There is an enemy of great leadership that few leaders recognize and so few leaders combat. Yet this enemy is robbing them of top effectiveness and destroying some of their most noble dreams. This enemy is staleness.
I imagine this sounds strange to you. Something more like poor management or small thinking or flawed people skills would be more likely answers. Yet staleness is a cancer to great leadership and I want to urge you to declare war upon it.
Ponder this with me. Particularly as leaders rise and become more successful, their lives become more marked by routine. They eat in the same restaurants, spend time with the same people, watch the same television shows, travel to the same places, read the same types of books and do the same things—over and over and over. This tendency toward the familiar and the oft-repeated leaves little room for the new, little opportunity for adventure, little that challenges or excites. It all becomes a kind of chloroform that keeps the leader from sensing the deadness creeping into his soul and ways.
It means that the leader tends to the familiar in his thinking. The new doesn’t come easily. Nor does the leader see with fresh eyes, with clear vision, with an energetic intent. Maintaining things as they are becomes the goal. Innovation becomes something undesirable. The leader is happy merely to keep things as they are.
Yet this isn’t leadership. It’s caretaking.
Fortunately, there is a solution. It doesn’t cost much or take much time but it has been proven to drive staleness from the lives of leaders. Here it is: start regularly doing something in your personal life that is bold and new.
I’ve known leaders to start exercising in radically different ways with new partners and at different times of day. One began walking to and from work. Another began working with inner city youth one night a week. A man who wasn’t a reader determined to read every non-fiction book on the bestseller’s list for a year—no matter how little interest he had in the topic.
All of this, simple as it sounds, introduced something new to an over-routined life. Fresh perspective came. New energy emerged. This newness seeped into how the leader saw all that they did. Staleness left and creativity and innovation became the norm. Success resulted.
I want you to consider doing the same. You’ve had success. You have achieved some. It has probably allowed you to carve out a happy life. I want you to love that life, but also be a bit suspicious of it. It can encase you in staleness. Keep all that is good, but habitually add something new. You’ll find that puncturing the veneer of staleness allows passion for something new and creative to flow into all you do.