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"Every law is like a tool, ready to be picked up and used to help you achieve your dreams and add value to other people. Pick up even one, and you will become a better leader. Learn them all, and people will gladly follow you." John C. Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Do you want to be a better leader? It's that simple. If the answer is "yes" - and you're willing and ready to back "yes" up with action - management expert John C. Maxwell has handed you a how-to manual. In his typical clear, concise style, Maxwell presents 21 Irrefutable Laws that, if you learn and apply, will help you become the kind of leader people want to follow.

Last time, we looked at Laws 1 - 7. Now, the tools we'll pick up are Laws 8 - 15.

8: The Law of Intuition: Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias.

What separates good leaders from great leaders? According to Maxwell, it's intuition. They can look at the world, at people, at problems and see that which eludes others. They can read:

  • Situations (people's attitudes, chemistry within a team).
  • Trends (where the organization is headed).
  • Resources (how to maximize them for the benefit of the organization).
  • People (what's happening with people; what they're feeling).
  • Themselves (their own strengths, weaknesses, and states of mind).

Wayne Gretzky said, "To be a winner, you don't have to skate to where the puck is, but you skate to where it will be." He combined knowledge and experience with instinct. Effective leaders trust, and leverage, their intuition to make decisions, often before all the facts are in. This allows them to lead rather than react.

Developing Intuition

While some people are naturally intuitive, it is a trait that can be nurtured. To put the law of intuition to work for you:

  • Assess your intuition. How? Determine your strongest natural talent. While engaging in that talent, how do you feel? Pay attention to your instincts and intuitions. How often do you know something is right or wrong before you have all the facts?
  • Read people. Start by reading about people. Pick up books on relationships, observe interactions, and engage in conversations with a variety of people.
  • Develop your ability to utilize resources: think about a current project on your plate. How can you mobilize people to accomplish it? Who is the best person to tackle the project? What resources do you have that can help? How can you inspire your team to accomplish the goal?

9: Law of Magnetism: Who you are is who you attract.

Keep this in mind as you hire and as you build a team within your organization: "Who you attract is not determined by what you want. It's determined by who you are." That is, you're likely to hire people who share similar backgrounds, attitudes, energy levels, and values. They say opposites attract. "They" are wrong!

The logical extension here is that if you're not attracting the type of people you want... you got it: you need to become the type of person you want to attract.

Magnetizing Leadership

How do you begin to attract the people you want and your organization needs?

  • List the qualities you want in your employees. Which do you share? In which are you weaker?
  • Enlist a mentor to help you strengthen your areas of weakness.
  • If you already attract the people you want, start recruiting people who complement your skills and offset your weaknesses.

10. Law of Connection: Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." To lead effectively, you need to forge a connection with your followers. In his book, Maxwell offers Elizabeth Dole as a shining example.

After Maxwell watched Dole's (who served as Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Labor, the head of the American Red Cross, and North Carolina's first female Senator) televised appearance at the 1996 Republican National Convention, he said, "I would have followed her anywhere." To connect as powerfully, you need to:

  • Connect with yourself. Know who you are and have self-confidence.
  • Be authentic.
  • Know your audience.
  • Practice what you preach.
  • Adapt to others; don't expect them to adapt to you.
  • Focus on them.
  • Believe in them.
  • Offer direction and hope.
Connecting for Impact

To nurture your ability to connect:

  • Measure your own self-awareness by describing your personality. What's your best character strength? Greatest character weakness? Best asset? Greatest deficit? How do you relate to others? How do you communicate with others, and how likeable are you?
  • Prioritize relationship building.
  • Work on your communication skills. Resources and opportunities to improve are there for the taking; seize them.

11. Law of the Inner Circle: A leader's potential is determined by those closest to him.

There are 21 Laws of Leadership but no one excels in all of them. Maxwell admits that he is average or below-average in five of the laws - "and I wrote the book!" To compensate, leaders need a strong inner circle. But this circle does more than compensate for a leader's weaknesses; they elevate performance among the entire team and extend your influence.

