The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

6 minute read

Intro

Overall, a decent book. This is one where it is worth reviewing the laws before deciding whether or not to read it. If the laws are applicable to your team’s current situation, this book becomes a great reference. The cheesy-ness works well to give subtle clues that leadership is still more opaque than the “black box” which is machine learning. The author feels that although technology changes, the principals of leadership stay the same. As always, I don’t agree with or use everything I read, but I will still try and summarize it here.

If you are new here, read why I put my semi-personal book notes online.

Summary

The book talks about leaders and followers, both important in their own way. The author is very opinionated on leaders vs followers and it can rub you the wrong way at times. The real leaders are those who are willing to make big sacrifices by living their life for tomorrow vs today. There is nothing wrong with living your life for today, but that’s where a follower comes in not even comprehending the long term vision.

A leader is not a tyrant, even in ancient times. People follow leaders and rebel against tyrants, history shows that. I, wonder if this is just because a tyrant has a negative context and you don’t know if someone is a leader or a tyrant until history rewrites it based on the outcome. The main characteristics are determination, resolve, delegating, and sharing all at the right time.

The author recommends keeping the following 4 ideas in mind while reading this book:

  1. These laws can be learned by anyone, although some will be harder to learn than others.
  2. These laws can stand alone. I believe this would be a similar to a product backlog user story that doesn’t have any dependencies.
  3. These laws carry consequences.
  4. These laws are the foundation of leadership requiring practice. I agree with this and always suggest finding ways to practice even if you are not officially in a leadership position in your career.

Rule 1: Law of the Lid

Ability determines the level of effectiveness by the person. Talent and skill can only take you so far, leadership (and I would add communication) will differentiate you from all those others who excel in your domain.

Rule 2: Law of Influence

Influence is the true measure of leadership, nothing else. Managing and leading are not the same things. A good manager doesn’t necessarily make them a good leader. Leaders inspire, motivate, influence (and I would add amplify) while managers make sure the team is operating effectively and smoothly. I believe both are necessary.

Rule 3: Law of Process

Leadership is like any other skill; it must be acquired through study and practice. I think in that sense a leader grows day by day the same way an engineer grows day by day.

Rule 4: Law of Navigation

A steersman leads the ship, the captain charts the course. Communicate clearly and allow your team to decide on the mechanics to get to the destination. I think this doesn’t mean you are oblivious to the mechanics, to be a good captain you need to understand your ship (or in software your tech stack).

Rule 5: Law of E.F. Hutton

When the real leader speaks, everyone listens. Leadership is not self-assigned

Rule 6: Law of Solid Ground

Trust is the foundation both for followers to trust leaders as well as leaders to trust followers. The book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has a great section about this.

Rule 7: Law of Respect

People will inherently follow leaders who are stronger than themselves. Reputation, influence, and character will make others want to respect you.

Rule 8: Law of Intuition

Leaders evaluate everything from the viewpoint of leadership. Having intuition into others in something that can be learned and is not necessarily inborn. Cultivate the trait to intuit both people and circumstances.

Rule 9: Law of Magnetism

Who you are will attract a certain type of person. Commonly said as, birds of a feather flock together. Before starting to blame your followers, look inwards on areas you should improve.

Rule 10: Law of Connection

Connecting on an emotional level with every single person, even in a roomful of people, is as essential as connecting to an API. At the end of the day, we are humans who want to feel heard as well as be spoken to as an individual.

Rule 11: Law of the Inner Circle

Similar to Rule 9; one’s potential is determined by those closest to you. Invest your time and energy in groups of people who help stride each other forward.

Rule 12: Law of Empowerment

Develop your employees into their full potential by giving them power ensuring they create constant progress and development. I would reference the articles that talk about how agency and autonomy are important in feeling fulfilled and empowered.

Rule 13: Law of Reproduction

It takes a leader to raise up a leader, but we also learn by teaching others. If you are aspiring to be a leader, find someone to shadow. If you are a leader, continue honing your skills by becoming a mentor. I was lucky to have multiple leaders take me under their wing. It made all the difference. Part of the reason I help others is because it also reminds me of lessons I learned that I have since forgotten.

Rule 14: Law of Buy-In

People will follow you because of you, not because of your appearance or vision. Credibility and integrity are the deciding factors. In my experience, the vision may be the catalyst but integrity is the fuel.

Rule 15: Law of Victory

Winning is not a solitary game. You’ll only get by with a little (a lot) of help from your team. With so much hero culture it can be difficult to see this but look carefully at any athlete and there is an entire team supporting them. Without that, the athlete would not have found success.

Rule 16: Law of Momentum

Small wins as often as possible will create an atmosphere for keeping the team going so you can eventually reach that famous victory the team will remember for ages.

Rule 17: Law of Priorities

Delegate tasks, especially those where you may have some weaknesses. Focus on the items on the top of your todo list where you have strengths. Let others participate where they have strength.

Rule 18: Law of Sacrifices

A leader will have to make sacrifices on a regular basis to continue to achieve. I think by using Rule 17, you can reduce the wasted effort and only focus on tasks that will create a positive outcome.

Rule 19: Law of Timing

Knowing when to lead is as important as how to lead and where to lead. There are some moments where conversations are better left until another day.

Rule 20: Law of Growth

Exponential growth comes from leading leaders and linear growth comes from leading followers. I think using Rule 12 with Rule 15 can help you achieve faster growth by teaching followers to become leaders.

Rule 21: Law of Legacy

The better Rule 20 is implemented the more leaders there will be when you leave. In eastern philosophy, the metric of success is mentoring someone who becomes better than you.

Outro

Although, very old, there are some timeless lessons in this book. As always, I love seeing where older books overlap newer books as I believe that is the advice that is both timeless and relevant.

Avishaan’s Goodreads

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Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
The Systems Mindset: Managing the Machinery of Your Life
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
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