There are a thousand fine lines in leadership.
Perhaps the most subtle and dangerous line is the fine line between what drives you and what destroys you.
Being driven is not an inherently bad thing. In fact, leveraged well, it’s a huge leadership asset.
You get things done, mobilize people around great causes and make things happen.
Driven leaders are often the ones who create something out of nothing, who make things better and who move the mission forward.
So what drives driven leaders?
Well, hang out with driven leaders long enough and you’ll discover this common thread: discontent with the status quo.
Discontent is actually a good thing. It makes you a change agent in a world where most people avoid change.
But the discontent that drives leaders is a double edged sword.
No one I know of has talked about the good side of discontent better than Bill Hybels did in his Holy Discontent talk (which is also a book). That talk is one of the most memorable leadership talks I’ve ever heard.
Holy discontent is from God.
It drives you to
Push on relentlessly toward progress
Work tirelessly for a better day
Trust beyond yourself
Lead people to a preferred vision of a better future
And if you’re like me, you’ve alway got some level of discontent burning under the surface.
It’s hard to sit still. Even when you’re off, your brain is still on.
But discontent has a shadow side.
It can move from a good force that’s driving you to place where it starts to destroy you, and if you’re not careful, the others around you.
There’s one thing every driven leader has to watch, and it’s this: don’t let the discontent that drives you become the discontent that destroys you.
So what are the signs that’s what driving you is beginning to destroy you? Well, here are 7. Discontent become destructive when it:
1. Stops you from celebrating
Any driven leader knows how hard it is to celebrate. When you cross the line from and your drive begins to destroy you, it feels like this: you think it was amazing, but you can’t stop wondering what would have made it more amazing.
You can’t mark the progress you’ve made because you only see the progress you haven’t made.
And that kills your team.
To make it worse, you even stop celebrating God’s faithfulness and instead substitute the celebration of your progress.
Don’t miss the progress you’ve made because you can only see the progress you haven’t made.
2. Kills your gratitude
You begin to only think about what could be better. Gratitude decreases as discontent increases.
Not only will ingratitude make you miserable; it’s ultimately demotivating to the people around you.
If you want to defeat your team, be ungrateful.
3. Invades too many aspects of your life
I can try to improve everything and everyone, including my wife and other people I meet
This is not good for anyone. (Enough said.)
If discontent takes over your life, you won’t have much of a life.
4. Makes you the negative voice at the table
I have to catch myself during evaluation sessions (we do weekly evaluations on our services) because I will find the 1.2 things that went wrong and miss the 98.8 things that went right.
You shouldn’t miss the 1.2 things. But you shouldn’t dwell on them either.
When you only see what’s wrong and rarely see what’s right, you deflate the people around you.
5. Gets you off a project you should still be on
When discontent becomes too pervasive, it can stop you from finishing projects you started because you become discontent with…well even the solution you should still be working on.
Serial discontent will make you start things you never finish. And that’s a problem for everyone.
6. Makes you arrogant
If I let discontent get too much real estate in my life, it shows up as arrogance.
Nothing’s ever good enough.
I’m always right.
We need to do more….now.
Arrogance is only attractive to the arrogant.
7. Disables hope
We leaders are dealers in hope. Hope is such a rare commodity.
When discontent becomes toxic, your future becomes about what’s wrong, not about what’s right.
Unhealthy discontent disables hope, and hope is the greatest motivator your team has.
What Do You See?
When any of these things starts to happen, I consider it a warning sign that my discontent is moving from a place where it drives me to a place where it might harm me or others.
What other warning signs do you see that the discontent that drives you is starting to destroy you?
How have you seen discontent hurt you or people you care about?
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