If you’re like much of the population, at some point in your life, you’ve experienced poor leadership. Either you’ve had a boss who made you dread coming to work or you’ve been a part of an organization where the leader was difficult and focused on your shortcomings. If you’re fortunate, you’ve also experienced working with a great leader, one who valued you, listened to you, and motivated and inspired you.
The former leader’s qualities lead to low morale, high turnover, and a below-average company, while the latter leads to a team of highly motivated, talented employees, company growth, and an organization continually achieving new levels of success.
So, what makes one person a great leader and another a poor one?
During a private, closed-door training for TMT’s top-tier clients, John C. Maxwell answered that question. Speaking to the top MSPs in the country, he discussed the laws of leadership that make a great leader. He also revealed the good news that, even if you are a poor leader today, you can develop your leadership skills to become a great leader.
Maxwell, who has been studying, speaking, teaching, training, and writing about leadership for more than five decades, is the founder of the world’s largest leadership training organization. He has trained 6 million leaders across every country in the world. He wrote the first book on leadership that said you can develop yourself as a leader.
Titled “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” the book immediately became a bestseller and is the all-time bestselling leadership book ever written. It’s been printed in 56 different languages and sold millions of copies.
The reason Maxwell’s laws of leadership are so popular is that they work. And the reason they work is that they are foundational laws. For a law of leadership to be included in the book, it had to meet specific criteria: It had to work in any culture, anywhere in the world. It had to work regardless of time. In other words, it worked 100 years ago, it works today, and it will work 100 years from now.
Here are 6 key takeaways from Maxwell’s presentation that will help you lead your company better so your business can reach its full potential.
1. The Law Of The Lid
Maxwell defines this law by saying, “Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential.” In other words, “How you lead determines how well you succeed.” When looking on a scale of 1–10, if your leadership skills are at level 5, your company will never rise above that. At most, Maxwell says, your company will be at a level 4. In other words, if you are an average leader, you’ll have a slightly below-average organization. Your company can never rise above your level of leadership.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership,” he said. “It works in the business world. It works in government. It works in education. It works in religion. How well you lead is going to determine how well you succeed. Your leadership is your lid. The great news is that you can learn to lead, and not only can you learn to lead, your people can learn to lead.”
Your Leadership Lid Is Your Lid
If you want to grow your company, you must do two things. You must develop yourself, and you must develop others to grow them into leaders. When you develop yourself, you begin to add to your life. When you develop others, you begin to multiply the value you add to others. Once you add value to a leader, that leader turns around and influences a lot of people.
“This law is the most important law,” Maxwell said. “Not because it’s more important than the others, but if you understand this law, you will begin to spend the rest of your life with a passion to learn how to lead better than you do now.”
Only 2 Things Make Your Leadership Succeed
“If you really want it to rise, you have to have good leadership skills, and you have to have good values,” Maxwell said. “One won’t substitute for the other.” Good leadership coupled with bad values creates large turnover in organizations because people don’t want to stay with you.
“If you have great leadership skills, but you have bad values, you will know how to lead people, but because your values aren’t right, you’ll manipulate them and you’ll begin to take advantage of them,” he said. “You’ll begin to have people adding value to you instead of you adding value to them.”
Great values coupled with poor leadership skills won’t grow your company, either. “If you have great values, but you don’t have leadership skills, then the good news is you’re going to be a wonderful person,” Maxwell said. “I tell people if you know somebody who has good values, but they don’t have leadership skills, make them your friend, not your leader.
But when both leadership skills and good values come into play, that’s when everything really begins to rise. When you grow yourself as a leader, you grow your organization. And when you grow the people on your team and your organization’s leaders, everything follows.”
2. The Law Of Magnetism
Like attracts like. You can’t expect to attract highly talented, quality people to your organization if you don’t possess those types of qualities yourself. To attract better people, you’ve got to become the kind of person you want to attract. “We don’t attract whom we want. We attract who we are,” Maxwell said. “This is the law of magnetism.” If you are a leader who is a level 5, you are not going to attract a level 8 leader. “When you raise your lid, you not only build your organization, you attract higher level people,” he said.
