The law of the lid, according to John Maxwell, essentially says that our growth as leaders is the ceiling that gets set over our reach and influence (for whatever reason) Maxwell uses a scale of 1-10 to allow you to self assess as a leader then gently helps us understand that whatever number we select, that is the HIGHEST level of person we can lead.
For example, if you rate yourself an 8/10, then Maxwell says 9/10 leaders won’t follow you. If you have this type of leader in your organisation, then one of two things needs to happen. Firstly, you and I need to grow as leaders OR those leaders will ultimately leave us and place themselves in an environment where they can flourish.
If Bennis and Nanus are right, and the one thing that distinguishes good leaders from great ones is the “ability to acquire new skills.” Then a core responsibility of a leader must be to carve out time to grow, shape, and sharpen their skills in order to get better at the art and science of leadership. Make time for personal development and spend time renewing your OWN mind and soul.
With that in mind, why oh why do so many leaders seem to “tap out” at a particular point in their leadership and what can be done to keep pushing this glass ceiling up? Here are four possibilities:
ONE. Stay curious. Ignorance IS NOT bliss.
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” As leaders, we need to be on the front foot in learning, and to both grow and lean into growth areas. Everyone has unique talents and abilities. Those capabilities can be an inspiration and of service to others all at the same time as us learning new things. Be interested not just interesting. Lead by asking questions and refrain from making statements. Listen, really listen.
TWO. Maintain humility. Someone can always teach us something.
Pride is the single biggest contributor to a leader not raising the ceiling they are under. In many cases, we don’t even know that we are under it, and our world has been so manufactured and shaped we aren’t ever vulnerable, we don’t experience dead ends, and we never let ourselves utter those terrifying words “I don’t know.” Humility makes us more open, more willing and more proactive about lifting the level of our leadership. Find those who can be teachers and mentors, and lean towards this exciting future you’re creating.
Ask yourself, when was the last time someone in your field of passion blew your mind with their capability and expertise? Unpack what they did, how they did it and take at least three applications away from it that you will build into your leadership.
Live with passion. Having a fire for a vision bigger than you.
Jim Rohn said, “Everybody should make it their goal to become a millionaire, not just because of the money, but because of who you BECOME in the process.” We have a phrase around the team I lead, coined by one of my colleagues after a discussion about vision, he simply said, “I could get out of bed for that.” It inspired him enough to lean right into it and give it his best. Having a picture of the future that fuels your priorities and channels your energy helps you grow as a leader. Having direction, feeling productive and making a contribution are all ways passion gets fuelled.
FOUR. Diligence. Learning the art of learning and application.
All learning needs a place to call home. Knowledge left unapplied is wasted. Learn the art of applying what you observe, try out new things, and step into the unfamiliar. Find the rhythm that works in your leadership context. Include others in the process to share the wins and increase the odds of success. Maintain a laser-like focus on the things that add the most value, and under no circumstances let yourself off!
I believe people are learning machines. We are shaped to grow, shaped to learn and shaped to increase both our capacity and capability. In any case, whatever your ceiling is, it is the floor for the next generation, let’s hand it off as high as we can.
#leadsmall – because when you do, big things can happen.