How Leadership Creating Complacency

If you have been a leader for more than 12 years you have likely witnessed a leadership revolution whereby the people management part of the job takes up a lot more of your time.

The Keynote speaker at AAMA, Leadership and Diversity Expert, Jody Urquhart suggests that this is because our idea of authority and hence our style of leadership has changed drastically over the last decade. Leaders used to lead primarily by a control and command, (fear based for some) style of leadership, where the title gave authority in its own right and people did what you said just because you are the leader. Nobody questioned, second guessed or tried to negotiate with you. People just did what they were told whether they agreed with it or not. That simple.

Today, leaders are compelled to brush up their soft skills in order to engage the workforce - or just to get them to listen. Now, in order to effectively lead, you have to negotiate with employees, make sure they feel heard, respected and appreciated. Leaders need to worry about morale and create fun workplaces, and all of this “soft stuff” takes up a lot of time. I have been observing that misapplied soft skills are doing more harm to morale and productivity than good.

I believe a big part of this leadership shift has to do with a new  generation of employees whose parents have raised them as equals. Gone are the days when children are seen and not heard; this younger generation has been raised to expect a lot of appreciation and recognition for doing simple, everyday things.


The new style of parenting expects children to negotiate and in doing so creates a strong sense of entitlement. A simple example: when I was young, if my mother told me to eat my peas, I did as I was told. I didn’t negotiate, barter or bargain my way out of it. Recently I was at a friend’s house when she asked her daughter to eat her peas, her daughter said no. My friend proceeded to offer her ice cream if she ate her peas, her daughter still refused the vegetable so mom told her she could stay up past her bed time if she ate her peas. (You know you have done this, too!)

The sense of entitlement comes into play when children become adults and get jobs.  They bring with them the notion that they can negotiate perks for doing only a mediocre job. Unfortunately, companies are falling for it. Over and over, corporate recognition programs recognize people for work they are supposed to do anyway - for simply doing the job.

Soft skills are critical to being a good leader, especially if you want to engage a younger workforce, but the terms need to be set by you. Leaders need to establish a strong sense of authority, set concrete rules and expectations, and maintain clear consequences.
Never recognize mediocrity. Never recognize people for work they are supposed to do anyway - This is not negotiable! It's why they were hired! -  like (just off the top of my head):

  • Showing up for work on time
  • Meeting basic performance levels
  • Being “nice” to customers
  • Not taking more than the allotted number of sick days
  • Maintaining a clean workspace


(And seniority pay is great but you still have to do a good job.)

I repeat, you must clearly define performance to avoid the entitlement trap!

This is very interesting discussion and we can peel back the layers in further articles. Yes, I do hear you! I will be starting a blog soon, too, so stay tuned. I welcome the discussion.