3. The Law Of Process
With this law, Maxwell emphasizes the importance of watching your daily habits and priorities. People have the tendency to underestimate the process of developing leaders. You don’t develop a leader in a four-week crash course. There is a process you must value and commit to.
“Leaders develop daily, not in a day,” Maxwell said. “I can tell you we need to not microwave leaders. We need to ‘crockpot’ leaders. You don’t need a leadership course. You need a leadership culture. There’s a world of difference between those two. But the moment you develop a leadership culture where leadership is consistently taught, leadership is lived, leadership is shared, and leadership is valued, the moment you begin to develop a leadership culture, then things really begin to change incredibly for your organization.”
Becoming A Great Leader Is A Lifelong Journey
After hearing Earl Nightingale say that if you spend one hour a day every day on the same subject for five years, you could become an expert on the subject, Maxwell started spending at least one hour every day learning about leadership. He read books about leadership, talked to leaders, and asked them questions about leadership. He did leadership exercises. As he practiced leadership, he began to get better. People started following him more, and his influence began to expand.
He could tell he was really learning how to lead and that he was getting better. But he cautions that you don’t ever want to make the mistake of thinking you’ve arrived or you’ve become an expert at leadership. Instead, it’s about continual growth and development within your lifetime. “I was growing as a leader, and all of a sudden, the law of process began to take place in my life,” Maxwell said. “It doesn’t take place in one day, and you don’t want to stop and say, ‘I just got good.’ Once you get into the process, you develop your leadership, and as you grow, you realize yesterday doesn’t look as great.
Most people miss this. When you’re growing in the process, your success is stored before it shows up. You’ve been a success the whole time; it’s just today that it shows up. See, the law of process says it’s got to be stored before it shows up. I stopped asking, ‘How long will it take?’ and I started asking, ‘How far can I go?’ At the end of five years, I wasn’t an expert.
I’m not an expert now, and I’ve been doing it for 50 years. Because the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. And the more you know you don’t know, the more you know you need to know more. So, if you need to know more, and you know you don’t know enough, you’re not an expert. The only experts I know are people who don’t know much but have a title.”
4. The Law Of Addition
Maxwell defines this law by saying, “Leaders add value by serving others.” He says you add value to others when you truly value them and when you intentionally do everything you can to make yourself valuable to them. “In relationships, you’re either a plus or a minus in life,” Maxwell said. “It’s not that complicated. This whole area of valuing people and adding value to people, what it does is it allows you to be a plus in their life. When you’re a plus in a person’s life, when they see you walk into the room, they say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so glad to see you.’”
As leaders, we add value to people. Maxwell’s coaching company has 50,000 coaches in 172 countries around the world. He takes his coaches through the qualities he believes are extremely important to a successful organization. “Our opening line is this: We are people of value, who value people and add value to them,” Maxwell said.
If you want to become a leader, Maxwell suggests you start by intentionally adding value to people every day. “All kinds of people have leadership titles and positions,” Maxwell said. “They’re just taking walks. But how you gain influence is by adding value to people.”
Practical Ways Maxwell Adds Value To People Every Day
First and foremost, Maxwell truly values people.
Every day he thinks of ways to add value to people. “Every day, I look at my schedule and where I am going to go,” Maxwell explained. “Who am I going to talk to? What am I going to say? If you look for ways to add value to people, you’ll find ways to add value. But if you don’t look for ways to add value to people, you won’t add value to them because you’ll never find a way. How we view things is how we do things.”
He also does things to add value to people. Ask yourself who you are going to add value to today, and at the end of the day, review who you added value to and how you added value to them. “I’m very intentional because I understand when you begin to add value to people, you begin to increase your influence with people,” Maxwell said. “Think of anybody who adds value to you in your own life on your team or whatever. They have a major influence with you. Why? Because they are constantly adding value to you every day.”
