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DLP #004: 5 Ways to Expand Your Leadership Capacity


by Brandon Cox: Every leader has a lid – the point to which we’ve grown so far. We choose to either live under the lid, or blow it off, create change, and take action to grow. When you do that – when you grow – others around you will grow, too.


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John Maxwell often talks about the Law of the Lid, which basically states that the level of an organization will never excel beyond the level of its primary leader. You will always struggle to lead other people beyond your own level of leadership proficiency.

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Leadership is all about growing other people, developing people, and lifting and raising people. Leadership means developing other people to their potential.

Leadership is not about you being the rockstar. Leadership is about you pouring into others and giving others a track to grow on.

You are the lid for your organization, for yourself, and for the people that you lead.

In other words, if I’m leading at a seven I will never be able to take people beyond a five or six. Jesus was a ten. He is the Master Leader, but all of us are somewhere below that. We all find ourselves at different places and at different levels.

The question is, how do I lift the lid? How do I change my capacity? How do I grow in my ability to influence other people?

Over the last eight years, I’ve experienced this at Grace Hills Church. Every time we cross a new milestone, enter a new season, or something happens that’s significantly positive, I’m always faced with the question: Am I going to be able to lead us further? Am I going to be able to take us on from here to the next level to the next place, to the next goal? And you’ve probably faced that as well.

I think the answer to that question can be yes, IF we’re willing to expand our capacity.

So, how do you expand your capacity? How do you lift the lid on your own leadership? And here’s the key…

To lift the lid and expand your capacity you must embrace and create change in your life.

That’s also true organizationally. If you want your organization, your church, your business, or your ministry to grow, you’re going to have to change things in order to expand the capacity.

Just as when you have to build a larger building, expand to more locations, when you need more infrastructure, move to new software, etc., we have to be able to make change happen around us, and change is almost always difficult. It’s almost always painful.

Growth is change, by nature. If you’re not willing to change, you’ll never grow because growth is change. Things that change over time, grow. Not all change is growth, but all growth is change.

If you want to lift your lid and expand your leadership capacity, you must change some things. You must become the catalyst to change in your own life. You have to instigate change.

And if you’re the leader at the top of an organization – the senior pastor, the senior leader, the CEO – you have to be the first to instigate change. You have to be the one to make the ripples to make change happen. That doesn’t mean you’ll be the only one, but you have to be willing to go first.

Some things, you can’t change at all

We need to acknowledge that some change cannot be made at all. You might say today, “I could lead at a higher level if I had __________,” and you kind of fill in the blank with something that is not possible for you to create.

If I had a different leader over me… If I worked for a different business… If I had a ton of money… 

You must come to peace with the things you cannot change and find a creative way around them. That’s the reason why some people wind up changing organizations. They go somewhere else to work, or start a new business, because they’ve hit a spot where they can’t change what’s above them or what’s around them.

Some things, you can only change slowly

Then there is a category of things that you can change, but they have to be changed slowly over time. You can make incremental changes now, but there are certain things that can only change over long periods of time.

Some things, you can change TODAY

Here are five ways to change yourself, to challenge yourself, to grow and expand your leadership capacity. And these make a difference long-term. These change the game for you and your organization and the people that you lead over the long haul.

1. You can expand your knowledge

I’ve never seen a leader excel to greatness, or lead an organization to greatness, or make a significant impact on the world who was completely self-absorbed. Every leader I know that’s ever been effective was a learner and a listener. They read things, they listen to things, they take things in.

There are many ways to learn that you can take advantage of today.

If you don’t expand your knowledge, you’re done. If you stop listening and stop reading and stop feeding your mind, you’re at your limit.

2. Challenge your beliefs

I’m not talking about changing what you believe theologically. I’m talking more about those limiting beliefs that hold us back.

Some of us struggle with a scarcity mindset, or we struggle with fear, or a lot of self-defeating thoughts. We believe and repeat and rehearse lies and limitations about ourselves.

Out of our beliefs, we act. And out of our actions come the habits that shape our lives and our destinies. Ask yourself, What am I believing that is limiting me and holding me back?

Sometimes my limiting beliefs are the lid on my leadership and I need to punch through those and knock them down with some big truth in order to go on further.

3. Expand your network

Today, you can change the capacity of your leadership by meeting new people and networking with people that you don’t yet know, from whom you can learn and to whom you can contribute.

The more people I connect with, the better. Don’t just think about this in the old-fashioned terms of joining some organization and handing out your business card in an attempt to get business. I’m not talking about expanding your potential leads list in terms of networking for sales. I’m talking about networking for growth, and there’s a big difference.

I am a product of the people who’ve poured themselves into me. My capacity has been expanded by the people in my life that have led me, that have helped me, that have been friends to me, etc.

4. Get a coach

I believe so strongly in coaching. In the last eight years – since we started Grace Hills Church – there hasn’t been a single major decision that I have not talked about with a coach.

Coaching is not the same as taking a course. It’s not the same as hiring someone to teach me stuff. I can learn stuff in other places.

What I need sometimes is someone who will get involved in my situation mentally and relationally, who will help me think through my dreams and visions, the challenges I’m facing, the strategies I need to overcome those challenges, and then will hold me accountable to take action on those strategies. That’s what a coach does. That’s what I do when I coach people.

Learn more about my leadership coaching.

You’ll always need to be coached. Every single person that I learn from, that is either a pastor who has done really well leading the church, or a CEO, or an entrepreneur or a business person who has done really well, almost without exception, they receive coaching. There are people that are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies that get coaching

Why would high-level leaders need coaching? Because coaching isn’t simply about learning new information. It’s about needing another voice, another perspective, someone else to speak into your life about the direction you’re going, the strategies you need, and the steps you need to take in order to get there.

5. Take smart risks

You will only grow as a leader in your capacity as you stretch yourself.

I’m using the phrase smart risks on purpose. I don’t believe you need to take dumb risks. I’m not challenging you to run out and flippantly quit your job and launch your dream and not have any education or plan or backup. I don’t think that’s a worthy kind of risk. Sometimes we feel brave and we take a risk, but we didn’t do our research and so the risk is way too much cost and very little guarantee of success.

What I mean by risk is that there is something I need to do outside of my comfort zone. It might cost me money, time, or convenience, but it’s going to cost me something. The risk is giving up something that’s valuable in exchange for something more valuable.

That doesn’t mean that everything’s going to be a guarantee. In fact, if it’s a guarantee, then it’s not a risk at all and therefore, it doesn’t stretch us.

You need a research and development laboratory in your mind, in which you try things that you haven’t tried yet that are outside your comfort zone. And success lies beyond them. The blessing, the abundance, the fullness lies beyond the risks you need to take.

When your capacity as a leader expands, your organization will probably grow. I can’t guarantee that it’s going to grow in sales, or in the number of people attending. Those are not things no one can guarantee. But I can guarantee that it’s going to become healthier, it’s going to be stretched, that the people around you that you lead, that you influence, they are going to grow and they are going to be stretched.

Keep pushing the limits. Read one more book. Take one more step. Design one more strategy. Reach out to one more person. Give something else away. Put a little more skin in the game. Take a little more risk, because every time you do, the people that you are responsible for grow as well.

I’m convinced that when leaders grow, our pursuits grow, our organizations grow, the people that we lead grow and we all get better.

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Source: DLP #004: 5 Ways to Expand Your Leadership Capacity