Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Law of Addition

Law #5 of John Maxwell's The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is:

The Law Addition: Leaders Add Value By Serving Others

This law embraces the idea that “if you treat the employees and the customers right, profits will follow.” Often, we are so concerned with the end goal, which in and of itself may be a selfish one, that we don’t even value [or show that we value] those helping us get there. But, in fact, Maxwell is telling us not just to value them…but to add value to them and their lives. That is what will make them want to follow you. A leader’s motives matter.

“The bottom line in leadership isn’t how far we advance ourselves, but how far we advance others.” Maxwell estimates that 90% of people who subtract from others do so unintentionally. But 90% of those who add value to others do so intentionally. Of course, the message here is that, if you want to add value to others, it has to be on purpose.

“When you add value to people, you lift them up, help them advance, make them a part of something bigger than themselves, and assist them in becoming who they were made to be.” In other words:

Adding value to people helps them to reach their GOD POTENTIAL!

Maxwell describes 4 guidelines that have helped him add value to others.

1. We add value to others when we truly value others: In a nutshell, let those who follow you know you care. “Leaders who add value by serving believe in their people before their people believe in them and serve others before they are served.”

2. We add value to others when we make ourselves more valuable to others: “The whole idea of adding value to other people depends on the idea that you have something of value to add.” Thus, the more you grow personally [which is also something that needs to be intentional], the more value you will have to add to others.

3. We add value to others when we know and relate to what others value: This is like good ‘customer service’ to those who follow you. It is not about what we want/value. It’s about pouring into them along the lines of what they care about. And, we know what they value by listening. “Inexperienced leaders are quick to lead before knowing anything about the people they intend to lead. But mature leaders listen, learn and then lead.”

4. We add value to others when we do things that God values: Maxwell states, “I believe that God desires us not only to treat people with respect, but also to actively reach out to them and serve them.” He retells the Bible passage when Jesus will separate us, as sheep from goats, based on what we did for the ‘least of these.’ [Matthew 25:31-46]

Applying the Law of Addition to Your Life

  1. Assess whether or not you have a servant’s attitude when it comes to leadership? In situations in which you are required to serve others, how do you respond? Do you become impatient or resentful or feel like certain tasks are beneath you? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, your attitude is not as good as it could be. Make it a practice to perform small acts of service for others without seeking praise or recognition- and continue until you no longer resent doing them.
  2. What do the people closest to you value most? List the most important people in your life [from home, church, work, friends]. List what each one values most and then rate yourself [from1-10] on how well you relate to those values. If you cannot articulate what someone values or rate yourself lower than 8, then spend more time with that person to improve.
  3. Make adding value part of your lifestyle. Begin with those closest to you, trying to add value to them based on what THEY value. Then, move on to the people you lead. Depending on the size of that group, you could do that individually or as a group.


Maxwell, John. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Chapter 5- The Law of Addition. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN; 2007

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