I am very, very tired. What am I tired of? Leadership mediocrity. I have met so many leaders of late who are just boring. Yep, that is right. Completely, utterly boring. Plain. Safe. Vanilla. Unremarkable. Dull. Yawn.
I ask them what they do. “I am the Director of Blockedity Block,” they say. Hmm. I ask, “Well, that’s your title, but what do you do?” They shift uncomfortably in their chair and say, “I direct the blah blah and the blahly blah. I have been here for ten years.” Yawn. What is going on? Where did these bland bureaucrats come from? Where, oh, where is the dynamic leader with energy and personality?
I swear, it makes me want to force feed a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew down their gullets. Why? Because mediocrity is a choice, and it is getting to me that so many leaders decide to just be mediocre. The minimum standard, a passing grade, 3 on a scale of 1-7. Oh sure, you can be “average” or “safe,” but why?
Let’s think about amazing iconic leaders: Martin Luther King, Jack Welch (former G.E. CEO) Richard Branson (Virgin CEO), Sam Walton ( the late CEO of Walmart), Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela, Walt Disney, Mary Kay( the late CEO of Mary Kay Cosmetics). What would you say about them? They were all extraordinary. They were all remarkable in some way. As Anthony Robbins once said, “There is no greatness without a passion to be great, whether it’s the aspiration of an athlete or an artist, a scientist, a parent, or a businessperson.”
If being dull, safe, and unremarkable will not get you ahead or help you be successful, why are people not remarkable? Here are the reasons and of course some high-caffeine solutions:
I know people who are afraid to take risks. It’s neater and safer to not rock the boat, to toe the line, and to not step too far out onto the plank. I mean it’s too dangerous! We are in an age of remarkably tough competition in the marketplace, and I have more bad news: without taking risks, you’ll get cut in the next round of layoffs.
Decide to be remarkable at something. Be the stone cold, absolute thought leader in your niche and own it. If you are a tax accountant, be the best on the planet, not one of many.
Lack of passion
Yeah, I know. Here comes that motivational speaker stuff. Nope. I am talking about being in a job or a field that you have a passion for. Are you? One that you’re excited about in the morning when you get up? Lots of people I meet are (to quote Loverboy) “working for the weekend.” However, the truly remarkable leaders I meet are excited by what they do, who they work with, and where they work.
If you don’t love what you do, get out! Please. Go somewhere where you have the chance to be remarkable. Life is too short.
Being tenure bound
I meet leaders who work in government agencies and companies, yet they’re bored out of their skulls. They will never leave because they have been there too long. What? Ask them. They say, “Are you kidding? I have been here 22 years. If I leave now, I’ll lose my (fill in the blank).” I say, “But you just said you are miserable.” “Yeah,” they say, “but I can retire in 10 years!”
Do some real soul searching and decide if you want to be miserable for the next _______ years or live a fuller life. Your call. I find most people much more successful when they are pursuing their true calling, even if they make less money.
They don’t want to be
There are some people on this planet who, amazingly, have no desire to be remarkable. They are perfectly happy to just do what is expected and get along. When asked why, they say, “Hey, work is work. Nothing to get excited about.”
The job doesn’t make it possible
Some people have the mistaken concept that in some roles it is impossible to be remarkable. “Hey, I’m the Assistant Manager at Biffie’s Burger Barn. We have ways we do things, and none of our part-time employees give a darn, and this isn’t a career for anyone.” Nonsense. With hard work and time, they could be the CEO of the company. Being a remarkable leader is possible anywhere. I meet amazing leaders in “unglamorous” fields all the time.
Reset your thinking. It’s not where you are but what you do that makes you remarkable. Choose.
There’s one final and very compelling reason why as a leader you need to be and have to be remarkable. You have people who report to you. They are looking up to you to be remarkable. You have a responsibility to be a model for them. Pick up the mirror, take a hard look at yourself, and answer the question: What makes me remarkable?