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Leaders: want to stay relevant? Challenge the status quo

challenge the status quoI’ve blogged in the past about the importance of pushing for change when you’re a leader. See Implementing change should be like shaking a champagne bottle and Survival depends on how you transform to fit your environment. And this is exactly the message that my professional colleague and friend Sid Ridgley delivers in his guest post today. Sid’s expertise lies in helping leaders increase their company’s value proposition to its customers, employees and shareholders through intensive organizational development strategies, and I’m very excited to share his words of wisdom with all of you.

Challenge the status quo

“The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it” -Warren Bennis

It is perfectly natural to want to keep things intact, seek calm and predictability. After-all, today’s status quo was the result of yesterday’s disruption. Status quo means arriving at the place called “ok” where people are focused on keeping things the same and being content with mediocre results. The trouble is, the world and its people are constantly changing.

Managers are rewarded for meeting performance targets while keeping within the people, financial and organizational resources that have been budgeted. Typically when managers are asked to “challenge the status quo” they invariably react by focusing on process efficiency. None-the-less, and let’s be clear, the functions of planning, organizing, staffing, directing and evaluating takes the guesswork out of whether or not an organization will achieve some results. But greatness is an illusion. 

While managers have an intense focus on efficiency, leaders – at least those who are intent on helping their people be more successful today while they prepare to be successful again tomorrow – have an intense focus on effectiveness and relevancy. They know that people want to contribute in meaningful ways to something that is important and valuable.

Here’s how you can do it

Here are eight things you can do to inspire you and your people to shake up status quo, generate a greater fear of regret to trump the fear of failure and, encourage everyone to do their best work ever. As a leader:

  1. Find your own voice. Use your experience and expertise to provide perspectives, insights, and analysis.
  2. Role model behaviours that encourage collaboration, openness, and creativity.
  3. Put your ego aside and have an open mind in order to experience true learning and growth.
  4. Recognize the quickest way to change is through emotion not logic.
  5. Make it safe for people to give alternate opinions, ideas, etc.
  6. Ask great questions, especially “What do you think?”
  7. Deal professionally with the “nay-sayers”.
  8. Reward those who show the courage to disrupt.

Achieving greatness through the passionate adherence to status quo is unlikely. When you challenge the status quo, you test your skills, you challenge yourself and those around you, but more importantly you gain confidence, credibility and relevance. These things encourage the habit of being inquisitive and the habit of turning fear into positive energy for change.

Well, what has been your experience with challenging the status quo? Whatever it is, I suspect it hasn’t been easy. Please share your experiences and insights with the rest of us by adding a comment below.

Sid can be reached by telephone at 905-895-7900; by email:; or through his website:

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