Introduction to the Law of the Picture


Hello and welcome!  Thanks for continuing on this journey with us through these podcasts on Leadership in the Construction Industry.  In these podcasts we are taking a look at John Maxwell’s best selling book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – and how those laws and principles can be applied to the construction and remodeling industries.  If you are listening to individual podcasts, these laws are actually part of an entire course on Construct-Ed that looks at how these laws can be used to build better leaders in the construction industry.  

My name is Chris Jurin and I am the CEO of Construct-Ed.  Construct-Ed is an online learning community dedicated to helping you build better construction and remodeling companies.  We are here to add value to you and it is our mission that our members improve their knowledge and skills in both your professional and your personal lives.  As a trainer and coach with the John Maxwell Team, I am able to add value to you by helping you explore these laws and then provide examples of how they can be applied to your everyday activities.  In addition to being a trainer and coach with the John Maxwell Team, I also serve as the president of a commercial roofing firm as well as the president of a roof consulting firm.

Good news!  We are now taking a look at Chapter 13 – which means that you have worked your way through more than half of the 21 laws.  It is my hope that you have been able to take some techniques and tools from these podcasts and apply them in your business to improve your team’s performance.  If you have any questions regarding this information or how to apply it, you can feel free to reach out by leaving your comments below and I will do my best to get back to you with some additional information.


In this chapter, we are looking at the Law of the Picture.  In this chapter, John Maxwell bases the law on the premise that “People do what people see”.  Wow – talk about a lot of pressure.  We want our teams and team members to do what we want them to do and according to the Law of the Picture, they will have a tendency to do what they see the leader (us) do.  So it would only stand to reason that we better be doing what expect our people to be doing!

There is an old saying – “Do as I say, not as I do”.  I am sure that you have seen many people that you have worked with who insist on you doing something, but they themselves don’t do what they want everyone else to do!  Nothing will kill morale faster on a crew or in a company than when the leader is not doing what they are asking everyone else to do.  

There is a country song by Rodney Atkins titled “Watching You”.  In the song, a father shares multiple examples of how his son behaves.  Some good, some not so good.  But, he always brings the stories back around by having the young boy share how he has been watching his dad – and how he wants to be just like him.  After the dad asks the son about where is learned to behave like that, the son retorts “I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool?  … I wanna be like you.”  The father comes to realize very quickly just how his actions and behaviors influence his son.  This is a great picture into leadership and the Law of the Picture.  

So, do you find yourself complaining about the work habits of your team members?  Do you wish that they would work harder or smarter?  Take the time to apply the Law of the Picture.  Self-reflect and identify your behaviors in those areas and figure out of there is an opportunity to improve.  

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Exploring the Law of the Picture

It is easy for managers and disempowered leaders to complain about the behaviors of their teams.  It is always easier to complain.  It is much harder to address the problem and begin to navigate the way out of the minefield.  Start by recalling the Law of the Lid.  This is the first law and it focused on raising the leader’s lid in order to raise the overall performance of the company.  Improve leadership and everything else will follow.  

The Law of the Picture can produce rapid results when it comes to lifting the lid of the crew, department or company.  If people do what they see and the leader corrects their behaviors, the reflection that they see in the Law of the Picture should change quickly.  This is not an instant cure, but it is one that should be noticeable.  

But wait a minute?  I thought that you said that we need to staff our weaknesses.  Look for someone who is complimentary.  We cannot all be the same, so why do I need to model the picture that I want to see in everyone else?

Don’t get cross over the lines between issues relating to core values and ethics of your teams and their technical skills in their niche area.  We are not talking about the leader having to know every single detail related to how to technically perform their job.  The Law of the Picture is applied to core values and ethics of the individual.  Are they hard working?  Are they ethical?  Do they work safe?  These are ethical issues.  They are the areas of life which are non-negotiable.

The Law of the Picture does not mean that if you are strong at sales that you cannot look for someone who is strong at operations to compliment your weaknesses. That is smart business.  What you should model and then look for in someone else is that they are honest and trustworthy.  If someone’s work ethic is in question, you have to ask yourself if you are modeling the behavior that you want them to mimic.  If not, then begin by correcting your own behavior and see if they change theirs as a result.  


