“We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of expertise. What we don’t have are leaders.” – William Deresiewicz, West Point, October 2009
Complacency is a leading cause of failure. What is “good enough” today is not usually good enough years from now. Entire industries are built on the idea of evolving products and services to meet the increased expectations yet our lust for routine and our fear of change leads to complacency.
It is the same thing with leadership. Execution is vital and development is overlooked. Wrapped up in the present we fail to invest in the future of our leadership. Instead, our leadership abilities plateau and our skill set becomes one of a technocrat – someone specifically good at one thing. We become stuck, topped out, uninterested in anything beyond our area of expertise. In essence, we are no longer a leader at all.
On Presidents day we think of past leaders who set audacious goals, who led with principals, and continued to develop their abilities to the end. We do not honor those who were complacent.