The Law of the Lid

I thought it would be extremely apt if we talked about the first law taken from John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. This is the “Law of the Lid”.

It talks about how a person’s leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. It also states an interesting point: that dedication to success and leadership ability can be mutually exclusive. In other words, it is possible to work hard and succeed, yet remain low in overall effectiveness.


As surprising as it may sound, stop a while and think about it. When an organisation fails to perform, who gets the rap? The CEO! This is because he/ she is the leader of the organisation and if results are not satisfactory, the CEO is usually one of the first to go.

In recent light, the CEO of SMRT stepped down after the organisation met up with two of its worst hiccups ever. What can I say but case in point.The law of the lid also indicates that leadership skills therefore provide amazing leverage, especially for those already dedicated in working towards success.

Think of it this way:

Leadership Ability  X  Success Dedication = Leadership Effectiveness

So if you are already an individual with high success dedication, working harder on your success dedication may not increase your effectiveness by much. In fact, the resources you pour in may even become counter-productive in the long run. If you were to train your leadership ability however, then the end product will increase drastically.

The following equations may help put things in better perspective:

Leadership Ability


Success Dedication














See how much your effectiveness increases if you choose to train your leadership ability? This is how much leverage you can gain if effort is placed in the right area of need.

While getting rid of the leader is not the only solution, problems with effectiveness usually lie with leadership. Since according to John, the laws can be learned, this only means that the problem can be fixed with a little learning, training and application!

About the Author


Jim Khoo is the Founder Director of S&JK Management Services Pte Ltd and a Founding Partner of the John C. Maxwell TEAM.  Trained by John C. Maxwell and his Faculty members, Jim has been certified as an Independent Trainer to help individuals on personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John Maxwell’s proven leadership principles.

Jim leads with his strength as a Trainer, helping businesses, organizations and individuals learn how to discover and lead with their strengths.  Jim provides leadership training to professionals, Small and Medium Sized Companies, Local and Multi-Nationals, and Individuals to empower them with principle-centric leadership skills for lasting success.