The Law of the Lid - OneBoldMove

The Law of the Lid… and how to raise it.

John C. Maxwell’s first law of leadership; The Law of the Lid says… “Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness.”

I remember when I was promoted to Corporal in the Marine Corps.  For those of you who don’t know, that is a pretty big deal.  A corporal (E-4) is a non-commissioned officer and carries a lot of responsibility.

It has been 25 plus years and I can only speak of my personal experience, but when I was promoted things changed… and not necessarily for the better.  I would venture a guess that promotion to Corporal in the Marine Corps have not changed tremendously since then.  You see, I was now a “big deal” and my new “position” was a big deal.  My newfound success went to my head.

Just because you have been crowned the leader, doesn’t mean that you are actually leading.  If your team, your organization, your group does not grow… take a close introspective look at yourself… as the leader.

John’s Law of the lid tells us that the leader’s lid, his or her maximum ability to lead will determine the potential of his team.  Let’s say the leader is (on a scale of 1 to 10) a 4 as a leader.  The team’s potential will never be more than a 3.  However if that same leader can increase his leadership ability to an 8 or a 9, the potential of the team will raise to a 7 or an 8.


As the leader, one of the hardest things to admit is that your team is not moving forward because of your lack of leadership effectiveness.  The success of your team is the accomplishment of the mission.  If there is no accomplishment, you, as the leader need to take responsibility and work on your own effectiveness to increase the potential of your team.

I have “lead” many different types of teams over the years.  Some of these teams accomplished their mission and some did not.  I can say, for a fact, that the reason for any lack of success was directly related to my lack of leadership effectiveness.  I wish i could have recognized it at the time.  I had some growing to do.

As a young man I had a number of opportunities to lead.  I was promoted to shift-leader at a job during high school.  This was a real learning experience for me.  I was 17 years old and in-charge of the restaurant for an eight-hour shift. Let me take this time to apologize to any of the folks that worked there while I was in-charge.

I did not see it at the time, but I was overcome by power od my position and I ran my shift with an iron fist.  For a while, we were productive as a team.  However, over time, the lid on my leadership brought the entire team down.  I was not able to lead them beyond my own effectiveness as the leader.

Self-assessment and self-evaluation are the best way to reach the conclusion that your lid is to low.  Other less desirable methods of determining the position of your lid include, being fired, being demoted or experiencing mutiny.

If your team is not meeting and exceeding its objectives, look at the leader.  If you can’t objectively see the issues, ask someone else their opinion.  I hope you have thick skin, because this one could sting a bit.

Raise your lid (to increase your effectiveness)

John says that leadership can be learned.  Lets agree, for now, that leadership is influence.  The ability to influence people is the result of adding value to them.  Anyone can learn to intentionally add value to others.  This is a process.

  • Work on your skills as a leader
  • Read books written by “great” leaders.
  • Join a leadership mastermind group.
  • Seek out exemplary leaders around you and ask for advice.
  • Hire a personal development coach.

Add value

  • Leadership is influence.
  • Influence comes from adding value to people.
  • Influence is leadership.

Adding value to your team may seem like a “touchy feely” concept, but it’s doesn’t have to be.

Here are a few ways that you can add value to your team:

  • Set goals with them, and acknowledge (publicly) their growth.
  • Honestly assess their performance (privately) and work with them to improve.
  • Challenge them in areas of their strengths (give the pride in accomplishment).
  • Work with them in areas of their weakness (give them grace).
  • Seek to understand your team… ask questions, listen, and listen and ask more questions…  (God gave you 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason)

  Stay tuned for the next installment in this series; The Law of influence

Back to – 21 Laws That Everyone in Leadership Must Obey