How to fight complacency when you are at the top

Every CEO should be worried about becoming complacent.

However, this is not always recognized as a risk by CEOs, especially when they experience some early successes in the first years of their tenure.

In this article – Carolyn Dewar of McKinsey & Company (a guest on my ‘The World Class Leaders Show’ – check episode 062) – shares a potential strategy to fight complacency as a CEO.

Here are my observations to build on the authors’ four suggestions:

1) Enhancing Your Learning Agenda

Complacency often arises when leaders become too comfortable with their existing knowledge and routines. CEOs stay intellectually engaged and open to new ideas by continually enhancing their learning agenda. They are less likely to rely on outdated strategies, are more inclined to explore innovative solutions, and stay informed about industry developments, reducing the risk of complacency.

2) Taking an Outsider’s Perspective

Complacency can be driven by an insular perspective, where leaders become too focused on their internal processes and culture, potentially missing external threats and opportunities. Adopting an outsider’s perspective helps CEOs see their organization differently, identify weaknesses, and challenge conventional thinking. This fresh viewpoint can stimulate change and disrupt complacency.

3) Collaboratively Defining the Next S-Curve

Complacency can arise when an organization becomes overly reliant on its current success and fails to plan for the future. Collaboratively defining the next growth curve encourages forward-thinking and strategic planning. By involving key stakeholders, CEOs ensure that the organization is collectively focused on evolving and achieving new goals, preventing complacency from creeping in.

4) Future-Proofing the Organization

Complacency can result from a lack of preparation for future challenges or a belief that the status quo will always work. Future-proofing involves actively preparing the organization for various scenarios and disruptions. By proactively addressing risks and opportunities, CEOs can keep their organizations agile and responsive, preventing complacency from taking root.

Complacency is the enemy of performance.

Great CEOs have this in mind even when they’re winning.


I’ve just uploaded my conversation with Zack Weisfeld, serial entrepreneur, vice president and general manager of Intel Ignite. He discussed with me the critical relationship between innovation and culture

Watch it here

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