Good leadership always makes a difference; unfortunately, so does bad leadership. This leadership truth continues as we will be talking about law 18 of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership from John Maxwell.
“The Law of Sacrifice: The leader must give up to go up.” —John C. Maxwell
The Early Years
Early in my career I had no idea what I wanted to do; I got into this business because printed circuit board manufacturing was the family business. Back then it was just a starter job, and I had no idea that it would turn into a 46-year (and counting) career path.
After years of working, hearing both internal and customer complaints, and noticing what things worked and what did not, I began to find my groove. I decided to position myself to make a difference and change the things I could influence, starting what turned out to be a life-long journey of self-improvement. I went back to school, earning both my undergrad and MBA while holding management positions in the industry. Talk about sacrifices; balancing work, home, and school takes a toll on yourself and your family. I played competitive softball for 40 years on Friday nights and my biggest sacrifice was having to switch to non-alcoholic beer after games because I had a four-hour class Saturday morning.
All this was without the knowledge of what it would all lead to, including starting my own business nine years ago to help organizations improve performance.
If you truly want to become a great leader you must be willing to make sacrifices. Here are four rules to keep in mind to this end:
1. There is no success without sacrifice.
Every person who has achieved any success in life has made sacrifices to do so. On a daily basis I meet people who wish they had more, but are unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to make this happen. You can’t have a successful online business if you aren’t willing to build a website, connect to people on social media, build your network, or stay up to speed with the latest technology. Many leaders want to climb the corporate ladder, hoping that freedom and power wait at the top. They don’t realize that leadership really requires sacrifice.
2. Leaders are often asked to give up more than others.
Leaders must give up their rights for the greater good. Leaders learn how to put others ahead of themselves. It’s not easy, but you need to give up more than the people you lead are expected to give up. When you have no responsibilities, you can mostly do whatever you want. Remember the recurring Maxwell theme that the heart of leadership is putting others ahead of yourself.
3. You must keep giving up to stay up.
John Maxwell takes the Law of Sacrifice even further when he states, “If leaders have to give up to go up, then they have to give up even more to stay up.” In business, we talk about history being the best predictor of future performance. We apply this to leadership by stating, “Today’s success is the greatest threat to tomorrow’s success.” There’s always a cost involved in moving forward, and the day you stop being willing to pay the price is the day you stop creating the results you desire.
4. The higher the level of leadership, the greater the sacrifice needed.
You’ve probably noticed that the higher the position, the fewer the number of people able to step in. It’s not because there’s a lack of capable people; it’s simply because there are not enough people willing to pay the price. It seems we are constantly bombarded with the false ideal about the utopia of communism—where everyone is equal, and everybody should have the same rights and the same pay. The problem with this is the Law of Sacrifice. There will always be some individuals who are willing to sacrifice more, while others are not willing to do anything extra. No philosophy of equality will ever be able to overcome this mindset. It’s the inner job. You must decide for yourself how much time, effort, or other sacrifice you’re going to assign to a specific job, project, or task.
Case in Point
I still remember the signs in the early 1980s, “Iacocca for President,” following his historic turnaround of Chrysler. This success did not come without monumental sacrifices by the newly-minted CEO in 1978, Lee Iacocca. He had accepted the job with Chrysler, but it required many personal sacrifices. The salary he accepted at Chrysler was a little over half what he had earned as the president of Ford. The next sacrifice came in his family life. To lead Chrysler, Iacocca had to work almost around the clock. Finally, to gather support in U.S. Congress for federally guaranteed loans, and to persuade suppliers, dealers, and union workers to make sacrifices to overcome the challenges that Chrysler was facing, Iacocca ended up cutting his salary to $1 a year. But his sacrifices brought Chrysler back from the brink of insolvency to become a highly profitable company that remains relevant today.
Follow these guidelines and The Law of Sacrifice and you will truly be surprised at the results. Focus on enhancing your leadership skills to lead by example and the results will be epic.
Steve Williams is president of The Right Approach Consulting. He is also an independent certified coach, trainer, and speaker with the John Maxwell team.
This column originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine.