21 Laws of Leadership

Maxwell is not one of my favourite authors. While he has a lot of good wisdom on leadership, his style of teaching is through highly marketed, over exaggerated framing.

"Leadership is influence, nothing less, nothing more. But here are another 20 irrefutable laws of leadership that change occasionally that aren't influence...."

He is a master communicator and marketer, not necessarily a profound thinker.


  • This whole thing about leadership is not management, feels to me to have grown out of the desire to keep leadership as something that cannot be reduced down to scientific management/improvement.
  • “Leadership is about influencing people to follow, while management is about maintaining systems and processes” – I think this is a false distinction. I think people are influenced by the system that they are in, an hence follow in systems that are correctly configured.
  • My problem with maxwell is he says something like “leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less” and then goes on to list 20 laws other than influence. Good Leadership is obviously more than just influence.
  • His whole promise of “leadership is influence” is simply a tautology. Leaders are by their definition people who others follow. Hence to be a leader others must follow you. Influence is the ability to inspire other people to follow you. Hence having people follow you relies on your ability to make people follow you.


  • "Without leadership ability, a person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership. The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership. 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."
  • "Leadership ability is always the lid on personal and organizational effectiveness. If a person’s leadership is strong, the organization’s lid is high. But if it’s not, then the organization is limited."
  • "A widespread misunderstanding is that leading and managing are one and the same."
  • "Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus made a discovery about the relationship between growth and leadership: “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers.”"
  • "Successful leaders are learners. And the learning process is ongoing, a result of self-discipline and perseverance. The goal each day must be to get a little better, to build on the previous day’s progress."
  • "Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate events. They can be effective catalysts. But if you want lasting improvement, if you want power, then rely on a process."
  • "“You can map out a fight plan or a life plan. But when the action starts, you’re down to your reflexes. That’s where your road work shows. If you cheated on that in the dark of the morning, you’re getting found out now under the bright lights.” – Joe Frazier"
  • "“A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do.”"
  • "“It’s improper for one person to take credit when it takes so many people to build a successful organization,” asserts Sinegal. “When you try to be top dog, you don’t create loyalty. If you can’t give credit (and take blame), you will drown in your inability to inspire.”"
  • "Inexperienced leaders are quick to lead before knowing anything about the people they intend to lead. But mature leaders listen, learn, and then lead."
  • "What do the people closest to you value? Make a list of the most important people in your life—from home, work, church, hobbies, and so on. After making the list, write what each person values most. Then rate yourself on a scale of 1 (poorly) to 10 (excellently) on how well you relate to that person’s values. If you can’t articulate what someone values or you score lower than an 8 in relating to that person, spend more time with him or her to improve."
    "Trust is like change in a leader’s pocket. Each time you make good leadership decisions, you earn more change. Each time you make poor decisions, you pay out some of your change to the people. All leaders have a certain amount of change in their pocket when they start in a new Leadership position. Whatever they do either builds up their change or depletes it. If leaders make one bad decision after another, they keep paying out change. Then one day, after making one last bad decision, they - suddenly—and irreparably—run out of change. It doesn’t even matter if the last blunder was big or small. At that point it’s too late. When you’re out of change, you’re out as the leader."
  • "Think about current projects or goals. Now imagine how you can accomplish them without doing any of the work yourself except for recruiting, empowering, and motivating others."
  • "If you want to grow an organization, grow the leader. If you find the people you attract to be unreliable or untrustworthy, then examine your character. Developing stronger character can be a more difficult road, but the payoff is huge. Good character improves every aspect of a person’s life."
  • "For leaders to be effective, they need to connect with people. Why? Because you first have to touch people’s hearts before you ask them for a hand. That is the Law of Connection."
  • "You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with emotion."
  • "The stronger the relationship and connection between individuals, the more likely the follower will want to help the leader."
  • "“Leaders are dealers in hope.”"
  • "It’s one thing to communicate to people because you believe you have something of value to say. It’s another to communicate with people because you believe they have value."
    "“Jim,” I said as he sat in my office, “I know you’re the influencer in this church, and I want you to know that I’ve decided I’m going to do everything in my power to build a good relationship with you. I’d like to meet with you every Tuesday for lunch at the Holiday Inn to talk through issues. While I’m the leader here, I’ll never take any decision to the people without first discussing it with you. I really want to work with you. “But I also want you to know that I’ve heard you’re a very negative person,” I continued, “and that you like to fight battles. If you decide to work against me, I guess we’ll just have to be on opposite sides. And because you have so much influence, I know you’ll win most of the time, at least in the beginning. But I’m going to develop relationships with people and draw new people to this church. This church will grow, and someday I’ll have greater influence than you. It’s the leader’s job to initiate connection with the people. “But I don’t want to - battle you,” I confided. “You’re sixty-five years old right now. Let’s say you’ve got another ten to fifteen years of good health and productivity ahead of you. If you want, you can make these years your very best and make your life count. “We can do a lot of great things together at this church,” I summed up, “but the decision is yours.”"
  • "That’s the nature of the Law of Connection. Always touch a person’s heart before you ask him for a hand."
  • "How would I describe my personality? What is my greatest character strength? What is my greatest character weakness? What is my single greatest asset? What is my single greatest deficit? How well do I relate to others (1 to 10)? How well do I communicate with others (1 to 10)? How likable am I (1 to 10)?"
  • "I discussed in the Law of Addition how people add, subtract, multiply, or divide when it comes to others. The people in your inner circle must be adders or multipliers."
  • "People do what people see."
  • "Followers may doubt what their leaders say, but they usually believe what they do. And they imitate it."
  • "“Leaders tell but never teach until they practice what they preach.” —FEATHERSTONE"
  • "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."
  • "I recognize how each person on my team contributes using his or her unique skills, and I express my appreciation for them. The newer you are to leadership and the stronger your natural leadership ability, the more likely you will be to overlook the importance of others on the team. Don’t fall into that trap."
  • "Add ten followers to your organization, and you have the power of ten people. Add ten leaders to your organization, and you have the power of ten leaders times all of the followers and leaders they influence. That’s what I call leader’s math. It’s the difference between addition and multiplication. It’s like growing your organization by teams instead of by individuals."
  • "Personnel determine the potential of the organization. Relationships determine the morale of the organization. Structure determines the size of the organization. Vision determines the direction of the organization. Leadership determines the success of the organization."


Sebastian Kade, Founder of Sumry and Author of Living Happiness, is a software designer and full-stack engineer. He writes thought-provoking articles every now and then on sebastiankade.com

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