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The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Workbook: Revised & Updated

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Workbook: Revised & Updated

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by John C. Maxwell

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What would happen if a top expert with more than 40 years of leadership experience were willing to distill everything he had learned about leadership into a handful of life-changing principles just for you? It would change your life.

John C. Maxwell has done exactly that in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He has combined insights learned from his


What would happen if a top expert with more than 40 years of leadership experience were willing to distill everything he had learned about leadership into a handful of life-changing principles just for you? It would change your life.

John C. Maxwell has done exactly that in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. He has combined insights learned from his thirty-plus years of leadership successes and mistakes with observations from the worlds of business, politics, sports, religion, and military conflict. The result is a revealing study of leadership delivered as only a communicator like Maxwell can.

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Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
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John C. Maxwell's Laws Series
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The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Workbook

Follow Them and People Will Follow You

By John C. Maxwell

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 John C. Maxwell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4185-2615-3



Leadership Ability Determines a Person's Level of Effectiveness

The law of the lid will help you understand the value of leadership. If you can get a handle on this law, you will see the incredible impact of leadership on every aspect of life.


In 1930, two young brothers named Dick and Maurice moved from New Hampshire to California in search of the American Dream. They had just gotten out of high school, and they saw few opportunities back home. So they headed straight for Hollywood where they eventually found jobs on a movie studio set.

After a while, their entrepreneurial spirit and interest in the entertainment industry prompted them to open a theater in Glendale, a town about five miles northeast of Hollywood. But despite all their efforts, the brothers just couldn't make the business profitable. In the four years they ran the theater, they weren't able to consistently generate enough money to pay the one hundred dollars a month rent that their landlord required.

The brothers' desire for success was strong, so they kept looking for better business opportunities. In 1937, they finally struck on something that worked. They opened a small drive-in restaurant in Pasadena, located just east of Glendale. People in Southern California had become very dependent on their cars, and the culture was changing to accommodate that, including its businesses.

The drive-in restaurant was a phenomenon that sprang up in the early thirties, and it was becoming very popular. Rather than being invited into a dining room to eat, customers would drive into a parking lot around a small restaurant, place their orders with carhops, and receive their food on trays right in their cars. The food was served on china plates complete with glassware and metal utensils. It was a timely idea in a society that was becoming faster paced and increasingly mobile.

Dick and Maurice's tiny drive-in restaurant was a great success, and in 1940, they decided to move the operation to San Bernardino, a working-class boomtown fifty miles east of Los Angeles. They built a larger facility and expanded their menu from hot dogs, fries, and shakes to include barbecued beef and pork sandwiches, hamburgers, and other items. Their business exploded. Annual sales reached $200,000, and the brothers found themselves splitting $50,000 in profits every year—a sum that put them in the town's financial elite.

In 1948, their intuition told them that times were changing, and they made modifications to their restaurant business. They eliminated the carhops and started serving only walk-up customers. And they also streamlined everything. They reduced their menu and focused on selling hamburgers. They eliminated plates, glassware, and metal utensils, switching to paper products instead. They reduced their costs and lowered the prices they charged customers. They also created what they called the Speedy Service System. Their kitchen became like an assembly line, where each employee focused on service with speed. The brothers' goal was to fill each customer's order in thirty seconds or less. And they succeeded. By the mid-1950s, annual revenue hit $350,000, and by then, Dick and Maurice split net profits of about $100,000 each year.

Who were these brothers? Back in those days, you could have found out by driving to their small restaurant on the corner of Fourteenth and E Streets in San Bernardino. On the front of the small octagonal building hung a neon sign that said simply MCDONALD'S HAMBURGERS. Dick and Maurice McDonald had hit the great American jackpot, and the rest, as they say, is history, right? Wrong. The McDonalds never went any farther because their weak leadership put a lid on their ability to succeed.

It's true that the McDonald brothers were financially secure. Theirs was one of the most profitable restaurant enterprises in the country, and they felt that they had a hard time spending all the money they made. Their genius was in customer service and kitchen organization. That talent led to the creation of a new system of food and beverage service. In fact, their talent was so widely known in food service circles that people started writing them and visiting from all over the country to learn more about their methods. At one point, they received as many as three hundred calls and letters every month.

That led them to the idea of marketing the McDonald's concept. The idea of franchising restaurants wasn't new. It had been around for several decades. To the McDonald brothers, it looked like a way to make money without having to open another restaurant themselves. In 1952, they got started, but their effort was a dismal failure. The reason was simple. They lacked the leadership necessary to make a larger enterprise effective. Dick and Maurice were good single-restaurant owners. They understood how to run a business, make their systems efficient, cut costs, and increase profits. They were efficient managers. But they were not leaders. Their thinking patterns clamped a lid down on what they could do and become. At the height of their success, Dick and Maurice found themselves smack-dab against the Law of the Lid.

