Today, a really simple—but powerful—principle.

If you’re the leader, you’re the lid.

I know I’d rather pretend that’s not true, but it is.

Here’s what it means:

Over time, the team and organization you lead will never grow past where you’ve grown.

If you stop growing in an area, people who want to grow past that point will simply find another leader to follow.

So this just makes me nervous. As a leader, I set limits that impact others.

How do you overcome it?

It’s Everywhere

As much as you and I would like to pretend that we’re not the lid as leaders, the truth takes us elsewhere.

Your lid operates in every area of your life and leadership. As a leader, you become the organization lid






And on the list goes….

People who want to grow past where you’ve grown will move on.

So how do you keep growing?


3 Ways to Remove Your Lid

So what do you do about it? Three things have consistently helped me grow:


1. Do whatever it takes to become personally healthy.

Spend time with Christ.  Go see a counselor.  Hire a trainer. Get a leadership coach. Find some mentors. Hire a spiritual director. Work on your junk. Get the help you need. Do what you need to do to get where you need to be.

And stop making excuses as to why you can’t change.


2. Become more self-aware.

Seeing your limits is one of the best ways to begin to address them.  Self-deception is one of the worst kinds of deception around.  Healthy leaders don’t gravitate toward people who lack self-awareness.

Emotional intelligence is a skill that almost every effective leader needs to grasp. Fortunately, emotional intelligence can be learned. If you want a spiritual primer on emotional intelligence, Jeff Henderson does an exceptional job tying faith and relationships together in the Climate Change series.


3.  Recruit people who are better than you. 

One of the keys to creating a better organization is to recruit around your weaknesses.  You will never be the best at everything.  Focusing on what you do best but finding people who are far better than you are at most things can help you create a community that goes further than you could ever take it alone.

And, of course, being around people who are better than you—as long as you are open to learning—will make you better. You’ll grow. Here’s a post I wrote about how to attract and keep people who are better than you.

Knowing I’m the lid challenges me to get better in every area.

Sometimes, just knowing is most of the battle.

What are you doing about your lid today?

What other things limit you?

Leave a comment!


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  2. Links I Like | on April 14, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    […] Carey Nieuwhof on If you’re the leader, you are the lid. […]

  3. Lawrence W. Wilson on April 14, 2014 at 7:38 am

    Re. #3, I’ve heard it said that “A-level leaders hire A-level associates; B-level leaders hire C-level associates.” I love the idea, but it’s easier said than done. Attracting talent, especially on a budget, is a challenge. Any tip? Or maybe a future post.

  4. […] If you’re the Leader, You’re the Lid. […]

  5. ststephen7 on April 12, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    I first heard about concept from John Maxwell, and you’ve managed to explain it, and how to get past the lid nicely. Once I found the courage to hire people who were better than I was, my team moved forward faster than I could have thought possible. I’ll reblog this over at
    Thank you!

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