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What makes a great leader? In 1988, leadership expert John C Maxell provided some answers to this age-old question in his seminal work, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. And according to Count Member Andrew Surman, Maxwell’s laws are just as relevant almost three decades later.
In a recent presentation, Andrew, who is Managing Director of Hayes Girling Financial in Melbourne, illustrated how Maxwell’s leadership laws have helped him and his team transform their accounting and advice practice into a top-performing firm.
“By focusing on the leadership of our people, our partners and our management team, it’s been a great driver for moving our business forward,” Andrew said. “As we progress towards being a high-performing team, our staff are becoming more efficient, our clients are more engaged and we’re building a culture that we’re all really proud of.”
Here are four of Maxwell’s leadership laws that Andrew and his team use a blueprint for their business.
1. The Law of the Lid
Every person has their own natural capability for leadership. The starting point is to find yours, so you can then build on it and improve as a leader. Maxwell refers to this as the Law of the Lid.
“A person’s leadership ability is the lid that determines their level of effectiveness,” Andrew said. “We’ve all dealt with people that we’re more naturally drawn to than others – that’s because their natural leadership ability or their ‘lid’ is higher than that of others.”
When Andrew first joined Hayes Girling in an administrative role, he knew he would have to develop his own leadership style – or ‘raise his lid’ – if he was to eventually succeed as a leader within the business.
Andrew commented: “The business had a well-established team and some very lofty goals that we weren’t really achieving, so I needed to figure out how I could grow as a leader to support the business.”
2. The Law of Process
To be a strong leader, you need a long-term vision for your business that you work towards every single day. “The Law of Process states that leadership growth is like being a successful investor: your returns will compound over time,” said Andrew.
Seeing his leadership growth as a lifelong journey, Andrew also has measures in place to help his teammates improve their own leadership skills. These include setting targets that encourage team members to take on extra responsibility, which helps them become instinctive leaders themselves.
“We’ve focused on testing each team member’s natural ‘lid’ and also testing their ability to grow,” Andrew said. “We’ve already seen some fantastic results, with people really stepping up to take on extra responsibilities to benefit the business.”
3. The Law of Respect
Many business owners find it challenging to attract and retain high-quality staff, but Andrew believes you can turn things around if you abide by the Law of Respect. According to Andrew, it’s a good idea for leaders to test the level of respect they inspire in their teams.
“Look at the kinds of people you attract, but also think about what happens when you ask your team members to change the way they do things,” Andrew said. “When you try to move people out of their comfort zone, do you get pushback or are your people willing to jump in the trenches with you?”
An environment of respect not only allows you to build a team of the best and brightest, it also helps your staff become more confident as you face challenges together. And of course, leaders need to remember that respect is a two-way street.
“If you’re a successful leader, you’ll naturally bring stronger people to the table,” said Andrew. “But if you’re not loyal to others, they won’t be loyal to you in return.”
4. The Law of the Big Mo
While the first three laws are about growing your leadership abilities so you can create a high-performing team, the Law of the Big Mo is about momentum – and how building it helps you maintain your effectiveness as a leader.
“Momentum is a leader’s best friend, but it can also mean the difference between success and failure,” Andrew said. “If your business doesn’t have momentum, as soon as you hit your first hurdle it can seem really hard to get past it and keep going.”
On the other hand, Andrew highlighted the positive impact momentum can have on a team’s confidence, which in turn boosts performance.
Andrew commented: “With wins and belief behind you, you can smash through anything in your way: every choice you make is to the right one, every shot you take scores.”
A blueprint for success
By following these four laws, Andrew and the Hayes Girling team have moved their business forward in leaps and bounds, with positive outcomes right across the practice.
“Our team members have become more engaged and are putting in discretionary effort far beyond what we’ve seen before, so they can go the extra mile for clients and for each other,” Andrew said. “We’re also becoming much more efficient, which is reflected in our profit and is also maximising the value of the business. For me personally, it’s rewarding to see our people grow and start to achieve the things they’re working towards.”