Candidates for the inner circle should:

  • Have high influence over others.
  • Possess strengths in your areas of weakness.
  • Hold a strategic position in your organization.
  • Add value to you and the organization.
  • Positively impact other members of the inner circle.
Creating Your Inner Circle

To build a strong team to help you and the organization achieve better results:

  • Write down what each member of your inner circle contributes or what they have the potential to contribute. Are there redundancies you can eliminate? Are their gaps you can fill?
  • Nurture your inner circle by mentoring them, increasing their responsibility, holding them accountable, and praising them for a job well done.
  • Keep it manageable. Maxwell recommends a smaller team when your staff has more than seven members or when you can't directly lead every person.

12. Law of Empowerment: Only secure leaders give power to others.

Bill Gates once said, "As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." Why? Because this creates engaged employees; it boosts productivity; it has a positive impact on the bottom line.

Those who hoard power, on the other hand, create barriers and blockages in the organization. They believe that it is a zero-sum game: they distribute power, they lose power. Usually this is because they:

  • Worry about job security and becoming "dispensable."
  • Fear change.
  • Lack self-worth.
Empowering Yourself to Empower Others

To apply the Law of Empowerment:

  • Examine your self-worth. Are you confident? Do you believe you have and offer value? Are you willing to take risks? If you find your self-worth is low, identify areas in which you can improve.
  • List the people who work for you and rate their potential on a scale of 1 to 10. Are the numbers low? Would changing your belief in them empower them to maximize their abilities and skills?
  • Select your best people. Give them the training, resources, and support they need to meet goals that will advance the organization.

13. Law of the Picture: People do what people see.

"Because I said so" doesn't cut it as a leadership technique. Yes, you must have a vision - but then you have to model it, to "walk the walk," so to speak. As Maxwell succinctly puts it: "A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way."

Picturing Success

Your people are always watching, and what you do speaks volumes more than what you say. To ensure you're a good example:

  • Make a list of your core values. Now, think about your behavior over the last month. Was anything inconsistent with those values? If so, work on changing those types of habits or actions.
  • Enlist the help of a trusted colleague and ask him or her to observe you for a month. Do you practice what you preach? If there are inconsistencies, how can you align what you say and what you do?
  • List five things you wish your people did better. Now, ask yourself how well you do in each area. Not so great? Work on it. Doing well? Good - share your example more visibly.

14. Law of Buy-In: People buy into the leader, then the vision.

"The leader finds the dream and then the people. The people find the leader and then the dream." If you're a subpar leader, the best vision, the best ideas, cannot save you. People will not follow you. On the other hand, if you're a great leader with a subpar vision, people will work with you. You just need to alter the vision. Your followers need to buy into you first and foremost.

Building Buy-In

To encourage people to buy into you as an effective leader:

  • Write a vision statement that includes your goals for the organization. What are you trying to accomplish, and are you willing to devote significant amounts of your time and energy to achieving it?
  • Who must buy into your vision? Rate each team member's buy-in on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • Consider ways you can build credibility with people. You can do this by developing trust and relationships, setting a good example, helping them achieve their goals, and building them up as leaders.

15. Law of Victory: Leaders find a way for the team to win.

Winning is inevitable. True leaders refuse to accept defeat, so they rise to the challenge - and inspire their people to do the same. To win, teams need:

  • Unity of vision.
  • Diversity of skills.
  • A leader committed to victory and pushing people to their potential.
Leading a Winning Team

To score more wins for your people and organization:

  • Assess how committed you are to the success of your team. If you're not 100% dedicated, you may need to rethink your vision or your place in the organization.
  • Figure out which skills you need to achieve the goal and compare them with the skills of people on your team. Are there gaps? How can you fill them?
  • Ask your people to describe the vision of the team. If you get a multitude of answers, think about how to clarify and communicate a single vision.

Putting It All Together

You now have 15 powerful additions to your leadership toolbox. The question is what are you going to build with them?

Continue your journey with Laws 16 - 21 in the third article.


Larry Hart

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