Too often organizations stall out or plateau before they reach their full potential. The reason for this is that many leaders allow themselves to contract a deadly disease. And the unfortunate reality is that more often than not, it is their fault. We leaders are at risk of catching this very dangerous and often times, career ending disease, and it is called success. The good news is that it can be prevented.
When this disease hits, its first symptom is delusion. Don’t miss this. The disease of success is always self-diagnosed. We leaders are the ones who make the mistake of believing we have it. We begin to think that we have arrived and are now worthy of being called successful. We believe this success will last forever or that we are solely responsible for it. When this happens, our thinking, beliefs, attitudes, decisions and actions change. It is as if our old operating system gets replaced with a new one that values celebration, fame and entitlement more than hard work and rigor. We actually begin to think that those around us should treat us differently and that we deserve things reserved for those who are fortunate enough to have contracted this illness.
The next symptom is amnesia. We forget the people, the disciplines, the processes and the methods implemented in past years that caused momentum and ultimately led to our self diagnoses. Our old ways of working with intentionality and purpose get replaced with relaxation or apathy. We stop caring about the little things, the details, the decimals, metrics and ultimately those who benefit from our products or services. And even more catastrophic is when the amnesia causes us to forget who really does the work in our organizations and we start to believe that our teammates are lucky to work with us. This is always fatal!
In severe cases the disease will cause extreme self focus or narcissism. Our passion for creating a product of excellence and for creating a culture of excellence gets replaced with a mirror. We no longer spend our days striving to create better tomorrows for those we serve and instead focus on how we can get what we deserve out of the business. We no longer see the need to serve the business but instead spend time and energy thinking about how the business can serve us. When we become self-focused instead of others-focused or mission-focused, death and decay set in.
Fighting this disease is not easy. All excellent leaders are surrounded with people who respect them greatly and who mean well, but can feed the disease. These leaders who are well grounded and want to finish well will always make sure that they surround themselves with truth tellers as well as cheerleaders. They crave truthful input that causes them to grow. They take precautionary measures and are intentional about their strategy to fend off this career and organization killing adversary, success. They know they have room to grow and need team mates to create organizations, products and services that are worth talking about and because they create value beyond the norm.
So my questions for you are these:
- Do those around you feel uncomfortable letting you know when you have made a mistake?
- Do they feel threatened if they challenge your thinking?
- Do you operate without one or two around you that care enough to sharpen you?
- Are you more excited about your exit strategy, vacation homes or new toys than you are about the opportunities your organization has in the years ahead?
- Would those around you say that you get nasty or impatient when treated like the normal folk?