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Is Your Effectiveness Limited by the Law of the Lid? 

Woman in white shirt and glasses looking out window.

At one time or another, we feel stuck working in an okay-job with an okay-paycheck and okay-hours. Why are we in the “okay” situation and what are the first steps out of it? Maybe we’re where we are, doing what we do ineffectively because we’ve created a lid to keep us there. But what is the law of the lid? 

Be willing to learn

Without learning, we just keep doing what we already know. Without knowing anything different, we’ll keep doing what we’ve always done.

“When we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten.”

(That quote has been attributed to Henry Ford and several others.)

Today, we have a seemingly unlimited number of ways to learn. But here’s the thing: We must be willing to take some time to learn.

Be willing to learn how to lead

In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John C. Maxwell describes the first law, The Law of the Lid. This law states, “Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness.” 

When I was younger, I thought that being a leader meant being a CEO or a president or a chairperson or something like that.

As I’ve matured, I’ve realized that being a leader means having a vision for something better. It means something better for ourselves; something better for the profession we’re in, or the community we serve. Something better for the world we live in once we are no longer here.

Set the intention to lead

Maxwell also says that we need to be “intentional” about becoming a leader. Meaning, we can’t just expect that becoming a leader will magically happen.

I would argue that if we are not intentional about leading — about envisioning and moving towards a better future — then we have indeed put the lid on ourselves. That is, even if we don’t jump up and put a lid on our own potential, our non-actions keep us in the box with the lid firmly in place.

If you’re reading this, you’re already learning. You’re already having at least an inkling of how to learn to lead. The next thing you have to do is … take just a few next steps.

Here are four simple steps to lift that lid:

1. Assess your own strengths and weaknesses as a leader in your field.

If you aren’t constantly learning and improving, you aren’t influencing. If you aren’t influencing, you aren’t leading.

On a scale of 1-10, if your leadership ability is a 5, the people you’re trying to influence will never be more than a 4.

2. Lift your lid.

The first way to do that is through learning. Recognize that even experts in their field continue to learn and grow. Don’t limit yourself by thinking you have learned all you need to learn.

3. Add value.

Add value for your clients. Listen to their needs and respond appropriately.

Add value to your organization by offering to sit on a committee or draft a procedure or chair a task force. You can add value in your community by volunteering for an organization.

4. Invest in your own professional development.

I’ve often tried to skip or delay this step. Believe me, that made me less effective. No surprise. Sometimes, you’ll need to invest money and time. Sometimes, you can get free help.

Learning starts by asking the right questions. Come up with your question(s) ahead of time; it helps you to become more intentional.

Learning and professional development help you to become a stronger leader. Get started today.

How do you see your level of effectiveness as it relates to your level of job satisfaction? How does the Law of the Lid apply to you?

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