Maxwell’s First Law of Leadership

Success in the 21st century can be defined as many things. For much of the American society, success is reflected through a level of wealth and an occupation, or so I thought. As I leave my twenties behind and look toward the thirties, I often reflect on how I define success and how I can be more successful. I took at people around me that are successful; my boss, the executives at work, and friends. I quickly realized that they all specialists in their fields, are highly approachable, and are leaders.

This last point is what led me to John C. Maxwell. I was perusing my bookshelf and found one of his books. Mr. Maxwell has more than thirty years of experience in numerous leadership roles and has founded four companies, including INJOY, a company dedicated to helping people maximize their personal and leadership potential. He is an author of 25 books, including the book I will begin discussing today, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You.

As part of the productivity side of arealityofmyown, I would like to spend a little time discussing the 21 laws he outlines in his book. Each post will focus on one law and I will discuss how that relates to my reality. Since this is just a review, please head on over to Amazon to grab your copy, especially if you don’t want to wait for me to reveal all 21 laws.

Now for the first law:

1. The Law of the Lid
The Law of the Lid states that one’s effectiveness is only as great as their ability to lead. Maxwell uses a few examples to support this law. He spends quite some time discussing the origins of McDonald’s and how Dick and Maurice McDonald used their restaurateur experience to revolutionize “fast food”, but it was their lack of ability to lead that prevented them from successfully expanding through franchises. This is where Ray Kroc comes in. His ability to assemble and form McDonald’s Systems, Inc in 1955 exploded into what is now known as McDonald’s.

He then discusses ways to increase your effectiveness. He uses the Law of Diminishing Returns (law 1.5?, I guess) to dismiss the theory of increasing your effectiveness through increasing you dedication to success and excellence. You might work five times harder, only to be 25% more effective. However, by developing yourself into a leader, you can be 500% more effective. In fact, leadership ability has a multiplying effect, increasing your effectiveness as you hone your leadership ability.

Maxwell continues his argument by discussing trends in the corporate and sports sectors. It seems that whenever a team is on a losing streak or a company is losing money, replacing the guy at the top with a more effective leader is more often the first step toward new found success. The team or company is only as good as its leader.

Maxwell’s first law is simply that without developing the leader in you, your success is limited. For me, this makes a lot of sense and is part of the evolution of becoming successful. All of the people that I see as successful, the boss, executives, and friends, all would rank high on Maxwell’s Leadership and Success charts. Now I can begin to focus on what it means to be a leader and start down the road to being more successful… that must be what the next 20 laws of leadership are about.


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