Maxwell's 21 laws of leadership

By Jim LaDoux
John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is a leadership classic that highlights many of the principles and practices that support effective leadership. As you review the list, consider which laws are most relevant to you, right now, and how you'd embed them into your life and ministry settings.

The 21 Laws

1. The Law of the Lid
Leadership ability determines a person's level of effectiveness. Your leadership potential sets the upper limit for what you can achieve.
  • How does your personal leadership ability impact your team or organization?
  • What steps can you take to raise your leadership lid?
  • How are the limitations of your leadership holding other leaders in your organization back?

2. The Law of Influence
Leadership is about influencing others. The ability to positively impact people is a key aspect of leadership.
  • How do you define influence in leadership?
  • Can you think of a leader who had a significant influence on you?
  • What qualities made them influential?

3. The Law of Process
Leadership is a lifelong journey of growth and development. It's not a destination but a continuous process of learning and improvement.
  • What does Maxwell mean by "leadership develops daily, not in a day"?
  • How can you apply this principle in your life?
  • What’s your plan for growing this month?  This year?  This decade?

4. The Law of Navigation
Effective leaders chart a course and provide direction. They have a clear vision and know where they are going.
  • How important is having a clear vision and direction in leadership?
  • How can you improve your navigation skills as a leader?
  • What are your norms reinforcing your organization’s mission, vision, and values?

5. The Law of E.F. Hutton
When true leaders speak, others listen. Leadership isn't just about words; it's about the impact your words have on others.
  • Discuss a time when someone with authority spoke, and everyone listened.
  • What made them an E.F. Hutton?
  • What would make others want to listen to your ideas and insights?

6. The Law of Solid Ground
Trust is the foundation of leadership. Leaders must be trustworthy and build trust within their teams.
  • What role does trust play in leadership?
  • How can leaders build and maintain trust within a team or organization?
  • What can leaders do to rebuild trust when it has been violated?

7. The Law of Respect
Leadership is earned, not given. People follow leaders they respect and admire.
  • How does respect influence your ability to lead effectively?
  • What actions can leaders take to earn and maintain respect?

8. The Law of Intuition
Leaders possess insight and intuition, which helps them make informed decisions beyond just facts and figures.
  • Do you believe leaders should trust their intuition? Why or why not?
  • Share a personal experience where your intuition guided you as a leader.

9. The Law of Magnetism
Like-minded people are drawn to each other. Effective leaders attract talented individuals to their cause.
  • How do you attract and retain talented individuals in your organization?
  • What can leaders do to enhance their magnetic qualities?

10. The Law of Connection
Leaders connect with people on a personal level. Building relationships is a key aspect of leadership.
  • How important is connecting with people on a personal level for effective leadership?
  • Share examples of leaders who excel at connecting with their teams.

11. The Law of the Inner Circle
Leaders surround themselves with a team of trusted advisors and collaborators to achieve success.
  • What is the significance of the inner circle in leadership?
  • How can leaders choose the right people for their inner circle?

12. The Law of Empowerment
Effective leaders empower others, giving them the authority and responsibility to excel.
  • In what ways can leaders empower their team members?
  • How does empowerment lead to increased productivity and loyalty?

13. The Law of the Picture
Leadership is about setting a positive example. Leaders model the behavior they want to see in their team.
  • Why is setting a positive example crucial for leaders?
  • Share instances where a leader's behavior set the tone for an organization.

14. The Law of Buy-In
Successful leaders gain commitment from their team members. People are more invested when they believe in the vision.
  • How can leaders secure buy-in from their team members?
  • What are the benefits of having a team that is fully committed to a vision?

15. The Law of Victory
Leaders are responsible for achieving victories and overcoming obstacles within their teams or organizations.
  • What role does a leader play in achieving victory for a team or organization?
  • Share examples of leaders who turned adversity into victory.

16. The Law of the Big Mo
Momentum is critical in leadership. Leaders build and sustain momentum to achieve goals.
  • Why is momentum important in leadership?
  • How can leaders create and sustain momentum in their endeavors?

17. The Law of Priorities
Leaders identify and focus on the most important tasks and goals to achieve success.
  • How do leaders determine their top priorities?
  • Share strategies for effective time management and priority setting in leadership.

18. The Law of Sacrifice
Leadership often requires personal sacrifices for the greater good of the team or organization.
  • What sacrifices are leaders often required to make, and why?
  • How do leaders strike a balance between personal and professional sacrifices?

19. The Law of Timing
Good leaders make decisions at the right time, understanding the importance of timing in leadership.
  • Discuss the significance of timing in leadership decisions.
  • How can leaders improve their ability to make timely decisions?

20. The Law of Explosive Growth
Effective leaders create an environment that fosters growth and development, leading to significant progress.
  • How do leaders foster an environment that encourages growth and development?
  • Share examples of organizations that experienced explosive growth under visionary leadership.

21. The Law of Legacy
Leadership isn't just about the present; it's about leaving a lasting, positive impact on future generations.
  • What does it mean to leave a legacy as a leader?
  • How can leaders work towards leaving a positive and lasting legacy?

These laws provide valuable insights into the principles and qualities that effective leaders embody.  Which ones are most important to you personally?  For the leaders you work with?


  1. What is the most important law for you to master this year?
  2. Whom might be some possible mentors to help to master this law? 
  3. If people report to you, which laws are most critical to their ongoing success?
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