The War Against Great Leadership

The biggest threat to the development of great leaders is the consumerist mentality that desires instant gratification and quick fixes.

We are fed an endless stream of lies that our lives should be a constant series of climactic moments—closing the deal, reaching the summit, enjoying vacation, buying the latest gadget. It’s been ingrained in us that we should be able to get what we want when we want it. 

We don’t know how, anymore, to exist on the plateau—the extended slog of time in between climactic moments. This is the period of time where most of our lives are actually spent, assuming you’re not spending this time seeking out ways to experience climactic moments through drugs, gambling, shopping, new sex partners, and so on. 

We don’t know how to be bored. We don’t know how to live without seeing immediate results, without experiencing the climactic moments we’ve been sold into believing we ought to experience. We don’t know what to do if our numbers aren’t moving up and to the right.

Our entire culture is being propped on this lie that life is all about the up-and-to-the-right movement. That it is all about peak moments, and if you’re not experiencing those peak moments, “we have the drug, toy, answer to solve that…”

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about growth. I firmly believe we should always be trying to grow, moving “up and to the right,” if you will. But I believe we should do so sustainably. And we should understand what healthy and sustainable growth actually looks like (hint: it looks like a lot of time spent on a plateau).

Our insatiable desire for fast growth is coming at the expense of our health, relationships, and even our long-term economic viability and ability to lead. Sure, we experience pockets of fast growth, but without the foundation and mental discipline that is developed slowly over time (i.e., not in peak moments), we will inevitably fall from those peaks. It’s like building a house on sand. Without a solid foundation, it cannot withstand the pressure of life.

This is the battle we must face as leaders. We must fight against our selfish desire for quick fixes and instant gratification. 

The truth is that leadership, and the mastery of a skill in any form, is a journey. And that journey involves a lot of time in a plateau stage where it doesn’t look like much is happening. But deep down, you’re gearing up for a leap into a new realm of leadership, a deeper understanding of what it means to lead. And with that deeper understanding comes new disciplines and strength.

You must be faithful in little, to be faithful in abundance. You cannot lead many with power and discipline if you haven’t learned how to lead the individual that is yourself with power and discipline.

Great leadership moves opposite the direction our consumerist culture desires. It isn’t fooled into believing that the lack of up-and-to-the-right movement is a need for panic. It doesn’t resort to cheap tricks to grow the number of followers for the sake of seeing the number grow. 

Great leadership understands that the plateau is where the growth that really matters occurs. It’s where we have the time and space to practice the fundamentals, the disciplines, and the daily rituals that develop us into the leaders we were created to be.

There is a war against mastery in our culture. If you’re going to become a great leader, you must know your enemy. And that enemy is the consumerist, quick fix, instant gratification mindset that distracts us away from the path of mastery and towards fruitless climactic moments that, despite giving us a short term thrill, leave us empty and unprepared for greatness.

Great leaders lead for the sake of leading. It’s the discipline they love, not the results. If you’re willing to stay the course, and continue developing the fundamentals and disciplines of great leadership, despite long periods of time without results, you will gradually become the leader you were created to be. The leader you envision following. The leader you would want your children and grandchildren to follow.

Just don’t be fooled into believing there’s a quick fix. Nothing worth doing has a quick fix.

Go and encourage!