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  • Writer's pictureHassan Younes

The Big Six Signs That You’ve Let Complacency Creep into Your Leadership

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

Complacency is a cancer that will rot your business from the inside. If you let it spread, your business will eventually die. These are the signs that show you’ve allowed complacency to creep into your leadership.

Complacency is everywhere in today’s business world.

Too many leaders focus on what’s working right now instead of what they need to do for the future. They get comfortable with the success that they’ve achieved and they stop trying to innovate.

They may not know it right now, but they’ve introduced a dangerous threat to their business. Complacency prevents leaders from seeing the true transformation they need to create growth.

Pretty soon, the competition starts to overtake them. But while the complacent leader sits back, the driven leader adapts to the market.

Even then, complacency can make a leader resistant to change. They feel like the failures of the business will pass and things will get back on track again.

As with many things, prevention is always better than the cure. If you can spot the warning signs that you’ve let complacency creep into your leadership, you can do something about it.

So, here are the big six warning signs to look out for.

Sign #1 – You Take Your People for Granted

Think of your business as a car.

You’re the person who had the vision and knowledge to build the car. But your people represent the engine that keeps it running.

Without that engine, the car will not run, no matter how well designed it is.

Your business is the same. If you don’t take care of your people, they won’t take care of your business.

And that brings us to the first sign of complacency in leadership.

When was the last time you engaged in one-on-one training with an employee?

Are you providing your people with opportunities to develop on a professional level?

Do you ever sit down with employees to learn what makes them tick?

The complacent leader loses sight of the importance of continuous development.

They start to take their people for granted. They assume that their people will stay happy in their roles and ignore their ambitions.

This breeds resentment within the business. Eventually, your best people leave to find better opportunities elsewhere. And the ones who stay will feel so disheartened that they’ll no longer want to put in the extra effort to make things better.

Sign #2 – You’ve Stopped Building Your Network

There’s an old saying in business that who you know is just as important as what you know.

That’s why networking has always been such an important part of growing a business. The people you meet can introduce you to opportunities that you may never have found on your own.

Those opportunities are the reason why you go to industry events. They’re the reason why you keep your LinkedIn profile updated and share great content with your connections.

Now ask yourself this.

When was the last time you got an opportunity from somebody in your network?

If you’re letting complacency creep into your leadership, you likely haven’t gotten one of these opportunities in a while. Your existing network can see that you’re no longer the right person for what they have in mind. Plus, you’re not doing enough to meet new people.

Sign #3 – You Fail to Follow Industry Trends

Every industry evolves over time.

Some may change faster than others, like the tech industry, which changes on a near-daily basis.

But the key thing to remember is that no industry stays static. New concepts, technologies, and customer needs always lead to change.

A complacent leader doesn’t recognize this. They get comfortable doing things the way that they’ve always done them.

If you do that, you’re at risk of your own industry outpacing you. Forget about your competition for a moment. If the industry itself passes you by, you have very little hope of catching up. Sales will fall, people will lose faith in you, and the cancer of complacency will claim your business.

If you want a perfect example, just look at what happened to Blockbuster. They failed to adapt to the rise of online streaming because their DVD rental model generated profit at the moment.

That lack of foresight regarding a key industry trend is what ended up killing them. By the time that started to make changes, the entire movie rental industry had passed them by.

If you’re not keeping up with what’s happening in your industry, you’ve become just as complacent as the heads of Blockbuster. And if you don’t make a change, your business could suffer the same fate.

Sign #4 – You Underestimate the Competition

Let’s come back to your competitors for a moment.

You may have already built a powerful business. You’re a market leader and everybody comes to you for your services. Perhaps you’re even considered the authority in your industry.

And that’s great. This sort of success is the result of all of the hard work that you’ve put into building your business.

However, it is this exact success that can give rise to complacency.

You may have pulled so far ahead of your competition that you feel like there’s no chance of them catching up. But they’re working constantly to get to where you are. Plus, you can never anticipate when a new player may enter the market and shake things up.

Underestimating your competition places your business at enormous risk. It causes you to stop trying so hard to stay ahead. That gives your competitors a chance to catch up and then surpass you.

Just look at what happened to Blackberry.

In the mid-2000s, Blackberry emerged as the dominant player in the cell phone industry. Their focus on the business market reaped amazing rewards and the company was on top of the world.

Apple released its first iPhone during the height of Blackberry’s dominance. Google wasn’t too far behind with its Android platform.

This is what Blackberry’s former CEO, Jim Balsillie, said one year after the iPhone’s launch:

“…Once you decide to become a BlackBerry user, you kind of stay there for life, and let’s not be too penny-wise, pound-foolish when we do get very good absolute margin.”

We now know that Blackberry owners didn’t stay with the company for life. Millions converted to the new wave of smartphones.

Today, Blackberry struggles along as an also-ran in a market that’s dominated by Apple, Google, and Samsung.

And it all happened because the company’s leadership underestimated their competition.

Sign #5 – You’re Easily Satisfied

Think back to when you first started your business.

What would you have thought if your quarterly reports showed no growth for an entire year?

Any entrepreneur would take that as a sign that they need to make a change. They’d do whatever they could to ensure the business started growing again.

Now, think about today. You have a successful business that’s turning a profit. Perhaps it’s not growing at all, but it’s stable now.

Is that a satisfactory state of affairs?

If you said “yes”, you’re in danger of becoming a complacent leader. You’re easily satisfied with the sort of mediocrity that you would have fought tooth and nail to avoid when you started the business.

Stagnation is not a sign of success. It’s a sign that your company’s not doing enough to keep people interested. You can’t rely on loyalty forever. Eventually, someone else will come along who offers a better product or service.

Don’t let mediocre results satisfy you.

Sign #6 – You’re Making Excuses for a Lack of Growth

Let’s say that your business hasn’t grown for several quarters.

What do you think when you see those numbers?

The complacent leader starts to make excuses. Instead of looking inwards, they look for any external factor they can find to try to explain the lack of process.

Here’s the hard truth.

A lack of growth always comes down to what you’re doing inside the business. Yes, there are external market forces at play to consider. But if your business isn’t growing, you’re not doing enough to satisfy the market’s needs.

There are no excuses for this.

If you’re looking for an excuse, you’ve let complacency overtake your drive to do better.

Fight Against Complacency

Here’s the good news.

You can fix every single one of these signs of complacency. By reading this article, you’ve taken the first step. You know what to look out for and may have identified one of the signs in your own leadership.

Now that you’ve figured out the problem, it’s time to take action.

Fight back against the complacency that threatens your business. Start protecting your company’s future rather than reveling in its present success.

I can show you how.

My name is Hassan Younes and I can give you the cure for the cancer of complacency in your business.

Would you like to find out more?

Book me to speak at your upcoming event to learn more about combating complacency.


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