Resting on our Laurels

Posted on June 14, 2010


Team Leadership, photo from

Sometimes, in our journey as a leader or manager, we may have achieved tremendous success. It may have been the completion of a big project, or the achievement of a certain milestone. Either way, it may have somehow caused us to become complacent. Rather than doing what have brought us to success, we choose to rest on our laurels, thinking that we are too good and such trivial issues are beneath us. Slowly, we loose the virtues that took us to where we were, and our complacency soon brought about a downward spiral in our work. This leadership lesson is about the dangers of complacency and resting on our laurels, and how we can avoid it.

Allow me to first relate to you a story. The customer relations team of a bank was headed by Luke, an extremely effective transformational leader, who has brought about much results in the team, and has led the team to be renowned for their efficiency and productivity throughout the bank. Luke was soon promoted, and along came Briggs, who took over his role as the customer relations head. Knowing very well that he is taking over a overachieving team, Briggs was confident that the team would continue to do well, so he choose to take a step back and allow the team function on its own. Unused to the new leadership style, the customer relations team faced some friction, but managed to get by. However, Briggs assumed that such an all-star team would be fine dealing with the problem, so he didn’t interfere. It was soon evident that the team’s ability to cope fell drastically, and in a short period of six months, the team’s performance fell dramatically from first from the top to second from the bottom.

This simple story reflects a few leadership lessons. Firstly, complacency may well be a fatal mistake a leader can make. We can see this from how the team’s performance dropped all the way from first, right at the top, to second last, deep down at the bottom! Secondly, this highlights the sheer importance of proactivity, that it is absolutely vital that in times of ‘peace’, leaders continue to look for ways to become better and more efficient, so that when the trouble comes, they would have the resources.

The saying “to save for a rainy day” is apt here. While we are able, we should never rest on our laurels, but stay proactive in solving problems, in anticipating issues and in making preparations. Only then can we be assured that when the storm comes, when the enemy arrives, when disaster strikes, we would be amply prepared to not just survive, but to thrive and continue growing and fighting!

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