Leadership In a Word: Complacency

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Complacency happens almost without notice. Check and renew your heart daily. – Jim George

A word about complacency

By definition, complacency is ‘showing smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements”. Not very flattering is it?

Yet one of the chief enemies of leaders can be wrapped up in this one word. It’s been said that success breeds complacency. While I do believe that a certain amount of dissatisfaction with one’s talents and abilities can be healthy, complacency can devastate your leadership.  

Consider the great pianist Paderewski. He achieved a great deal of success in America. In spite of that, he is quoted as saying, “There have been a few moments when I have known complete satisfaction, but only a few. I have rarely been free from the disturbing realization that my playing might have been better”. In other words, he was keenly aware that there was always room for improvement.

As a leader, it’s important to avoid certain dangers as it relates to complacency Here are a few of them.

The danger of pride and arrogance.

This is how the smugness of uncritical satisfaction or complacency manifests itself. A leader full of pride or arrogance mistakenly thinks it’s all about them. So long as this attitude continues to manifest itself in the actions and words of the leader, the more that leader will become isolated.

There’s no room for pride or arrogance in a leader. It’s one thing to show pride in one’s work that fosters an attitude of excellence, but another thing entirely to lead from a position of self-serving pride and arrogance.

The danger of not having a personal growth plan

This type of leader exhibits a lack of depth or wisdom to think long. As leaders, we never stop growing and we never stop learning. Not having a plan in place whereby you are continuously learning and being challenged can be fatal to your leadership.

Consider your own growth plan for just a moment. Is it well thought out and intentional or is random and sporadic? Your personal growth and development is an investment in your future and in the people you lead. If you are not growing as a leader then how can you expect it from the people you lead?

The danger of believing that past achievements will guarantee future success

Your successes and achievements are milestones on your leadership journey. What you achieved yesterday is not necessarily a predictor of your success tomorrow. It’s when you become complacent that you believe that one automatically guarantees the next.

What complacent attitudes are you holding onto that are holding you back? Smart leaders are continuously striving to excel, learn, grow, and are looking for new and improved ways to do it. Be thankful for past wins, but don’t live there.

The danger of believing your best days are behind you

While it’s important to believe your past successes will not guarantee your future success, it’s equally important -if not more so, to understand that your best days are not behind you, they are before you. A complacent mindset will lull you into believing the former. Don’t believe it.

My encouragement to you as a leader is to shake off any complacent attitude about your life and leadership. Don’t allow yourself to be surrounded by negative influences that would hold you back. Complacency – not matter it’s form, voice, or identity is not something you have to associate with or be defined by.

Complacency quotes

“The dream is over only when you become complacent” – Lorin-Morgan Richards

“He who is content with what has been done is an obstacle in the path of progress” – Helen Keller

“I will not allow yesterday’s success to lull me into today’s complacency, for this is the great foundation of failure” – Og Mandino

“Change before you have to” – Jack Welch

A final word

One of the sad consequences of complacency is that it keeps you from fulfilling a God-inspired purpose for your life. It tarnishes your past and robs you of your future. Don’t allow complacency to hold you back you as a leader. You have too much to gain and far too much to lose as a result.

©2018 Doug Dickerson


About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandsons Tyson and Gideon. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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