Another way he adds value is by encouraging others to add value to people. “If you and the people in your organization are very intentional in adding value to people, it’s a game-changer,” he said.
5. The Law Of Solid Ground
Maxwell defines this law by saying, “Trust is the foundation of leadership.” He discovered this law as he was teaching leadership skills around the world. He began teaching the golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. “That value is taught in every religion and in every culture in the world,” Maxwell said. “It’s a wonderful value, and I began to understand right then how important trust was. Trust is the foundation of leadership. It always has been. And it always will be.”
When Maxwell was asked to speak at the United Nations, he taught a lesson called “Three Questions Every Follower Asks of Their Leader.” He chose this subject because he wanted something that would work universally, from dictatorships and monarchies to democracies. “These work in any country, any culture, and it works in your company,” Maxwell said.
3 Questions People Ask As They Look At You As A Leader
The first question people ask when they realize you are their leader is “Do you like me?”
“It’s nice to have a leader who likes you,” Maxwell said. “It makes it easier.” He adds that if you don’t like the people you lead, you should “go home and stay home.” “If you don’t like the people you lead, it’s only a matter of time before you manipulate them,” Maxwell said. “And manipulation is always wrong.”
When you manipulate people, you move people for your own personal advantage, and that’s always wrong. Leaders move people, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as it’s for mutual advantage, but you should not move people for your personal advantage.
The second question people ask is “Can you help me?”
That’s what makes you a leader. If you can’t help people and make things better in your company because you are leading it, then you aren’t fulfilling your leadership role. “If I follow you and you’re going to lead me, are you going to make things better for me?” Maxwell said. “Because when you think about it, leaders make things better. In fact, our company slogan is ‘Everyone deserves to be led well.’”
The third question is “Can I trust you?”
This is where you begin to understand the importance of good values. Maxwell teaches values around the world. “We’re asked by the president of the country to come in and teach values to small groups,” Maxwell said. “What we’ve found is that when people learn good values, they live those good values and become more valuable. When kids have good values inside, they need less validation on the outside. But when they lack good values on the inside, they need more validation.”
In the law of solid ground, trust is the foundation of relationships, and it’s an important, life-changing law. “Go inside yourself for a moment as a leader and think of the people on your team,” Maxwell said. “Ask yourself these simple questions: ‘Do I like them? Do I make life better for everybody? Can people trust me?’”
6. The Law Of Priorities
Maxwell defines this law by saying that “leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment.” The Pareto principle, named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who wrote about the 80/20 connection, states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. You may have also heard this called the 80/20 rule. “It’s all about priorities,” Maxwell said. “The Pareto principle basically says that if you have 10 things to do, if you’ll list them in order of importance, where No. 1 is truly No. 1, if you’ll just do the top 2 out of the 10, you’ll get an 80% return on everything you want in your life.
The 80/20 principle is powerful. Forget priorities for a moment. The top 20% of the people in your organization give you 80% of the return. We tend to spend 80% of our time with the bottom 20%, and we get very little return. Instead, we need to spend 80% of the time with the top 20% of the people.”
The 3 Rs
Maxwell teaches what he calls “the three Rs.” The three Rs are what’s required of you, what gives you your greatest return, and what gives you your greatest reward. “Your goal is to do the things required of you, the things that give you the greatest return, and the things that give you the most important reward,” he said. “When those are all the same things, you are in your sweet spot.”
While it’s important to learn and understand all the laws of leadership, Maxwell points out that no one practices all the laws. Read “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.” Start learning and practicing leadership. When you do that and develop a passion to learn how to lead, you’ll spend the rest of your life becoming a better leader than you are now. “Every leader can grow,” Maxwell said, “but it takes dedication to do so and a willingness to work for it.” If you take the time to learn the laws of leadership, you’ll get better at leadership. And when you get better at leadership, you’ll raise the level of your company.
To watch the video of John’s incredible session about the 21 Laws of Leadership at TMT’s top-level peer group event, go to MSPSuccessMagazine.com/Maxwell