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"The Laws Can Be Learned. Some are easier to understand and apply than others, but every one of them can be acquired." John C. Maxwell

As you make progress in learning the "Irrefutable Laws," and applying them to your work and life, remember: John C. Maxwell, who literally wrote this book on leadership, is average or below-average in five laws. That doesn't stop him from trying, nor should it you. No matter what stage you are in your leadership, you can become more effective. To that end, let's look at the last of Maxwell's laws.

16. The Law of the Big Mo: Momentum is a leader's best friend.

The difference between success and failure? Often, it is momentum. Why is this such a powerful force?

  • It exaggerates everything - including success. You roll over small obstacles and knock down large ones.
  • It makes you look better! Things are going your way.
  • It pushes people to perform at a higher level.
  • It's easier to control than it is to start.
  • It's a powerful change agent.
  • It's your responsibility; momentum starts with you - and with vision, passion, and commitment.
Mobilizing Momentum

How do you get "Big Mo" on your side?

  • Be a shining example of the type of attitude and work ethic you want to see on your team (remember the Law of Magnetism: You attract who you are). Act with passion and enthusiasm.
  • Work to build momentum. Remove obstacles to buy-in, and motivate your followers.
  • Reward success and celebrate the accomplishments of your people.

17. Law of Priorities: Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment.

Follow the 80-20 rule: focus on the most important 20% of activities, and you'll see an 80% ROE (return on effort). To figure out the most important activities, you need to become a master at prioritizing. How? Maxwell recommends using the three Rs as a guide:

  • What is required of me? What do I have to do that I cannot delegate?
  • What activities offer the greatest return on your time and effort? If one of your people can do the task 80% as well, give it to him or her.
  • What activities bring the greatest reward? Which do you want to do? This will energize you.
Prioritizing Success

To apply the Law of Priorities:

  • Write down your answers to the 3 R questions above (include work, family, and other aspects of your life in your equations).
  • List the things that do not belong in any one of the 3 Rs. Delegate or eliminate them; they're wasting your time.
  • Remember to check back on your priorities regularly and realign your effort and focus.

18. Law of Sacrifice: A leader must give up to go up.

As you've discovered by now, leading is not all about the corner office, the good parking spot, or the cushy perks. It's about sacrifice. Time. Resources. Energy. Sleep. True leaders put others before themselves. Always. As Maxwell says, "you must keep giving up to stay up." Sacrifice is ongoing - and it only becomes greater the higher you ascend.

Dan Price, founder of Gravity Payments, for example, decided to raise the minimum wage for his employees to $70,000 a year - more than twice the US median income. Price sacrificed his $1 million salary and also earns $70,000. He says taking care of his people will pay off now and in the long term for his organization.

Sacrificing for Your People

How can you apply this Law to your life and work?

  • Ask yourself how willing you are to make sacrifices. Make a list of things you are willing to give up in order to go up, and a second list of things you are not willing to give up. (This includes health, time with children, fun, marriage, friendships, etc.).
  • What do you have to give up in order to gain something even more valuable? What do you have to offer? Are you willing to sacrifice in the short term to realize gain in the long term, like Price did?
  • Do you think you can stop sacrificing once you arrive at a certain place (e.g. a certain rank or the achievement of a specific goal)? If so, figure out how to overcome this thinking with ongoing growth.

19. The Law of Timing: When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go.

Timing, they say, is everything. And in this case, "they" are correct! Take the corporate retreat that AIG execs took in 2008, for instance. There is nothing wrong with incentive travel, or even rewarding people with high-priced perks.

There is something wrong with taking a week-long retreat at a $1000/night resort, spending $23,000 on spa treatments, $150,000 on meals, and blowing $440,000 overall - while accepting an $85 billion taxpayer bailout and asking for $40 billion more. Timing is everything.

There are only four possible outcomes. A leader takes the:

  • Wrong action at the wrong time, resulting in disaster.
  • Right action at the wrong time, resulting in resistance.
  • Wrong action at the right time, making a mistake.
  • Right action at the right time, resulting in success.
Knowing When to Act

To ensure you pair the right action with the right time:

  • Look at the actions you've initiated recently. Did you pay attention to timing? Does timing play an important role in your strategy?
  • Think about failed initiatives. Were they caused by taking the wrong action or by taking it at the wrong time? Or both?
  • Before you launch new initiatives, ask:
    • Do I have a firm grip on the situation?
    • Do I believe in what I'm about to do? Do my people believe in it?
    • Did I get input from trusted colleagues/advisors?
    • What impact will morale and momentum have on our chance of success?
    • How else can I set my team up for success?

20. Law of Explosive Growth: To add growth, lead followers. To multiply growth, lead leaders.

This law echoes the Law of Empowerment: if you develop yourself, you can achieve personal success. If you develop your team, you can help your organization grow. But if you develop leaders, your organization can achieve explosive growth.

To maximize your leadership effectiveness and push your organization to its peak, you need to grow leaders. It's that simple. What's less simple is actually leading leaders. Why?

  • They're hard to find. As Maxwell says, "Leaders are like eagles - they don't flock."
  • They're hard to gather. They want to pursue their own visions.
  • They're hard to keep. If you don't continue to grow and stay ahead, you'll lose them.
Leading Leaders

To find, gather, and keep leaders:

  • Think about the specific steps you have taken to develop yourself. Also, what have you done to develop your team and specific individuals?
  • What are you doing to find leaders? Are you going to events, reaching into your network, looking at direct-reports? How are you gathering and keeping them? What can you do to create an environment in which leaders thrive?

21. Law of Legacy: A leader's lasting value is measured by succession.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave for the next generation? To put it another way: what would you want people to say at your funeral?

At the memorial for Senator Sonny Bono (yes, one half of Sonny and Cher), Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House, said:

He walked up, you looked at him and you thought to yourself, 'This can't be a famous person.' He smiled, he said something, and then you said to yourself, 'He can't be a serious person.' Four jokes and two stories later, you were pouring your heart out to him, he was helping you solve a problem, and you began to realize this was a very hard-working, very thoughtful man.... Bono's legacy was one of warmth, compassion, humor, and enthusiasm. As Cher said, "He had a vision of the future and just how he was going to build it, and his enthusiasm was so great that he just swept everyone along with him. Not that we knew where he was going. But we just wanted to be there."

What kind of legacy do you want to leave? Start being intentional about it. Start living it. Start deciding who will carry it on, and when and how you will pass the baton.

Living, and Leaving, Your Legacy

To make your legacy an intentional part of your leadership:

  • Ask what you want your legacy to be. It is closely related to your purpose in life.
  • What do you have to change so you can live that legacy?
  • Choose people you want to carry on your legacy. They should be able to reach even further than you did and build on it.
  • How can you invest in those people? Start today.

While some of the 21 Irrefutable Laws may be difficult, or even uncomfortable, applying them to your work will yield substantial results. No one does them all well, but fortunately, you realize the benefits even in the striving. Leadership is progressive; it's a continual journey of learning. Use these Laws to become a more effective leader today than you were yesterday, and an even better one tomorrow.


Larry Hart

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