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2 Reasons Why Top Performers Refuse to Change Most of the leaders are constantly functioning at a level lower than what is currently expected of them

By Sameer Dua

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It's trite and it's banal, but it's also undeniable: change is the only thing constant in this world. And yet, most of us are fighting tooth-and-nail to stay the same. Because where change may be the way of the world and of life, for humans – nothing breeds more safety and well-being than the feeling of familiarity and constancy. It's ironical – even when a change is in our favour, we still refer to the same old ways sooner than not. Such is our subconscious need for the routine. But while ironical, it is also understandable – we are all beings of habit.

Familiarity, constancy, or comfort zone is where our strengths lie. And if life is a game to be played, we're best off playing to our strengths, aren't we? This is more so true when you've been playing a great game for a long while. It's the reason some of the top performers and leaders today have gotten to where they are.

Most of the leaders are constantly functioning at a level lower than what is currently expected of them. While their designation and position have up, they're still playing the role they were before. In effect, they are not yet onto the bigger game. Subconsciously, they refuse to change. This happens for two reasons:

1. They were really good at what they were doing, and so they now don't want to stop doing it. In fact, it is because they were so good that they were called onto the next position of leadership in the organization. However, the role offered to them now is much different than what they were used to doing. This role change (at a subtle level) is hard to assimilate and execute because:

a. It is unfamiliar;

b. It demands a learning curve;

c. There's a lot more at stake now, if they fail.

The second reason why top performers stick to doing what they were doing a level below.

2. They are blind to their own fears, i.e., they are unaware of their own fears. At the risk of sounding trite and banal again, I'll still say this: Fear is, unfortunately, one of the biggest motivators to do (or not do) something. The fear of failing at a task that is unfamiliar and requires time to learn and when there is a lot at stake can be an insidious and stealthy force that often keeps leaders from playing the roles they've been given. It stops them from playing the bigger game for which they yet need to build the skill, simply because their comfort has always been a smaller game – the one they have already mastered.

There's a double-jeopardy of sorts here. The longer you refuse to change, the harder change becomes. It's why some of the best in the business are also some of the most stubborn. The longer you've stuck to something, the better you've gotten at it, the more time you've spent mastering it – the stronger your refusal to give it up – and change.

Most leaders do not have the skill of managing the unknown. There is comfort in the known, and great discomfort in the unknown. The place of comfort is warm and cosy, and yet, stay there long enough and all your creative juices will be burnt up. You will soon start to decay. Real learning and growth lie in the unknown.

The only way to come out winning here is to enter the unknown, be in the mood of wonder, dance with the unknown and become the role you have been given. This is not just in the best interest of the organization, but, more importantly, yourself.

Some Questions for You to Consider:

1. Are you really playing the game at your level?

2. What will you give up playing, so that you can open up time and space to play the game that will expand your capacity to generate bigger and more meaningful outcomes?

3. What a new game can you create, that will take you in the zone of the unknown, and expand your capacity?

Sameer Dua

Founder Director, The Institute for Generative Leadership, India

Sameer Dua is the founder director of The Institute for Generative Leadership, India. He is also the founder of Gift Your Organ Foundation.
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