Anyone who has been in leadership for any length of time has read or heard about John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. The very first “law” on effective leadership is what Maxwell calls “The Law of the Lid“. In short, he argues that your leadership ability is a lid that determines the level of effectiveness as a leader. This means our leadership ability will determine the impact we can have within our organization. The assumption here is, the lower your leadership ability the lower your leadership efficacy. Conversely the higher your ability the greater your impact.
This seems logical. However, the assumption is that we all have a “lid” we must strive to live and lead up to. That lid, according to Maxwell, defines the limit of our ability.
For the past year I have been wrestling with this seemingly concrete maxim. Most leadership books seem dedicated to closing your leadership gap. We scour books, download apps and develop time and task management tools in pursuit of getting as close to our leadership potential (lid) as possible. While many of these tools are useful, the idea that there is a predetermined limit to one’s leadership potential doesn’t sit right with me.
What if we aren’t born with a predetermined lid? What if we could expand, increase and grow our potential? What if we spend so much time on to-do-lists and meetings that we consistently fail to focus on the habits and activities that could lift our lid and increase our leadership potential?
What if we have been reading Maxwell wrong?
What if we could lift our lid?
Leadership Lid Lifters: This isn’t to suggest that Maxwell was wrong with his “Law of the Lid“. Rather, how we have read and applied his ideas may have fallen short of his original intentions. Over the past few months, I have come to the conclusion that there are three things that we can do to lift our leadership lid. Most of us don’t engage these activities enough. They do not help us get the urgent priorities in our day to day lives completed and therefore they often take a back seat, or worse, they are neglected altogether. Eventually our will power to engage these atrophies and they fade from focus completely. Lets look at the 3 Lid Lifters together.
The 3 Leadership Lid Lifters
- Leverage Natural Abilities
- Engage Spiritual Disciplines
- Develop Personal Habits
We must identify and cultivate our natural abilities and strengths, while mitigating natural weaknesses. We need to engage spiritual disciplines on a regular basis. Whether or not you are a person of faith, we are all spiritual beings, and when we nurture, explore and engage spiritual disciplines we will grow as a leader. Finally, we will have to continually develop healthy personal habits if we want to lift our lid and increase our potential.
Leadership Gap Closers: As we engage these Lid Lifters, we must understand that expanding our potential alone does not improve our leadership reality. We must simultaneously close the gap between our potential and reality. There are three ways to structure our lives and leadership so that we consistently engage in what I refer to as Gap Closers.
The 3 Leadership Gap Closers
- Calendarized Time Management
- Consistent Talent Development
- Completing Tasks on Time
Together the 3 Lid Lifters and 3 Gap Closers form what I refer to as the Leadership Quality Framework. These 6 element of leadership quality, form the basis for a weekly 1 on 1 meeting with each person I lead at work. During these conversations we use the 6 elements as guide for our discussion. We use the following graphic as the agenda for these meetings.
(Click here for a PDF version: Leadership Quality Framework – 2016)
Over the next several posts we will be looking at each of these 6 elements of leadership quality in depth. We will look at how to apply this framework to ourselves and use it to support and grow those we lead.
As we consistently engage these Lid Lifter and Gap Closers we will find that our leadership will grow at an exponential rate. Lets do this together…