwell lays out what he believes are 21 "Laws of Leadership" with the subtext "Follow Them (The laws) and People Will Follow You"

Each "Law" takes a story of himself, and some other famous individual(s), and uses them to demonstrate how they followed a law and how it succeeded for them or how they failed for not following a law and how, once they followed the law, everything turned out fine. Simple and clear organization.

The good is that it is a very easy read and the stories are entertaining pictures of famous people. The chapters are well organized and focused. I would also say that Maxwell's book can be a useful guide if you really are lost as to what you next step might be as a leader. It is a reference book rather than a true book on learning how to be a leader.

The bad is that the book, to me, comes across as a "feel good" book without substance. The book, to me, felt like an attempt to make people feel empowered to be leaders by providing simple rules that anyone can follow.

There are many books on leadership, but a better introduction to leadership would be a book on developing shared vision. If you want to lead people get to know yourself, find a vision that includes others, and learn to communicate that vision... then a book like Maxwell's can help in keeping your group successful.
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on July 6, 2002
Highly recommended: Easy to follow, very clear, strong examples. A quick summary of 10 laws.
1) Law of Influence: The true measure of leadership is influence. Influence, nothing more, nothing less. Managers can maintain direction, but cannot change it. Leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It must be earned. It takes hard work.
2) Law of Progress: Leadership Develops Daily, not in a Day. Leaders are Learners. The goal is to get a little bit better everyday. During the day, you will influence 4 people.
3) Law of Navigation: Leaders must see farther, see more, and see before others do. Past success and failures give experience. Leaders must be positive. You must have faith that you can take all your people all the way. If you cannot do that I your mind, then you cannot do that in real life. The Secret to this Law is preparation.
4) Law of Solid Ground: Trust is the foundation of leadership. You cannot take shortcuts. It is like pocket change. Every good decision, you add. Every bad decision, you take away. People forgive occasional mistakes, but if you lose their trust. It is finished. Leadership is strategy and character, but if you must be without one. . .it is better to not have strategy
5) Law of Magnetism: Leaders always look for good people. Make a list of the qualities you want in your people. Do you have those skills? You get (not who you want), but who you are. Different people will not attract themselves to you. If you want to attract better people, time to improve yourself.
6) Law of Connection: Leaders touch the Heart before the Hand. People do not care how much you know, until they know that you care. Relate to people as individuals not as a group. It is the leader¡¯s job to connect first. The tougher the challenge, the greater the connection. Lead yourself, use your head. To lead others, use your heart.
7) Law of Empowerment: Only secure leaders give powers to others. People can only achieve when the leader empowers others. Great things happen when you give credit to others. Must have belief in people. Not like a boss who is always micromanaging your work.
8) Law of Buy-In: People buy into the Leader, then the Vision. You are the message. Athletes are hired as promoters of products. You cannot separate the leader from the cause. Ghandi. Silicon Valley start ups.
9) Law of Victory: Leaders Find a Way for the Team to Win. What does it take to be a winner? Inability to accept defeat. Not winning is unacceptable. Great leaders are at their best when the pressure is on.
10) Law of Priorities: Leaders understand that activity does not equal accomplishment. A leader is one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells, ¡°WRONG JUNGLE.¡± 80/20 Principle
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