A well-known book for successful leaders entitled What Got You Here Won’t Get You There describes how success can contribute to a leader’s resistance to change and account for counter-productive behaviors. One is our tendency to exaggerate our contribution to the team’s success and minimize our role in setbacks and failures.
A complementary view is that while we need to be aware of barriers to change due to previous successes, there are contributors to our past successes that we must not forget.
In the final team meeting after winning the NCAA men’s basketball championship, Duke’s Coach Mike Krzyzewski pointed out examples of people who achieved great success only to subsequently falter and fail. These “one hit wonders” who later crashed and burned had not transformed the drivers of their success into lasting CHARACTER values. Coach K advised his players to enjoy their success, but never forget what got them there. Many are simple, mundane things like hard work; coming in early and staying late; being open to coaching/feedback; being polite and showing respect for everyone on the team – including managers and support staff; setting priorities; staying focused; working on the basics; and being humble.
Unfortunately, success often breeds forgetfulness of what it really took to achieve. That’s why highly accomplished leaders are often poor teachers or mentors.
Over time, the spoils of success can sabotage trust in a leader:
CHARACTER — With success comes more great opportunities; they over-commit and don’t keep their promises.
COMMITMENT — They no longer share in the team’s sacrifices. The attitude of “been there, done that on my way up (so I don’t have to do it now)” rings hollow when the team is facing big challenges.
COMPETENCE — Loss of relevance because they stop suffering the pains of continuous learning and adaptation.
CONNECTION — They lose touch with their “parachute packers,” the people who made their success possible.
COMMUNICATION — They become too big and too important (in the own mind) to listen. They spend most of their time transmitting.
Be a High-Trust Leader: Don’t forget who and what got you here.