Brief Review of 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Weekend Musings

Title of Book: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John Maxwell and Zig Ziglar, (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 1998.)

Overview: The book purports to be exactly what its title implies. It suggests that these laws of leadership (I’d be more comfortable if he called them principles.):

a) can be learned,
b) can stand alone, i.e. they aren’t built on one another,
c) carry consequences if not applied or followed, and
d) are the foundation of all leadership. (See introduction to the book, p. xxi)

The 21 Laws? 1) the lid, 2) influence, 3) process, 4) navigation, 5) addition, 6) solid ground, 7) respect, 8] intuition,  9) magnestism, 10) connection, 11) the inner circle, 12) empowerment, 13) reproduction, 14) buy-in, 15) victory, 16) Big Mo, 17) priorities, 18) sacrifice, 19) timing, 20) explosive growth, and 21) legacy.

Critique: Maxwell’s genius is in making complex things simple. He has done that admirably here. I am generally skeptical of him, viewing Maxwell largely as a Scripture-light, positive mental attitude guy. He is that. But that doesn’t negate the fact that he is a genius at simplification and this book on leadership is one of his best efforts.

A Suggested Application Plan:

  1. Reread the book over a 21 one week period.
  2. Write out all of the “Laws” from the Table of contents and put them on one sheet and carry around in your journal.
  3. Develop a practical practice drill each week and work the principle into your schedule and life.
  4. Take two young leaders through the principles each year.
  5. Make it your prayer and ambition not to fall victim of failing at law 21. Make sure you leave a legacy.

Best Quotes:

“Leadership develops daily; not in a day.” (p. 24)

“Sacrifice is a constant in leadership. It is an ongoing process not a one time payment.” (p. 219)

“Great leaders often leave great voids when they leave.”  (p. 258)

“Trust is the foundation of leadership. … When it comes to leadership, you just can’t take shortcuts, no matter how long you have been leading your people.” (p. 62-63)

Afterward: The best book on leadership ever written, is J.Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership. If you have never read it, treat yourself and the people you lead by buying it for yourself this Christmas. Read it.

2 thoughts on “Brief Review of 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

    1. Rusty,

      I largely agree with your friend’s review. You can say a lot more in 3,300 words (his) than you can in 320 (mine). But he goes too far, fails to be charitable in any sense and fails to acknowledge any application of Maxwell’s observations. This is throwing the “baby out with the bath water.”

      Maxwell is Scripture light. Maxwell is theologically light in his leadership reflection. Some of his principles are indeed ‘refutable” and the book’s title and subtitle promises too much and are examples of mechanistic western hubris.

      But wanting people to follow you as you follow Christ is not unbiblical. Knowing and seeking to develop your leadership skills does not negate that fact that leadership is a gift of God. And if you don’t think trust is a foundation for leadership, you have never led anyone.

      Aside: It is very weird that Maxwell’s book was assigned in a preaching class! Very weird.


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