Painting the Picture

In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell is quoted as saying that “The leader’s effective modeling of the vision makes the picture come alive!”  Each and every day that a leader – a company owner, a department manager, a superintendent or foreman – is involved with their team, they are responsible for casting a vision.  They are painting the picture of the what they expect.  Fail to give a defined picture of the day or project ahead and the team will have no idea where they are going.  

Many of you may have seen the Disney movie Mary Poppins. Early in the movie, Burt played by Dick Van Dyke, is creating chalk drawings on the sidewalk.  He is speaking with Jane and Michael Banks – the two children in the movie.  He is sharing his vision for the picture.  He goes into so much detail, more detail than what is in the actual drawing, that he, the kids and Mary Poppins gets sucked right into the drawing!

Are you providing so much detail to your teams that they are getting sucked in?  If not, you may be missing a golden opportunity to get them to buy into your picture that you are attempting to create.

So how do you model your picture for your team members?  Great question!  John Maxwell shares four thoughts on things that leaders need to remember when thinking about how they can best share their picture through the Law of the Picture.

  1. Followers are always watching what you do.

Are you arriving at the job 15 minutes before your first team member does?  Or are you showing up 5 minutes after the assigned starting time?  Are you the last one out of the office at the end of the day or are you leaving early more days than not?

Edgar Allen Poe said “Believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.”  Your team members will believe more of what you say, when they know that it matches what they see you do.

If you are going to ask your team members to go the extra mile, walk with them two miles.  Jump in with them and roll up your sleeves. Show them the way, and teach them.

  1. It’s easier to teach what’s right than to do what’s right.

Mark Twain said “To do what is right is wonderful.  To teach what is right is even more wonderful – and easier.” 

It is always easier to teach someone or ask someone to do what is right.  It is harder to do it. Sometimes much harder.

What are you asking of your team members?  Would you be willing to do what you are asking them to do?  Are you asking them to use a certain type of product that you yourself would not?  Are you asking them to put themselves in harm’s way when you would not dream of doing that?

Do what is right – don’t just preach and teach.  Show them, because as stated in the first point, they are always watching.  

  1. We should work on changing ourselves before trying to improve others.

Remember the Law of Magnetism.  Leaders attract who leaders are.  What is around you is in part a reflection of who you are the behaviors that you exhibit.  Don’t like what is around you – take some time for reflection and self-examination.  Are you exhibiting any of the behaviors that you don’t like in others.

Take the plank out of your own eye before you take the splinter out of your neighbor’s – or your team member’s eye. Work on yourself first.  Correct your own behaviors and look to see if those around you self-correct.

  1. The most valuable gift a leader can give is being a good example.

Leaders are just that – leaders!  They are responsible for showing the way.  They are not sitting back and just saying go there and do this.  They need to go with their team members.  Work with them, show them and build them.

This starts by being a good example!  If you want to see someone work hard and push to the end of the day, make sure that you stay in the saddle with the team member until the end of the day.  If you want someone to work through a difficult accounting issue, don’t just dump and run.  Stay with them and work through the problem together.  

As John Maxwell states – learn to lead from the front.



Leaders must continually practice the Law of the Picture.  As with the other laws, this is not something that can be crossed off the task list.  It is ongoing – it is continual.  

One of the most important things that you can do when practicing the Law of the Picture is to take a look at your own picture sometimes.  Take time for reflection.  Do you like your picture?  If you looked at your own picture would you be happy with what was there?  Or would you be disappointed at what you see?

The Law of the Picture is a massively important law when leading in construction and remodeling companies.  What you do is what others will see – and then do.  If what you are seeing around you is not meeting your expectations, you have to stop and ask yourself if you are painting the correct picture?  

Remember – you are painting a picture, casting a vision.  But the good thing about painting a picture is that if you make a mistake you can always correct it.  It is not permanent.  Be patient and adjust.  Make the correction and continue to draw people in and share your vision.  

Thanks for taking your time to talk about the Law of the Picture.  If we can be of any help or add value to you or your team, please leave a comment below and we will do our best to get you answers and help you build yourself and your company!