Book Reviews

Book Reviews


Book Review - The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John Maxell


By Stephen Northcutt

Leadership books remind me of cooking: there are a finite number of common ingredients that make up the majority of dishes, but there seems to be an infinite number of ways to combine and present these ingredients.

This is an excellent first or second leadership book. Don’t expect to see anything truly novel in any of the laws, but the total package is a tasty dish, and I chose to read this book twice before writing this review. Maxwell uses stories from his church experience, sports, famous figures in history, and business acquaintances to bring the laws to life. If you have been studying leadership seriously for a long time, you might choose to pass on this one, but it is a fast read and well written.

My favorite line in the book is on page 190, “If leaders have to give up to go up, then they have to give up even more to stay up.” In an amazing twist, I just finished reading this chapter for the second time when it was time to leave my hotel room at Caesar’s Palace to go catch the Elton John Red Piano show. That night he sang a song, The Bridge, from his new album, THE CAPTAIN AND THE KID, where the chorus is:

And every one of us has to face that day
Do you cross the bridge or do you fade away
And every one of us that ever came to play
Has to cross the bridge or fade away


I did not get to sleep easily that night as I wondered what might be required of me in the coming weeks!

I am not going to write about all 21 laws, but here are a few worth noting:
  • The book opens with the Law of the Lid, which is essentially if you do not surround yourself with the very best people then you will limit what you can accomplish.
  • We modify this later with rule 7, the law of respect, where people follow leaders stronger than themselves.
  • And we end on law 21, the law of legacy, where the value of the leader is tested by time and whether or not he succeeded with succession.