John Maxwell calls it the Law of the Lid (1998).  The basic principle is how you lead decides how successful you will be.

For example, if you think being a leader means your ideas are the best all the time, you will fail.  If you cannot ask for help, encourage discussion, and truly listen to others, you will not be an effective leader.  If you cannot tap into the talent, experience, and expertise of your team because they know you won’t listen so they don’t speak, you will achieve little.

These problems come from the character of the leader.  Their ego, insecurities, and fears deny them the opportunity to hear excellent ideas (Abrashoff, 1998).  They lose the benefits of having a team.  Many minds working together produce better ideas and fewer mistakes.  One person who is convinced he or she knows it all will miss numerous valuable insights and innovations and commit a lot more errors.

Examples abound.  Look at the companies and countries who underperform or fail.  They have CEOs with autocratic, micromanager, or dictatorial leadership styles.  They sabotage themselves with an unwillingness to listen and a rigid inflexibility.  It’s impossible to get new winning ideas from others when you make it clear you are always right and will not listen (Abrashoff, 1998).  Discussion generates solutions.  Silence ensures only one person’s ideas are ever heard and what are the odds he or she is always right?

Leaders succeed by surrounding themselves with people who know things they do not and can do things they cannot.  We want to hear the ideas, wisdom, and recommendations of others.  We create a climate where everyone will be heard.  It is encouraged and safe to speak, propose new ideas, and disagree.   As Steve Jobs would ask, “Why hire gifted people if you are not going to listen to them?”

Leaders are best at questions not answers.  We do not place people in leadership because of what they know and can do but how they can bring out the most and the best from others.

The greatest leaders create an environment where people are free and safe to offer ideas, provide recommendations, admit mistakes, and aid the leaders by letting them know when they may be making an error.  You always get the behavior you recognize and reward.  Culture controls and everyone should know you genuinely want to hear from them.

The most effective leaders adapt (Abrashoff, 1998).  They are open to change.  They are flexible.  They let logic and the evidence not their ego guide their decisions.  When it’s not working, they admit it and look for a better strategy or solution.  It is not about them but the success of the organization and those they serve.  They consider it to be a win when a mistake can be identified and corrected as quickly as possible.

“Always my way or the highway” is the road to failure.  “I want to hear your ideas and if we can obtain better results and performance, let’s do it” is the unending street towards long term success.

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