Maxwell’s Leadership Law #17: The Law of Priorities

By August 16, 2018 September 13th, 2023 Articles on Leadership

Last Updated on September 13, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck

If you asked any business owner if they need to prioritize on any given day, most likely their answer will be yes. How is your prioritization, and is it effectively serving your business?John Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership book cover

John C. Maxwell, an expert in leadership and author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, writes, “When we are busy, we naturally believe that we are achieving. But busyness does not equal productivity.” Your schedule might be full, but if it’s not full of the right kinds of tasks, you might be wasting time and doing your business a disservice.


Here’s what Maxwell has to say about the Law of Priorities and how it can help you become a better leader.

The Law of Priorities

In his chapter on the Law of Priorities, John Maxwell writes, “It is the responsibility of leaders to make tough decisions based on priorities.” As a business owner, keeping a lengthy to-do list to prove to yourself and others that you’re involved in your company is tempting. However, that’s not the most efficient way to accomplish the necessary tasks.

John Maxwell cites the Pareto Principle, which states that if you spend time on tasks that rank in the top 20% of importance, you will see an 80% return on investment. If your to-do list has ten tasks, you should focus on the top two. That might sound like blasphemy for those driven by the need to be “productive,” but it’s best for your business.

This also applies to the employees you invest the most time in. Shaping new leaders on your team is the best way to ensure the longevity and success of your business. If you help develop the top 20%, they can, in turn, shape the employees below them and create a cycle of leadership.

Maxwell has the three Rs that pertain to the Law of Priorities: requirement, return, and reward. As a business owner, you’ll need to re-evaluate your priorities regarding these three questions: What do you need? What gives the most significant return? And finally, what brings the greatest reward?

The Law of Priorities means you might need to change your way around the office. If you’re used to involving yourself in every aspect of running your business, for example, you’ll need to learn to delegate so that you can focus on your top 20%.

This will be uncomfortable initially, but as Maxwell writes, “Leadership has nothing to do with comfort and everything to do with progress.”

Making it Work for Your Business

Sometimes, it’s obvious which priorities need to shift. If there are tasks that drain your time, that you don’t feel suited for, or that just aren’t important to the future of your company, you can afford to delegate (and if you’ve attracted the right employees, you should be able to trust them to handle these tasks.)

Other times, you might feel like a task has a place on your to-do list when it really shouldn’t take up so much of your time. Take a look at the areas taking up the most of your time. Think back to the three Rs: Are you getting enough reward from these tasks to justify what’s required to accomplish them?

Maxwell recommends listing four areas that you’re passionate about and influential in, such as leadership, networking, communicating, etc. Think about what tasks fall into those categories and focus on those—chances are that’s where you’ll shine.

Once you’ve mastered the Law of Priorities, it’s important to model it as an example for your team to follow. Prioritized teams are productive teams, and you’ll find that your company’s overall efficiency goes up if your organization focuses on the tasks that they’re good at, enjoy, and bring a high rate of return.

The Law of Priorities is one of the most important skills you can learn as a business owner. If you’re having trouble making it work for you, fill out my contact form, and let’s chat about how I can help.

Coach Dave


Dave Schoenbeck
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