In 1954, the brothers hooked up with a man named Ray Kroc, who was a leader. Kroc had been running a small company he founded, which sold machines for making milk shakes. He knew about McDonald's. The restaurant was one of his best customers. And as soon as he visited the store, he had a vision for its potential. In his mind he could see the restaurant going nationwide in hundreds of markets. He soon struck a deal with Dick and Maurice, and in 1955, he formed McDonald's Systems, Inc. (later called the McDonald's Corporation).

Kroc immediately bought the rights to a franchise so that he could use it as a model and prototype. He would use it to sell other franchises. Then he began to assemble a team and build an organization to make McDonald's a nationwide entity. He recruited and hired the sharpest people he could find, and as his team grew in size and ability, his people developed additional recruits with leadership skill.

In the early years, Kroc sacrificed a lot. Though he was in his mid-fifties, he worked long hours just as he had when he first got started in business thirty years earlier. He eliminated many frills at home, including his country club membership, which he later said added ten strokes to his golf game. During his first eight years with McDonald's, he took no salary. Not only that, but he personally borrowed money from the bank and against his life insurance to help cover the salaries of a few key leaders he wanted on the team. His sacrifice and his leadership paid off. In 1961 for the sum of $2.7 million, Kroc bought the exclusive rights to McDonald's from the brothers, and he proceeded to turn it into an American institution and global entity. The "lid" in the life and leadership of Ray Kroc was obviously much higher than that of his predecessors.

In the years that Dick and Maurice McDonald had attempted to franchise their food service system, they managed to sell the concept to just fifteen buyers, only ten of whom actually opened restaurants. And even in that size enterprise, their limited leadership and vision were hindrances. For example, when their first franchisee, Neil Fox of Phoenix, told the brothers that he wanted to call his restaurant McDonald's, Dick's response was, "What ... for? McDonald's means nothing in Phoenix."

In contrast, the leadership lid in Ray Kroc's life was sky high. Between 1955 and 1959, Kroc succeeded in opening 100 restaurants. Four years after that, there were 500 McDonald's. Today the company has opened more than 31,000 restaurants in 119 countries.


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. The higher the individual's ability to lead, the higher the lid on his potential.

Leadership ability—or more specifically the lack of leadership ability—was the lid on the McDonald brothers' effectiveness.

1. Give two examples of steps Ray Kroc took to build the franchise business that the McDonald bothers didn't take.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

2. How did these actions reflect Ray Kroc's leadership ability?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

3. From your profession or area of service, give an example of a leader who has been limited by his or her "lid." How has this leader's "lid" affected the organization?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

4. Do you know someone whose leadership lid seems unlimited?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


Whatever you will accomplish is restricted by your ability to lead others. For example, if your leadership rates an 8, then your effectiveness can never be greater than a 7. If your leadership is only a 4, then your effectiveness will be no higher than a 3. Your leadership ability—for better or for worse—always determines your effectiveness and the potential impact of your organization.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Let's say that when it comes to success, you're an 8 (on a scale from 1 to 10). That's pretty good. I think it would be safe to say that the McDonald brothers were in that range. But let's also say that leadership isn't even on your radar. You don't care about it, and you make no effort to develop as a leader. You're functioning as a 1. Your level of effectiveness would look like this:


To increase your level of effectiveness, you have a couple of choices. You could work very hard to increase your dedication to success and excellence—to work toward becoming a 10. It's possible that you could make it to that level, though the Law of Diminishing Returns says that the effort it would take to increase those last two points might take more energy than it did to achieve the first eight. If you really killed yourself, you might increase your success by that 25 percent.

But you have another option. You can work hard to increase your level of leadership. Let's say that your natural leadership ability is a 4—slightly below average. Just by using whatever God-given talent you have, you already increase your effectiveness by 300 percent. But let's say you become a real student of leadership and you maximize your potential. You take it all the way up to a 7. Visually, the results would look like this:


By raising your leadership ability—without increasing your success dedication at all—you can increase your original effectiveness by 600 percent. Leadership has a multiplying effect.


Answer the following questions and discuss your answers when you meet with your team.

1. How effective will a person be if he increases his leadership but not his work ethic (dedication to success)?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

2. Do you agree with the author's assessment that increasing your leadership is one of the best ways to increase your level of effectiveness? Explain.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

3. What criteria can be used to determine a person's leadership ability? What are some clear signs of leadership strengths and weaknesses?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

4. How long does it take you to determine a person's leadership "lid" once that person has been put in charge of a team?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

5. Describe signs indicating that a leader has hit his or her lid.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

6. Describe a situation in which your leadership lid negatively affected a project or task.

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

7. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you describe your leadership? Would your spouse or colleagues agree with your assessment?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

8. Up to now, how dedicated have you been to developing yourself as a leader? How will you increase that dedication?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________


1. List some of your major goals. (Try to focus on significant objectives—things that will require a year or longer of your time. List at least five but no more than ten items.) Now identify which ones will require the participation or cooperation of other people. For these activities, your leadership ability will greatly impact your effectiveness.

2. Assess your leadership ability. Review the leadership assessment you took at the start of this workbook to get an idea of your basic leadership ability.

3. Ask others to rate your leadership. Talk to your boss, your spouse, two colleagues (at your level), and three people you lead about your leadership ability. Ask each of them to rate you on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) in each of the following areas:

• People skills

• Planning and strategic thinking

• Vision

• Results

Average the scores, and compare them to your own assessment. Based on these assessments, is your leadership skill better or worse than you expected? If there is a gap between your assessment and that of others, what do you think is the cause? How willing are you to grow in the area of leadership?


Interview someone whom you consider to have a high leadership lid. Ideally this would be the person you listed in the OBSERVE section for: Whom do you know whose leadership lid seems unlimited? Ask that person the following questions:

1. When did you first see yourself as a leader?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

2. What are some of the greatest challenges you've faced as a leader?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

3. What has contributed to your growth as a leader?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

4. What are you currently doing to grow as a leader?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________

5. What is the best piece of advice that you would have for someone who aspires to be an effective leader?

________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________



The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence—Nothing More, Nothing Less

If you don't have influence, you will never be able to lead others. As psychologist Harry A. Overstreet observed, "The very essence of all power to influence lies in getting the other person to participate." If no one is following you, you're not a leader. The Law of Influence is about obtaining followers, which makes it the basis for leadership.


One of my favorite stories that illustrates the Law of Influence concerns Abraham Lincoln. In 1832, decades before he became president, young Lincoln gathered together a group of men to fight in the Black Hawk War. In those days, the person who put together a volunteer company for the militia often became its leader and assumed a commanding rank. In this instance, Lincoln was given the rank of captain. But Lincoln had a problem. He knew nothing about soldiering. He had no prior military experience, and he knew nothing about tactics. He had trouble remembering the simplest military procedures.

For example, one day Lincoln was marching a couple of dozen men across a field and needed to guide them through a gate into another field. But he couldn't manage it. Recounting the incident later, Lincoln said, "I could not for the life of me remember the proper word of command for getting my company endwise. Finally, as we came near [the gate] I shouted: 'This company is dismissed for two minutes, when it will fall in again on the other side of the gate.'"

As time went by, Lincoln's level of influence with others in the militia actually decreased. While other officers proved themselves and gained rank, Lincoln found himself going in the other direction. He began as a captain, but title and position did him little good. He couldn't overcome the Law of Influence. By the end of his military service, Abraham Lincoln had found his rightful place, having achieved the rank of private.

Fortunately for Lincoln—and for the fate of the United States—he overcame his inability to influence others. Lincoln followed his time in the military with undistinguished stints in the Illinois state legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives. But over time and with much effort and personal experience, he became a person of remarkable influence and impact, and one of the nation's finest presidents.

I love the leadership proverb that says, "He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk." If you can't influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won't follow, you are not a leader. That's the Law of Influence. No matter what anybody else may tell you, remember that leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less.


Leadership is often misunderstood. When people hear that someone has an impressive title or an assigned leadership position, they assume that individual to be a leader. Sometimes that's true. But titles don't have much value when it comes to leading. True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that cannot be mandated. It must be earned. The only thing a title can buy is a little time—either to increase your level of influence with others or to undermine it.

Excerpted from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Workbook by John C. Maxwell. Copyright © 2007 John C. Maxwell. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

John C. Maxwell, a #1 New York Times bestselling author, coach, and speaker was identified as the #1 leader in business by the AMA and the world’s most influential leadership expert by Business Insider and Inc. magazines in 2014. His organizations--The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, EQUIP, and the John Maxwell Leadership Foundation--have trained more than 5 million leaders worldwide. Visit JohnMaxwell.com for more information.

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