Leadership and the Law of the Lid

Published 10:01 pm Thursday, June 15, 2017

By Elaine Lankford

There I was, a seasoned nurse tasked with implementing new pain management standards across an entire hospital. How in the world was I going to pull this off?

A successful campaign meant improved patient care and a potential promotion for me. A failure meant back to the grind of floor nursing.

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I was determined to succeed.

As the team of people I had been tasked to lead gathered, I would look around the room and start filtering team members by level of interest, skill, talent and experience. Yet, somewhere inside, I knew that this room of people was just the tip of the iceberg and that the buy-in of literally hundreds of hospital employees was needed to make the transition work.

Back then, I didn’t realize that there could potentially be a lid on my effectiveness to influence people and that it was directly related to my ability to lead.

What about you? Have you ever considered your level of effectiveness? As a leader, do you find you spend more time trying to convince people that you know what you are talking about or more time conversing with people who want to hear more of your thoughts?

If you are the former leader in this scenario, you may be hitting right smack up against the leadership lid. And if you are the latter, you’ve learned some things along the way that have helped you raise the leadership lid so that your effectiveness is not capped.

So, what is the Law of the Lid? This is what our friend John Maxwell states:

“Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential. The higher the individual’s ability to lead, the higher the lid on his potential.”

In other words, if you are not taking steps on a consistent basis to improve yourself as a leader, you will come to a point when your effectiveness as a leader fades. Once this happens, it will be difficult to regain the trust and respect of those around you.

Want to become a more effective leader? Simply focus on genuinely improving your leadership skills, and your level of effectiveness will follow!

So how did my project turn out? Luckily for me, I learned early in nursing that empowering those around you is always the best way to gain influence. To help change the hospital environment, I worked on empowering everyone — from hospital executives down to environmental service workers. Everyone I poured into began to pour back into the patients.

Pain awareness grew rapidly. Within a year, for the first time in hospital history, pain management became one of the top five areas of patient satisfaction during their hospital stay.

But after about four years, I hit my lid. While we made huge steps in many areas, there continued to be small pockets of resistance and my level of effectiveness reached a point of decline. At that time, no further gains were seen.

Had I known about the Law of the Lid, perhaps I could have worked at my leadership ability, regained some effectiveness, and made more headway. As it was, I had done all I could do.

And that, my friend, is a perfect lead in to next time, when we will look at the Law of Influence!

Elaine Lankford is a John Maxwell certified coach, teacher, trainer and speaker. She is the founder of Transforming Love Ministries, LLC and a board member of the Christian Business Coalition of Hampton Roads. Email her at elaine@elainelankford.com.