Comfort lulls us into complacency. We get accustomed to routine or familiar with a role, so we settle in. As leaders, we must relentlessly challenge ourselves not to let ease and security dissuade us from making the changes necessary to fulfill our vision.
Perhaps the most difficult transition I chose to make as a leader came when I resigned from Skyline Wesleyan Church in 1995. I was perceived as a respected leader within the denomination, and my reputation with the church congregation was stellar. The city of San Diego was a great place to live, and both financially and professionally I was doing well. Yet, I knew that I had not yet tapped into my full potential. I aspired to train leaders domestically and internationally, and I could not give that vision the time it required while leading the church. It was tempting to let go of my vision in order to stay in a safe and successful position. Yet, I understood that to achieve the growth I desired as a leader, I would have to make the change.
Life is a series of tradeoffs. If we’re going to grow as influencers, then at different junctures of life, we’re going to have to let go of what we have to take hold of something better. We must give up to go up.
When we’re just starting out in life, the tradeoffs are relatively painless. Having barely established ourselves, it’s easy to part with our present situation so that we can pursue opportunities to expand our influence. However, the higher we go, the tougher the tradeoffs become. We get attached to what we’ve built and become invested in our success.
To illustrate, consider the process of moving to another city. Relocation isn’t tough when you can pack all of your belongings in your car. However, moving no longer comes as easily when you own a nice home with a big yard in a great neighborhood. The more we have, the more averse we become to change.
I’d like to recommend three tradeoffs you ought to be willing to make in order to reach your potential as a leader. Each involves risk and requires change, but all are more than worth the effort.
1) Exchange Affirmation for Accomplishment
Stop being a people-pleaser. If you always say yes when you would rather say no, then you will find yourself unhappily going through the motions of living, giving control of your time, energy, and spirit to anyone who asks for it. Fundamentally, leadership involves serving others and adding value to them. However, you do that best by proactively and strategically contributing your strengths, not by passively allowing others to dictate how you spend your time.
2) Exchange Security for Significance
Security can be tough to pass up. We like the certainty that comes with being in a stable job, making a steady income. Yet, significance usually calls for risk. It involves stepping away from familiar territory in order to explore new lands. To be a pioneering leader, you have to change your attitude toward uncertainty; otherwise you will confine your influence.
3) Trade Immediate Victory for Long-Term Sustainability
To excel as a leader, you have to change the timeframe in which you view success. If you measure your performance solely in terms of immediate results, then you run the risk of giving up when times are tough. Also, when you only concern yourself with present professional achievement, you tend to neglect relationships, ignore your health, and lose all sense of work-life boundaries.
Staying the same means stagnating. Leaders must plunge bravely into the future to avoid bogging down in complacency. Rather than fearing change, embrace the possibility it offers.