What is Complacent Leadership (Plus Six Ways That You Can Avoid It)


Complacency is killing your business. And it starts from the top. Here, we look at what complacent leadership is and the ways that you can confront it.



There are so many dangers linked to complacent leadership.


When it comes to your business, complacency leads to stagnation. You take your eye off the ball and stop doing the things that your business needs you to do. The business goes from thriving to struggling.


Complacency also harms you on a personal level. It causes you to end up in a comfort zone that results in you not taking proper care of yourself. You need to avoid complacent leadership at all costs. To do that, you need to understand what it is.


What is Complacent Leadership?

"Don't get stuck in your comfort zone."

I’m going to talk about several positions that you may find yourself in right now.


  1. You may fear the path that you need to follow to take your business forward. You know that your organization needs to change. However, you’re worried about confronting the issues and you fear the change that needs to happen.

  2. You’re completely satisfied in where your business is right now. You believe that you don’t need to focus on improving any areas of it. The business is doing well and it’s now time to sit back and reap the rewards.

  3. You’ve stopped paying attention to the details. You’re no longer moving towards a big picture vision. And you’re not looking closely enough at the processes you have in place and how your people execute them.

  4. When issues arise, you react to them. There’s no proactivity in your leadership. You’re not anticipating what might be around the corner. Instead, you’re waiting for it to reach you before you do anything about it.

  5. You’re barely working in the business anymore. You take three and four-day weekends on a regular basis. And when you’re in the office, you’re not really present. You’re just showing your face while waiting for the next opportunity to take time off.


Does any of this sound familiar to you?


Though each of these is a different issue, they’re all symptoms of the same thing – complacency.


Each of these symptoms suggests that you’re not putting as much effort into your business now as you did when you started building it. In the short term, it may not seem like these symptoms have much of an effect. However, over long periods of time, they create tension and lead to a loss of focus.


Complacency reigns in your leadership.


You’re now at risk of becoming one of the 260,000 Australian businesses that close every year. Complacent leadership is the loss of focus on what you need to do to create and operate a sustainable business. And as you can see above, complacency has many symptoms. But you can combat it. Here are six things that you can do to avoid or overcome leadership complacency.




Tip #1 – Clarify and Set Your Vision

When you become complacent, you lose sight of your vision. When that happens, it runs throughout your business. Your people look to you to set the example and guide them. When you’re not following a path towards your vision, you can’t expect your people to have focus.

Your people lose sight of your mission and vision too. Soon, inefficiency and lack of standards in the business become commonplace.


Clarifying and setting your vision is the solution to this problem. Create a long-term vision that covers the next two to five years of your operations. This vision encompasses where the business is right now and where you need it to be in the future.


With that big picture goal in mind, create your milestones. These are the short-term targets that you need to hit to keep you moving towards your vision.


You’ve now created a structure for the business to follow. That means focus will return as you’re taking active steps towards growing the business.



Tip #2 – Ask for Feedback from Your Team

Be original, show off your style, and tell your story.

Your complacency leads to complacency in your team.


To truly transform the business, you need everybody to get on board. The entire team, from top to bottom, must focus on the issue at hand. You can’t overcome your team’s complacency if you don’t involve them in decisions.


Challenge your team to come up with feedback about the business and its processes. Ask them what you could do differently and what they would change. Remember that these are the people that you have on the ground. They’re the ones executing the processes that you put in place.


That means they’re the people in the best position to tell you when something isn’t working.

Of course, soliciting that feedback isn’t enough…


Tip #3 – Take Action on the Feedback


It’s easy to listen to your team’s concerns.


The tough part comes in taking action. That lack of action is a symptom of complacent leadership and it teaches your team that providing feedback isn’t worthwhile.

Here’s a good strategy that keeps you on top of things. Create a feedback loop where you speak to your team once per month. Nail down the issues that affect them and prioritize the most important ones.


After that, create a plan of action for the month. Set goals and outline the steps you’ll take to follow up on the feedback and effect change in your business.

Revisit that plan every month and amend it based on the change requirements of your team and business.


Tip #4 – Update Your Business Plan


Having a business plan helps companies grow 30% faster than they would without one.

If you don’t have a business plan in place, now’s the time to create one. It will help you to create a focus for your business and will prove useful if you need to apply for funding.

However, let’s assume that you have a business plan in place.


When was the last time that you updated it?


Many businesses have the same plan now that they had five years ago. This is despite the evolution of their market, the new tools at their disposal, and the changes the business has undergone. It’s time to revisit your business plan. Keep what’s still relevant and update the rest based on where your business is now rather than where it was when you started it.


Tip #5 – Focus on Reducing Expenses


A bloated expenses bill is another sign of complacent leadership. It shows that you’re not paying attention to the details. The business spends money on things that it doesn’t need. Ultimately, that cuts into your revenue and affects your bottom line.


Take stock of every expense that the business has.

This will take time and effort. Create a list of every single business outgoing and examine them in detail.


Which expenses are vital to keeping the business running?

Which don’t you need any more?


Finally, where can you save money by creating greater efficiency in your business?

These are the key questions to ask when tackling your expenses. You may find that the business has become bloated and inefficient. It’s only through identifying the issues and becoming aware of them that you can tackle them.


Tip #6 – Make Your Presence Known


This is one of the biggest mistakes that I made when I was a complacent leader. I’d built the business to where I thought it needed to be.


So I took the opportunity to take time away.


Three-day weekends turned into four-day weekends. They became more frequent and it got to the point where I barely spent any time in my business.


Naturally, it suffered.


Without oversight, a business will start to go off the rails. Your people don’t have anybody to guide them and you lose sight of where the business is going. That’s why being present is so important. It shows that you’re committed to making the business work, which boosts your team’s motivation. It also means that you can see how the business operates so you can confront inefficiencies.


Be present and ensure your people know that you’re there. Leave your door open for them to consult with you and work with your team to create new strategies.


The Final Word


Complacency is the silent killer of businesses. As a leader, you need to stay vigilant to guard yourself and your business from the symptoms.


This means you need to look inward. Be aware of what you’re doing and how it may damage your business. If you’re taking a lot of time off, think about how your lack of presence in the business affects your team.


Consider your mission and your vision. Is it still the same now as it was back when you started the business? If so, your complacency may have led to you overlooking the changes in the marketplace that your business hasn’t accounted for.


Be the example that you want your team to follow. And don’t fear the feedback that they give you. Take action on it and show your people that you’re always striving to move the business forward.


That’s how you overcome the complacency that can creep into your leadership.

I have so much more to teach you about overcoming complacent leadership. Please contact me today to discuss how I could contribute to your upcoming conference or speaking event.


© 2019 by Hassan Younes.