21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Part 1)

My brother-in-law handed me a book that he was given to read by his bosses. He said it was really good and I could probably benefit from reading it. It is John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. This book has been around but I am finding his laws very insightful and intriguing. John was a minster in the Wesleyan church before leaving to peruse writing and speaking. This book was written in 1998 when I was a junior in college, so this is new to me. I wanted to go through these laws though because they have a lot of good information for the ministry.

My plan is to do a four part post with seven laws in each post. I am not going to argue these, since they are irrefutable, but I will give a short explanation of the law and then how it pertains to those in the local church and what we can take from it.

Law 1: The Law of the Lid
This law is simple. The success, effectiveness and potential impact of an organization is equal to the leadership capabilities of its leader(s). If a leader (on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being a world class leader) is an 8 then your organization can only reach a 7. If you are a 4 then they will reach a 3.

Maxwell uses McDonalds as the prime example for this law, stating that the founders could not take it global because of their leadership ability. Once Ray Kroc took over the company though it went national and beyond. I found this law interesting because it speaks to what I envision (and hope) the cabinet looks at during appointment time. In the iteneracy it makes sense that certain ministers have a certain leadership ability. If they understand that a minster’s leadership ability equals the success, he/she will have at that church. This doesn’t hurt the iteneracy at all but makes sense. If a church needs to grow from a 2 to a 4 then you can put any minister with a leadership ability of a five or higher.

Law 2: The Law of Influence
A leader is only good if he can influence others. That is what separates leaders from other people, the power to get people to go in a certain direction. Maxwell quotes five myths about leadership as well. These five characteristics do not automatically make you a leader, if you are in management, an entrepreneur, vast knowledge, a pioneer or your position. You can have all these things and still not be able to influence anyone. Leadership is influence.

The point that popped out in my head with this law is the myth of position. This myth states that if you hold a high position you must be a good leader. This happens all the time in ministry. As a minister you are automatically given the position of leadership in a congregation, but you may not be the leader of that congregation. That leader may be a person in the congregation. (this is also in another law) We as ministers cannot take our leadership for granted. We must take a hard look at ourselves and determine what we can do and what we cannot. We need to look how we influence our congregation to be able to determine how effective we are as clergy.

Law 3: The Law of Process
“Leaders are not born they are made.” One cannot neglect the law of process if one wants to be a good leader. One has to learn constantly and grow every day if one is going to be a leader. Maxwell gives four phases of leadership growth in this chapter; 1) I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know, 2) I Know What I Don’t Know, 3) I Grow and Know and It Starts to Show, 4) I Simply Go Because of What I Know. You have to go through the process to be a leader.

Name a key leader in ministry and you will find a person who is dedicated to learning and growing. John Wesley had an early morning ritual which created a foundation for his leadership ability. Countless other leaders all have this same type of dedication and schedule. They all were students before they were masters. We must continue to grow in our spiritual walks, in our relationship with God, in our knowledge of God and our congregations if we are to be effective leaders.

Law 4: The Law of Navigation
If you are to lead people to a destination you need to chart the course. To lead people means to think about the future, to cast a vision of what that can be, and plan, plan, plan how all of you can get there. Leadership is not about steering the ship, anyone can do that. Leadership is charting the course for all to follow.

In my short history as a minister I have witness some ministers attempt to steer their church in a direction without knowing the what the future will hold. I have seen others who thought of everything, who were skilled at being open and talking to everyone before, during and after the destination was reached. Guess who was successful in their journey? To take a congregation on a journey, it is our job to be familiar with all aspects of that journey. If you are building a new building, learn all you can about the polity of going through that process, listen to your people, hear complaints and talk thing through. If we attempt to force the ship in a direction it will 9 times out of 10 run a ground at some point. Leader can see the future, plan for it and see it through.

Law 5: The Law of E.F. Hutton
Here Maxwell quotes the old commercial about E.F. Hutton. It states that when E.F. Hutton spoke everyone listened. In every organization there is a person who speaks and everyone listens. When they speak everyone jumps on board. Leaders recognize who the leaders are and sometimes follow.

We all have people in our congregation who are leaders of the laity. They are the ones that really drive the church. Since I am still in the first year with my congregation I am still figuring out who these leaders are. It is key to know and recognize who these people are because if you don’t you will find yourself not being too effective. They key to good leadership is understanding your position (see law three) doesn’t equal the leader of the congregation. That person might be Joe Laity who was there years before you were born and will probably be there years after you leave.

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