No Net

“The right leaders feel a sense of urgency in good times and bad, whether facing threat or opportunity, no matter what.” – Author Jim Collins, “How the Mighty Fall”

Everyone has their theories, but my take is that a leader must work at being uncomfortable at all times. Seriously.  Good leaders walk the tightrope in order to push their teams outside of their comfort zones. It’s the only way to push growth. Changing guest culture, advances in technology, and competitors nipping at your heels adds to this sentiment. At Dickey’s, we live on the edge and eat apprehension for breakfast.  Because if you are aren’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

In today’s volatile business climate, it’s natural for leaders to seek a sense of security. In his book How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins introduces five tripwires that trigger a leader’s (and their company’s) demise. Two of them – “hubris born of success” and “denial of risk and peril” – strongly underscore the comfort zone that leaders can fall prey to, and sometimes even seek out themselves. But, I say lose the safety net and look for ways to use that adrenaline rush to build something beyond compare. Pitfalls to avoid:

  •  Complacency – When the desire to grow or become better wanes, your guard is let down. The drive to develop people, advance goals, and push limits dies and stagnation sets in. Don’t do it.
  •   Comfort Zone – The greatest successes have almost always been born out of necessity.  The phrase “Necessity is the mother of invention” and its kin “Frustration is the father of progress” are pretty spot on. Comfort zones don’t afford you the vision to see what needs to be done, they only show you what needs to be maintained. Comfort zones are for sissies.
  •  Lack of Transparency – By staying comfortable, one tends to “hole up” and not be in the public view. When you’re out in public, you’re more readily seen for who you are and what you do. When a leader is “holed up” they can hide their tracks and cover their trails in order to keep their status but how motivating is secrecy?
  • Accountability Lapse – In tandem with transparency, leaders who do not make themselves uncomfortable will not allow themselves to be held accountable either. They will not build processes in their organization that a keep them sharp and on their game. No accountability, no chance for them to be moved (forward) but more chances for them to be removed.
  • No Sense of Urgency – Firefighters have determination when a fire is blazing – they have to. But it only comes after countless hours of hard drills and training to ensure that urgency is there at any given moment. A leader who seeks comfort will not develop themselves to be ready for the changing business climate, and soon will cease to be an effective and relevant leader. Your team should always be on fire and good leaders fan the flame.
  • No Momentum to Overcome Inertia – Leaders who are uncomfortable will always keep things moving. This enables their organizations to easily turn on a dime to respond to (or be ahead of) trends in their industries. A leader who stagnates needs a large amount of effort – mostly external – to get themselves and their teams moving. By the time they do, it is usually too late.

Being uncomfortable is not in our nature. We crave stability, security, and rest at certain times. I’m all for kicking back with a cold one after a tough day but I never become comfortable. Pushing past security with a sense of urgency is a vital mindset that all great leaders must adopt in order to grow, influence, and achieve any lasting success. And at the end of the day, after the tigers have been tamed, the results are worth the rush.