The Law of the Lid — The First of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

This is the first in a series of posts based on John Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership


Law No. 1 – The Law Of The Lid.  

Have you ever seen a flea circus?  To be honest, I haven’t either, but I remember hearing about them for the first time while watching Looney Tunes cartoons.  I always wondered if they were real.  The answer is yes.  Apparently they can be traced back to the 1600’s, but hit their peak of popularity in the 1830s in London.

SSFFleaCircusCartoonIn a flea circus, real fleas stayed on top of a small table top and jumped around.  Audiences would be amazed at the circus leader’s ability to get them to jump and even appear to do flips and tricks.

A flea can actually jump up to 150 times it’s size.  To give you an idea, if a six foot man had similar strength and abilities, he could leap over tall buildings in a single bound or cross the length of nearly two football fields!

So how could the flea circus master keep his fleas from jumping too high or out of the circus?

fricke1He “trained” them first in a box with a glass ceiling or lid.  In the beginning fleas would jump as high as they could, but they quickly learned to decrease their jumping efforts in order to avoid hitting their heads.

As a result, they learned to jump less than their best.  Soon, the ring master could lift the lid and the fleas would never again attempt to reach their full potential, but instead entertained curious Londoners.

Where have you put a lid on your effectiveness?

In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell addresses what he has found to be the top rules all leaders live by.  Whether you are a CEO of a big organization, a coach of a little league team or a parent of a household, you are a leader.

Simply put, “leadership is influence” (Maxwell).  If you are ever in a role of influence, you are a leader.  The question is, how well do you lead?  Are you putting a lid on your effectiveness or the potential of those around you?

The Law of the Lid states that leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness and capacity to influence others for success.

How much influence do you have on those that you lead?

The impact we make as leaders will be determined by our influence on those we serve.  If we are not competent leaders, we will struggle to influence others (our children, our team, our employees).  As a matter of fact, if we are unable to influence others, we are not leading at all.

Consider this.  If your dedication to success is an 8 on a scale of 1-10, but your leadership ability is a 1, then your overall effectiveness will remain quite low — no matter how much you want to succeed.


The good news is that you can raise your lid!  You can work hard to increase your level of influence and leadership.  Let’s say you can increase it all the way up to a 6 or even a 7.  Visually the results would look like this:


By raising your leadership ability — without raising your success dedication at all — you can increase your original effectiveness by 600%.  Leadership has a multiplying effect because good leaders influence and build the strength and effectiveness of those around them.

If you are still not sold on the importance of a high leadership lid consider these thoughts:

  • People generally will not follow those that have a lower lid than they do
  • People are drawn to leaders that have a higher lid than they do

Now ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your leadership lid?
  • What is the leadership lid of the person who is leading you?  (sometimes that’s you)

20130111-144627You can start by considering the level and influence of the people you are spending the most time with and the value of the material you most often read.

If you are ready to raise your lid and increase your influence and effectiveness, join me in my next mastermind group starting in March!  It will be a series of 8 weekly calls with other like-minded individuals interested in discussing The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  Details will be on my page soon.  Keep an eye out for it or contact me through the site to be sure you are on the list!

Next week we will look at Law No. 2 – The Law Of Influence

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