Who benefits from your dissatisfaction?

I participated in a privately sponsored symposium on Leadership over the Easter Weekend.

The 50 participants were brought together to address the topic, “the Challenges of being a Leader in the C21st.” The headily diverse group of executives from the private and public sector ensured the topic was whacked, pulled, pummelled and prodded from a variety of perspectives.

During the panel discussion at the end of the day, I was asked whether, in my experience, one positive attribute of leadership stood above all others.

I took little time to reflect on the answer, for earlier in the week I had been bowled over by the impact of the absence of one essential ingredient—a dissatisfaction with the status quo.  Others may have responded with a cautious "No," clothed in caveats, but me for the answer was crystal clear.

I had engaged in strategy generation sessions with both leaders 18 months ago. They were of similar backgrounds culturally, and each faced similar market and organisational challenges.  But the similarity between the two ended there.

One had built a magnetic organisation, recruiting the best talent and customers (and suppliers), and had driven business growth at a rate 3 times faster than the market—his colleague's business had treaded water. 

In reviewing the leaders diaries, and in discussion with their respective management teams, it was clear that one leader wanted to make a difference to customers, employees and himself, the other leader wanted to avoid making mistakes. One management team was dynamic and confident, they spoke of their desire for improvement of personal and business performance. The other team was timid and stagnant—and bored.

While working with both leaders, I found one to be engaging and invigorating, the other distracting and sapping. After 6 months, supporting the latter became an obligation rather than a desire. 

When working with a client, it is exponentially easier to make a successful executive even more successful, than to make the mediocre magnificent.

Of course, the desire to improve comes in many colours.

Improving ones own condition without improving the condition of others is the playground of Corporate politics.

Improving ones own condition but at the cost of others is ultimately destructive and not sustainable, as seen by the public perception of the Finance profession.

No. The better leaders are dissatisfied with the status quo. They want to improve, but do so to the benefit of the widest community possible; customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders.

In the next 12 months, who really benefits from your actions? The wider the beneficiaries are, the bolder the actions can be, the greater the fortification of your conviction.


“If you can't fly then run. If you can't run then walk. If you can't walk then crawl. But whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” 

Martin Luther King

PS Sorry about yet another reference to Welsh rugby but I had to think of a picture than encapsulated the desire to improve for the benefit of the widest constituancy...One leader, 15 Executives and 3 million happy beneficiaries