The Law of the Big Mo

Momentum is a leaders best friend. — John C. Maxwell
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Reflections on John C. Maxwell’s “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”

Momentum is an undeniable phenomenon. You feel it when someone walks into your office with purpose. You can see it on the field when a sports team begins gaining the upper hand. Momentum can pick up the slack of under-performers if loud enough.

Momentum = Mass X Velocity

Mass is an object, something to be moved, and velocity is speed aimed in a particular direction. To build momentum as a leader, you must have mass and velocity.

The people on your team represent mass. You are trying to move them forward in a consistent direction. Velocity is the actionable steps you take to accelerate them towards a purpose. A team has momentum when the equation you satisfy the equation.

Leadership Momentum

Leadership momentum is all about incremental changes. When you first settle into that shiny new job, be careful not to overstep. Many leaders come in with guns blazing, pushing their team to excellence or the firing squad immediately, demonstrating destructive momentum. It only works if you can sustain that kind of pressure and speed and if your team willingly accepts the responsibilities of this work ethic. Elon Musk is this kind of leader. You will most likely lose some great potential along the way. Instead, think of making the smallest change possible to get your team headed in the right direction. Small changes lead to more significant changes, and they bring everyone along for the ride.

Momentum Experiment

People will perform at a higher caliber when the momentum is adequately balanced. Imagine holding a water balloon in your hands. The balloon represents your leadership style. Now, place a golf ball on top of that balloon, directly in the center. The golf ball is your team. Pick up the balloon and golf ball together and drop it on the table. You will notice that the energy exerted from the table will push through you and onto your team. Depending on how well you balance that momentum, the ball will either fly straight up, where you want it to go, or shoot off to the side in chaos.

It’s a weird dynamic, but works. The lower you drop the balloon, the easier it is to steer your golf ball in the right direction. Little by little, you can start dropping your balloon from a higher point because you’ve practiced managing the momentum.


The enemy of momentum is friction. Friction is inevitable. There will come a time where momentum slows or comes to a complete stop. Friction could be internal conflicts with your team, being short-staffed, or dealing with a change. It is up to you to reduce or eliminate the friction to get momentum moving again. If not, you will go into reverse momentum and destroy all the work you put into developing an influential team culture.

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