Quintessential Leader Basics: Never Accept That The Way Things Are Is The Way Things Ought To Be

Posted: May 20, 2016 in Quintessential Leader Basics
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The status quo of the way things are does not mean that is the way things ought to beThere is innate wiring in us as a species that makes us tend to be content with the passivity of the status quo. 

We humans, by nature, seem to relish the comfortable complacency of simply going with the flow around us, blissfully ignoring whatever we – often detrimentally and falsely – don’t believe has any personal and/or direct impact on us and blindly accepting whatever enables us to stay in our nice, neat tiny-world comfort zones.

One of the most serious problems with simply accepting the way things are and subconsciously believing that’s the way things ought to be is that truth gets abandoned somewhere along the way and most people don’t even realize it’s disappeared.

Most people are satisfied, without any further curiosity and investigation, with “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

It’s almost as though we are overly eager not to have to use the most valuable gifts we’ve been given – our abilities to ask questions, to prove or disprove things, and to think critically – because we don’t have to exert ourselves or become exceedingly uncomfortable when we stumble into truths that assail and threaten the basic premises and, sometimes, mythology we’ve built our lives upon.

I once heard a story about a spouse who didn’t want to go to couples’ marriage counseling, even though the marriage was in deep trouble. The reason? “I might have to change.”

As a quintessential leader, I immediately see the red flags of danger when the stock answer to my probing “why” questions is “That’s just the way we’ve always done it.” 

I know immediately that I’m dealing with acceptance that the way things are is the way things ought to be and that I’m going to have a lot of resistance to changing to the actual way things ought to be, even if it’s entirely logical and is unequivocally the right thing to do.

It can be very challenging and surprising just how intense and grueling the resistance to changing from the way things are to the way things ought to be can present itself.

You have aggressive people who will fight you tooth and nail every step of the way. They will pull out all the stops to come against you and try to keep you on the defensive instead of on the offensive.

No weapon, no matter how false, how ludicrous, how preposterous, how outlandish, or how ignorant, is off limits. The amount of time, effort, and energy you can – and will (and, in fact, must) – waste with this is almost unimaginable.

You have passive-aggressive people who will not openly or actively oppose you, but who instead will undermine you to other people behind your back and use backdoor methods like rumors, outright lies, and gossip to try to persuade everyone else to resist the changes that need to be made.

You also have people who quit on the spot because they refuse to accept the initiative to change things to the way they ought to be.

In spite of the fact that this is often an ego-driven move – “if I leave, they’ll fall apart” thinking that forgets that no one is irreplaceable – I respect it more than any of the others. It’s a clear line in the sand of the outright refusal to change.

As quintessential leaders, it is incumbent upon us to never accept the way things are at face value and assume that’s the way things out to be. That willingness and need to question, in order to understand, the whys and hows of the status quo is, in fact, one of the things that distinguishes quintessential leaders from everyone else.

The status quo is often found to be deficient in sound reasoning, proven facts, and critical thinking, all of which hold the promise of waking us up and shaking us out of our malaise if we have enough courage to undertake it, knowing that the outcome will very likely mean having to throw away everything we thought we knew and starting over from scratch.

For our species, in general, it seems that this time-intensive, truth-seeking, mentally rigorous work and the probable end result is just too scary to do. Why? Because we might have to change.

What is it about change from the way things are to the way things ought to be that we fear so much?

Loss is one result of change. These losses may include actions, behaviors, ideas, opinions, beliefs, things, and people. We may create the loss or the loss may be created for us. Either way, it’s going to happen. And most of us are simply too risk-adverse to consciously incur loss by choice.

Another result of change is difference. These differences are obvious in who we are, what we are, how we are, how we think, how we speak, and what we do. Because of these differences, we stand uniquely, at times, among the people around us, and, often times, at least initially, we stand alone.

Because we humans tend to crave the social nature of belonging to or identifying ourselves as part of groups, whether that’s familial, friendship, or organizational, the idea of being alone is so much more frightening to us than the truth of being wrong or being duped by the lack of substance and common fallacies that are often deeply embedded in the way things are.

But quintessential leaders don’t have these fears. While they know that losses and difference are inherent in changing from the way things are to the way things ought to be, they have a different perspective on them.

The inevitable losses in change, however painful (no doubt, some are very painful), are temporary and, many times, are the only way to remove the obstacles that keep us from changing to the way things ought to be. Down the road, in hindsight, we find that much of what we lost was actually holding us back and doing us more harm than good.

The differences that occur in changing to the way things ought to be, like losses, can be tough to endure to in the short-term, but as time passes, we find that we made the right choice. And while we may not always see it or be aware of it, our examples may be just the right nudge for other people to summon the courage to change from the way things are to the way things ought to be.

Now is the time we must look at ourselves and ask some questions.

Do we accept that the way things the way things are is the way things ought to be?

Do we aggressively fight change to the way things are?

Do we passively-aggressively fight change to the way things are?

Do we quit and reject change to the way things are?

What are we, deep down, afraid of about changing from the way things are to the way things ought to be?

How are we doing?


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