I have the privilege of teaching leadership across the country and around the globe, and I often get the opportunity to talk with people who are attending one of my conferences for a second, third, or even fourth time. At a recent conference here in the United States, a man in his late fifties whom I had met several years before came up and spoke to me during a break. He grabbed my hand and shook it vigorously. “Learning leadership has changed my life,” he said. “But I sure wish I had heard you twenty years ago.”
“No, you don’t,” I answered with a chuckle.
“What do you mean?” he said. “I would have achieved so much more! If I had known these leadership principles twenty years ago, I’d be in a totally different place in life. Your leadership laws have fueled my vision. They’ve given me the desire to learn more about leadership and accomplish my goals. If I’d learned this twenty years ago, I could have done some things that I had never even dreamed possible.”
“Maybe you would have,” I answered. “But twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to teach them to you. It has taken me my entire lifetime to learn and apply the laws of leadership to my life.”
As I write this, I am fifty-one years old. I’ve spent more than thirty years in professional leadership positions. I’ve founded four companies. And I focus my time and energy on doing what makes a positive impact in the lives of people. But I’ve also made a lot of mistakes along way–more than most people I know. Every success and every failure has been an invaluable lesson in what it means to lead.
As I travel and speak to organizations and individuals, people frequently ask me to define the essentials of leadership. “If you were to take everything you’ve learned about leadership over the years and boil it down into a short list,” they ask, “what would it be?”
This book is my answer to that often-asked question. It has taken me a lifetime to learn these 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. My desire is to communicate them to you as simply and clearly as possible. And it sure won’t hurt if we have some fun along the way.
One of the most important truths I’ve learned over the years is this: Leadership is leadership, no matter where you go or what you do. Times change. Technology marches forward. Cultures vary from place to place. But the true principles of leadership are constant–whether you’re looking at the citizens of ancient Greece, the Hebrews in the Old Testament, the armies of the last two hundred years, the rulers of modern Europe, the pastors in local churches, or the businesspeople of today’s global economy. Leadership principles stand the test of time. They are irrefutable.
As you read the following chapters, I’d like you to keep in mind four ideas:
- The laws can be learned. Some are easier to understand and apply than others, but every one of them can be acquired.
- The laws can stand alone. Each law complements all the others, but you don’t need one in order to learn another.
- The laws carry consequences with them. Apply the laws, and people will follow you. Violate or ignore them, and you will not be able to lead others.
- These laws are the foundation of leadership. Once you learn the principles, you have to practice them and apply them to your life.
Whether you are a follower who is just beginning to discover the impact of leadership or a natural leader who already has followers, you can become a better leader. As you read about the laws, you’ll recognize that you may already practice some of them effectively. Other laws will expose weaknesses you didn’t know you had. But the greater the number of laws you learn, the better leader you will become. Each 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.
Now, let’s open the toolbox together.