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The Life of Prophet Muhammad Through the Lens of Leadership

21 Leadership Lessons from the Life of Prophet Muhammad

“Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

This is a quote made famous by America’s top leadership guru, Dr. John C. Maxwell, in his bestselling book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

The first time I read this quote was in 2002, when I was a rookie teacher at an Islamic school.

I remember staring at that statement and thinking, “what does he mean by that?”

To find the answer, I kept reading the rest of the book, and my life has never been the same.

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I started to look at everything from a leadership lens. The good and bad of every school, masjid, organization, family and even country were directly related to the quality of their leaders.

I was so fascinated by this topic of leadership that I went on to study it in graduate school.

I also implemented as many good leadership principles as possible in my classrooms as a teacher in public, private, charter and international schools, and as a principal in private Islamic schools in the Virgin Islands and in Houston, Texas.

Now, I teach these leadership principles day in and day out in companies, schools, non-profits and masjids internationally, because I know the kind of positive impact that great leadership can make.

When leadership is great, success inevitably follows. Likewise, when leadership is poor, failure inevitably follows.

Think about it: give me some examples of successful countries, businesses and masjids and I will point you in the direction of the strong leader that orchestrated their success.

This is the first in a series of articles about leadership in which I discuss why all of us need to understand and live out the principles of great leadership.

It doesn’t matter whether we are teachers, parents, CEOs, doctors, imams, engineers, sons or daughters; we are all responsible for being leaders.

Abdullah bin Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock.

An Imam is a shepherd and he is responsible for those in his care.

A man is a shepherd in respect of his family and is responsible for those in his care.

The woman is a shepherd in respect of her husband’s house and is responsible for what is in her care.

The servant is a shepherd in respect of his master’s property and is responsible for what is in his care.

All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock.”

What is the modern-day equivalent to the word shepherd in this hadith?


So reread the hadith above, but this time, replace the word shepherd, with the word leader.

I believe that it is our responsibility to become leaders, because that’s what our beloved Prophet taught us to be, and that is what he was.

He exemplified leadership in all areas of his life, and, if we are truly followers of his example, then we will seek to do the same.

Also, by looking at the life of the Prophet Muhammad through this lens of leadership, my hope is that we will gain an even greater appreciation of how incredible he was, and our love for him will increase.

So let’s take a look at the life and leadership of the greatest leader in the history of the world, the Prophet from the lens of the 21 Irrefutable Laws.

As you’re reading, be sure to contemplate on how we all can follow in the Prophet’s  example and live out these laws in our lives.

Law of the Lid: Leadership Ability Determines a Person’s Level of Effectiveness

The Law of the Lid states that leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness; the lower an individual’s ability to lead is, the lower the lid on his potential.

Likewise, the higher an individual’s ability to lead is, the higher the lid on his potential.

In other words, if your leadership ability is judged on a scale of 1 to 10 – with 1 being completely ineffective and 10 being extremely effective – your potential will coincide with your level of leadership.

So, if your leadership ability is a 9, you’re going to get incredible results, but if your leadership is a 2, your results will be less than stellar.

Let’s look at this law based on the life of the Prophet.

How effective was the Prophet in his mission?

What was his level of effectiveness?

The fact that I’m writing this article on this blog is proof of how incredibly effective the Prophet was as a leader.

Based on the definition of the law provided earlier, the Law of the Lid proves clearly without a doubt that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was the most impactful human being to ever walk the face of the earth.

His leadership ability was through the roof; therefore, he was able to change the course of human history forever. He was a perfect 10!

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • So what is your leadership lid? If we’re not striving to be 10’s, then we’re not striving to be like the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Law of Influence: The True Measure of Leadership is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less

The Law of Influence states that leadership is measured based on a person’s ability to influence others; nothing more, nothing less.

Let’s look at the influence of the Prophet (peace be upon him):

Only a few short years after the Prophet  and his followers were forced out of their hometown of Makkah, he came back accompanied by 10,000 others and became the ruler.

Within the next 100 years, the Islamic Empire stretched from Morocco to China. Fourteen hundred years later, Muhammad is the most popular name in the world, and there are over 1.3 billion Muslims spread out across the entire globe.

His name is being repeated across the globe millions of times daily. His life is being studied in homes, masaajid and universities across the globe.

Whether you walk into a mosque in Tokyo, Delhi, Dubai, London, New York City, Los Angeles, Bogota or Sao Paulo, you will hear Surah al-Fatiha recited and see people praying the way that the Prophet used to pray.

The incredible ways Prophet influenced the course of human history would require volumes upon volumes of books to enumerate.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • How are we influencing or making a positive impact in the world?
  • How are we influencing our families, communities, co-workers, children, cities and countries?
  • If the Prophet’s mission was about changing the world, shouldn’t ours be too? Should we not also be people of influence?

Law of Process: Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day

The Law of Process states that growth in leadership happens every single day, not in a single day.

Have you ever heard the story about the Prophet  taking a day off from his leadership responsibilities?

Of course you haven’t because it didn’t happen!

He worked tirelessly for the sake of humanity. He worked tirelessly for you and me.

Every day was a new challenge for him; a new problem to manage, a new threat on his life or the lives of his followers; a new hypocrite to deal with; a new tribe to negotiate with, a new rumor about him or his family to quell; a new strategy to develop; a new leader to give dawah to, a new Muslim to teach; and a new world to create.

Day in and day out he faced the kinds of challenges that developed and sharpened his leadership skills, to the extent that he became the greatest leader ever.

Reflection Questions on the Law:

  • What do we do to develop our leadership skills, day in and day out?
  • How can we intentionally follow the Sunnah of growing as leaders, day in and day out?

Republished with the author’s kind permission from