The Law of the Lid

“Leadership ability is the lid that determines a leader’s level of effectiveness.” — John C. Maxwell
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Reflections on John C. Maxwell’s “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”

When it comes to leadership, it all boils down to the ability to lead. Yes, it is that simple. Maxwell calls his first law the law of the lid because when the lid is open people will be able to grow. When the lid is closed, a company remains covered, unable to bloom.

Every leader should ask themselves this internal question: Am I an effective leader? Do I have what it takes to lead other people towards change — into a better position — or to fulfill potential?

Some leaders are not gifted with this ability. One may have advanced technical skills, but a low lid on leadership. If you are a low-lid leader, then you should partner up with another leader whose lid is exceptionally high. It does not mean that you are undervalued, just self-aware.

The Real Disney

Walt Disney was a leader with the creative courage to lead others in the areas of Imagineering and bigger-purpose seeking. His brother Roy was not that kind of leader. While Walt’s dreams started the family-friendly culture of Disney, Roy was the one who found the money to fund those dreams. Walt often called Roy, “The Real Disney.” Roy got his hands dirty to do the work, but Walt, the visionary, was the leader because his lid was high. His ability to lead, even his older brother, into his wildly imaginative dreams, is what made him so special.

The Human in HR

My testament to the law of the lid comes in the form of two HR Directors I knew. The first director went into the position with a very high lid on leadership. She held consistent communication meetings with the team and one-on-one meetings with the staff each week. She allowed for creative ingenuity, stood in the fire with her team during unforeseen chaos, and supported personal growth. Her results established a groundbreaking Human Resources team that transformed the corporate culture.

With her excellent leadership, she landed a better job with more opportunities to advance her career. So, a new HR Director was hired to replace her. Unlike his predecessor, his leadership lid was low. He canceled communication meetings, showed favoritism among staff, and broke apart the newly-formed culture. In a matter of six months, his entire team turned over.

The StoryTether

Just because you are in a position of power does not mean you can lead. People will either follow you because your lid is high or look for another leader if your lead is low. John C. Maxwell ends this chapter by telling a story of a hospitality company that would take over failing properties to revitalize them. In every case, the new company coming in would first fire the leader. They did this every time because if the leader had been active, the company wouldn’t be in that position.

Tether yourself to your unique ability to lead. You do not have to be Walt Disney or Steve Jobs. You have to be the one YOU with enough self-awareness to examine your lid and humble enough to seek ways to begin opening it.

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