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Trap 5: Complacency

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Trap 5: Complacency

What’s the Trap?

When things are running smoothly leaders can fall into a routine that can lead to the trap of complacency. They block off opportunities, they begin to lose their drive to challenge status quo, and they stop learning or investing in professional development. Professionally, they stick to what they know and quickly dismiss ideas that do not appear to be a strategic fit – particularly those that are too ‘wild’ or unproven.   On a personal level, this type of leader sticks to a routine that they know has worked for them in the past and does whatever they need to do to protect it. Distractions or diversions are dismissed, as are any invitations for a change of pace. Romance can fall into a rut, friendships can fall off the map, and family dynamics may become very predictable. However, this type of leader is often too complacent to notice or make an effort to improve matters.

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What’s the Impact: At Work?

What’s the Impact: At Home?


Sam was known for his discipline and dedication. He was the type of guy who had more stamina than anyone else in his graduating class, and was rewarded well for this particular strength. He got married early to his high school sweetheart and had two kids. He was hired right out of university and had his pick of career options. He quickly worked his way up to Chief Financial Officer of an international technology firm. He was thought of as a young superstar, succeeding in everything he touched.   He was taken aback when his best performer gave notice that she was leaving the organization so that she could ‘pursue other, more fulfilling, opportunities’. According to Sam, this came out of left field. She couldn’t have picked a worse time to leave because he just discovered that their last quarter results were 15% lower than the same period last year. He couldn’t understand what had happened, after all, he was running with the same strategy that was so successful in the past.   On top of all this, his daughter was called into the office by the school principal for cheating on a test. Apparently, she was so stressed by the need to get A’s, that she passed a note to her friend for help in the middle of a math test. He had no idea that she was so stressed.

What's the Solution?

Extraordinary leaders are always on the lookout for change, improvement, and opportunity. They never see success as a sign to start coasting; instead, they take continuous action to help their team move forward. They take risks, make bold decisions, and leverage their success to make even bigger strides. Extraordinary leaders take the initiative to get moving when things are seemingly at a standstill. They are tuned into the pulse of their people and make sure that the team is engaged and fully leveraged. They talk to people at all levels of the organization to learn about the challenges and the opportunities that exist.   On a personal level, extraordinary leaders recognize opportunities to truly connect with the people that matter – their spouses, partners, friends, children, and family members. While they stick to some elements of their routine, like exercise, reading, and planning, they make sure to leave some time and space for spontaneous events that call on their attention. They also understand deeply that it is within these moments when the greatest learning and insight can take place. It is not uncommon for great business connections to be made while sitting in the stands at a soccer tournament, or new product ideas to be born while traveling.   Successful leaders embrace the opportunities learn and expose themselves to the possibility of making mistakes in order to succeed. They welcome the opportunity to do and be better. They know that complacency is a slow but certain way to fail.

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