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Expand Your Leadership Limits by Applying the Law of the Lid

the Law of the Lid

Look on almost any street corner in America and you see a fast food franchise. Did you ever wonder why these places are so successful everywhere they go?

It certainly isn’t that the food is top of the line, although most of us will indulge in a guilty pleasure now and again. The key is consistency.

If you stop for lunch at an airport McDonald’s half the continent away, the meal and the experience will be almost identical to the lunch you could order at the McDonald’s closest to your home. What’s more, anytime you eat at a McDonald’s you may feel nostalgia because the tastes are so similar to your first Happy Meal when you were a child.

The success of McDonald’s, which truly set the stage for countless other franchise businesses all over the world, is owed to a man named Ray Kroc, who in 1954 partnered with the founding brothers behind the first McDonald’s restaurants to make these outposts a nationwide sensation, and later bought the exclusive rights to the entire business.


The higher the person’s ability to lead, the higher the lid on his or her potential.


Kroc was able to push the restaurants farther than the founders ever could because the difference between he and the McDonald brothers exemplifies one of the most important concepts in leadership: the Law of the Lid.

Dick and Maurice McDonald had built a small but successful enterprise in Southern California. They lived comfortably. Their hamburgers were popular. But their lid for success was low: They didn’t have the vision to lead their company to what it would ultimately become. They were efficient managers, but their thinking patterns clamped down a lid on what they could do and become.

In contrast, the leadership lid in Kroc’s life was sky high. Between 1955 and 1959, he succeeded in opening 100 McDonald’s restaurants. Four years after that, there were 500 McDonald’s. Today the company has more than 35,000 locations in over 120 countries around the world!

The Law of the Lid is the best explanation of the value of leadership; if you can get a handle on this law, you will see the incredible impact of leadership on every aspect of your life.

It’s simple: Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The higher the person’s ability to lead, the higher the lid on his or her potential.


Your leadership ability, for better or worse, will always determine the impact of your organization, your team or yourself personally.


If your leadership rates an 8 on a scale of 1-10, then your effectiveness will never be higher than a 7. If your leadership rates a 4, then your effectiveness is going to always be stuck at 3. Your leadership ability, for better or worse, will always determine the impact of your organization, your team or yourself personally.

Wherever you look, you can find talented, smart people who are only able to go so far because of the limitations of their leadership. That’s why in times of trouble, organizations naturally look for new leadership. When the country is experiencing hard times, it elects a new president. When a sports team keeps losing, it looks for a new head coach.

The good news is that getting rid of the leader isn’t the only way to lift the lid. Continuing in your study of leadership is another sure way.

Related: How Moral Authority Makes Leaders Better


the Law of the Lid

How can you apply the Law of the Lid in your life?


This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of SUCCESS magazine

Photo by Yuliya Derbisheva VLG / Shutterstock.com

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John C. Maxwell, an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 18 million books, has been named an inaugural SUCCESS Ambassador. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 126 countries worldwide. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek; best-selling author, Maxwell has written three books that have sold more than a million copies.

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