Book Review: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

{By Taylor Turner}

john c. maxwell quote leadership

Great leaders are not born. They are cultivated.

How does it happen? How does a person go from ineffectiveness to effectiveness? In his internationally renowned book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” John C. Maxwell clearly lays out the principles that characterize all great leaders. Of the twenty-one laws on which Maxwell elaborates, three are indispensable to leadership: addition, influence, and navigation.

A perfect example of the law of addition is Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco. Jim consistently practices the law of addition – adding value to those you lead by serving. Jim has a simple office like all other employees but also receives a salary that puts him in the bottom 10% of CEOs.

However, the law of addition is more than remaining on the same level as others—and that is something Jim understands. Maxwell explains that “[Jim] goes out of his way to show employees that he cares about them. He maintains an open-door policy with everyone. He wears an employee nametag, is on a first-name basis with everyone, and makes sure to visit every single Costco store at least once every year.” Jim cares about his team and shows it. He practices the law of addition – adding value by serving and caring about those you lead.

The Law of Influence is also integral to being a great leader.  All leaders must have influence—otherwise leadership is impossible. If you walked in a room unaware of the monumental life of Mother Teresa and the far-reaching impact of her work, you probably wouldn’t pick her for the “Forbes top 100.” Mother Teresa obviously does not have the charisma of Napoleon, the stature of Washington, or the voice of Patrick Henry, but she has the fulcrum on which leadership hinges– influence.

Foundational to both the law of addition and influence is the law of navigation. One evening while driving, I needed directions and one of my good friends told me “wherever you are, that’s where you’ll be. Keep going, and you’ll get closer to where you will be.” Although it was in jest, that motto will not cut it when charting an effective leadership course. Leaders have to know where they are, where they need to be, and how to get there. Leadership must be undergirded by the law of navigation – “anyone can steer a ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.”

 Everyone is a leader.

Are you a good leader or a negligent leader? Do you have faithful followers or begrudging benefactors? In every stage of life, you are leading others in either a positive or negative way. Do the laws of addition, influence, and navigation characterize your leadership? Reading and re-reading “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell is a guaranteed way to learn and hone your leadership skills.

Leaders are readers, so read and then lead!