The Law of Influence

From John C Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

“The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less”

Without a doubt, The Law of Influence has totally changed the way I thought about leadership. If only I had learned about this law much earlier, I believe that it could have had a tremendous impact much earlier on both my personal and professional life.

In my last few years at Cranbrook, I can admit that I was very active in chasing titles and positions. Head of Winter Tennis, Manager of the 1st XI Cricket, and yes, even Head of Senior Choir! However, one of my biggest disappointments was being told by my Headmaster, Dr Bruce Carter, that I had just missed out on being appointed a Prefect. The disappointment was obvious. I thought I had done everything right. I didn’t know what else I could have done to deserve the position.

What I didn’t understand was that it’s not the position that makes the leader; it’s the leader that makes the position. John Maxwell puts it this way, “Remember, if you think you are leading and no one is following, you are just taking a walk!”

I wish someone had taught me about becoming a person of influence. Not only would it have made a difference back at school, I believe that it would have made a huge difference as I started my professional career. In order to understand this law, you need to dispel some myths about leadership. 

John Maxwell talks about 5 myths in particular.
  1. Management Myth: Do people follow you because of your directions, policies, procedures and methods? If so, you are a good manager. However, if they are not influenced by you to follow you, then you are not a leader. It’s an entirely different set of criteria to be a leader. Steve Jobs said, “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”
  2. Entrepreneur Myth: Being a great entrepreneur is a wonderful skill. The ability to go from “zero to hero” takes a very special type of person. What many entrepreneurs may not realise is that in order for their business to keep growing, they themselves need to keep growing. Entrepreneurs who neglect their people skills and ability to influence will soon hit their leadership lid. That’s what happened with Dick and Maurice McDonald and the rest is history.
  3. Knowledge Myth: When was the last time you decided to follow someone because of their high IQ? Was it their multiple degrees and certificates on their office wall that convinced you that they were someone that could have a major influence and impact on your life? Or was it something else? I really enjoy watching American legal drama series on TV like “Suits” and “The Good Wife”. The “Heroes” in those series are often lawyers that have a high EQ i.e. Emotional Intelligence, and not just high IQ. They are the ones who get the big deals done.
  4. Pioneer Myth: We lost one of the true heroes of our generation this year. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, recently passed away. We all remember Neil Armstrong and some might even remember Buzz Aldrin but who remembers the leader back in Houston in Mission Control? It was Gene Krantz that oversaw the lunar landing but the accolades keep going to the pioneers, Armstrong and Aldrin, because they were the “first”.
  5. Position Myth: I really didn’t learn much about true leadership at school and guess what, not much changed when I first started work. When I ordered my first business card, I was beaming to have a position title under my name on the card. It was even better when I started my own business. I was then able to put ‘CEO’ under my name but who was I kidding?!?! I was only leading ME, MYSELF and I!! I didn’t have a team! I just felt that I needed a title, a position to be able to elevate my status. Thinking back now, I am embarrassed to think how ridiculous it must have sounded when I told people that I was working alone.
What if someone shared with you today that true leadership is influence? Believe it or not, you could already be leading if you are influencing others. That includes your team, your partners and even your boss. In your personal life, it could be your kids, your siblings, your spouse or your parents. Understand this. Just like riding a bike, you can learn how to become more influential and thereby become a better leader. It starts with understanding why then doing something about it.

By Ivan Ang
Ivan Ang is the Director of 10X Leadership and a Founding Partner of the John Maxwell Team. His passion and purpose in life is to help leaders of all ages make the transition from success to significance. If you have any questions on leadership or would like to join a Mastermind on Leadership group, contact Ivan at