The Leadership Playbook: Remaining Unfaithful to the Status Quo

A leader must remain unfaithful to the status quo.

You can’t be faithful to the status quo. The status quo, or “the way we do things around here,” was built on the organization’s response to the past. The status quo grew out of many small decisions, and perhaps a few larger decisions, that were designed to deal with the reality of the time those decisions were made, a time that has passed.

The “we do things this way” and the “we don’t do that” are a product of another time, even if many of those decisions are still relevant.

You make decisions to deal with the existing reality. Dealing with the existing reality requires that you overcome the present obstacles standing between the organization you lead and the organization’s better future.

Because you are responsible for the future, you can’t afford to allow people to protect their sacred cows. Because something was right at one time doesn’t mean that it is right for the organization or the people you lead now. The status quo has many defenders, and they will work very hard to prevent change and avoid anything disruptive. A leader is by definition an agent of change. You have to explore new ideas, some of which will mean change.

You also can’t allow the organization to stagnate or become complacent. By being unfaithful to the status quo, you force the organization to adapt to their circumstances as they unfold. You don’t make change for change’s sake, but you do make a change when doing so helps the organization breakthrough and reach its potential. Reaching your potential allows you to unlock even greater potential. Leaders know that this is how growth works.

You can be unfaithful to the status quo, constantly exploring new ideas and new opportunities and still building an unshakeable foundation, by providing values that are unchanging. Including the value of building an organization that knows its job is to adapt, overcome, and adapt again.

The past decisions are what created today’s reality. Those decisions solved the problems that stood between the organization at that time and the organization now. The next set of decisions will create another set of problems for you and your organization to solve.

By solving the existing set of problems, you create the next set of challenges. That’s what leaders do, and that is how growth works.

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