Leading for a long time has many benefits: calm composure, wide-ranging perspective and wisdom from handling diverse experiences. Unfortunately, it can often lead to complacency. We become set in our ways, sure that our tenure means we know best.

To avoid stagnancy, adjust your leadership perspective with these two simple steps.

The one less traveled

Leaders are like navigators. We have our team, instruments and plan to get where we are going.

We maintain daily routines while staying focused on the end goal. When a storm comes or something malfunctions, we work together to fix it and then adjust course. We use information acquired during those challenges as lessons to improve and adjust.

Unfortunately, sometimes we are doing so well that nothing breaks, and no storm comes. And after a period of calm seas, the team can become bored and complacent. Instead of sitting back, use the opportunity to create challenges.

The goal is not to create busy work but to spark curiosity and creativity among team members. For example, start asking questions like: How can we make this routine activity more unique?

A VP at a real estate developer client asked his team how they could make the quarterly staff meeting unique and gave them a week to come up with ideas. Instead of ideas to make the meeting shorter or easier as the VP assumed they would, the team suggested making it an all-day event, bringing in a speaker followed by a brainstorming session, adding lunch and more time for recognition at the end.

The quarterly meeting has now become a team-building event focused around creativity and recognition that everyone happily anticipates.


The other common weakness of long-term leaders is steadfastness. While being determined and committed is a good thing, too much can stifle innovation. Instead, examine any long-standing processes and perspectives for new opportunity.

Again, this is not an exercise in creating work. The idea is to create a culture that allows for and supports questioning the status quo.

For example, a VP of HR at a tech client asked her team why their hiring, salary ranges and promotion processes were kept confidential. The team had no good answer — in fact, they said that being unnecessarily secretive was one of the biggest critiques of the HR department.

The VP challenged the team to come up with a fun and compliant way to make the process and information transparent. The team came up with a lively social media campaign that improved the recruiting and promotion processes as well as the perception of HR within the organization.

The bottom line is, if as leaders we are open to the possibility that there are things we do not yet know, and we are willing to seek information from new sources, we will ensure our teams and our skills stay fresh.