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Complacency: A Leadership Imperative

By LeaderTalk Contributor — May 14, 2011 1 min read

by Ryan Bretag | @ryanbretag

The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines complacency as “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” More importantly, it is a critical blind spot for leaders that left unchecked can easily tumble organizations into dangerous waters.

Herb Kelleher stated it best: “The Number one threat is us. We must not let success breed complacency. A company is never more vulnerable to complacency than when it’s at the height of its success” (Freiberg, pg. 60).

What happens when organizations begin to settle for a “business as usual” mindset? What are signs that an organization is heading towards complacency? Has your organization become complacent? Have you?

Ten Potential Indicators of Complacency

Difficult Conversation Are Avoided Fishing Down the Hallway (Risk Taking and Innovation) is Met With Cautious Tones The Status Quo is Celebrated Learning is No Longer a Priority Management and Day to Day Tasks are the Focus "Hubris Born of Success" Areas of Potential Growth are Ignored The Creative Spirit, Energy, Joy, and Passion No Longer Exist as the Norm The Hairball Is Celebrated and those Orbiting It Are Dismissed External Influences are Utilized as Excuses

And, it is these indicators of complacency that leaders must recognize, resist, and challenge. For if they don’t, the innovative energy that leads to sustained excellent begins to fade; the community spirit that leads people towards a common vision begins to dissipate; and, the powerful learning that lies at the heart of education begins to regress.

After all, leaders set the tone and it is our responsibility to avoid organizational complacency while igniting the passions of individuals who have become stagnate. As Disney said, “Around here we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” That is leadership. That is what will ignite the passions of our learners, teachers and students alike, and propel learning communities to new heights instead of drifting in complacency.

(Image: Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from dpicker’s photostream)

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