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The Leaders Guide to Mediocrity—Less Than a Million Ways to Maintain the Status Quo

“Proceed with caution in the direction of your hopes, and live safely, the life have.” —Hank Dave Locke

Mediocre is a good. Moderate quality is ok. “Average is the norm,” as Yogi Berra might say.

300x300Today’s world is complicated—every segment of society is continually changing and very little seems to be certain anymore, like it was two hundred years ago. No amount strategy, planning, or consulting can change this reality.

The great challenge for today’s leader at work, in sports, at home, or in academia, is to help everyone just hold on through the chaos and hope that things turn out for the good. We need to lower our expectations on what “greatness” really is. Our primary focus as leaders today is to maintain the status quo and not allow innovation, excellence, or a utopian idea of high-performance disrupt people from allowing people to get their job done the way they always have—for the most part.

The following are a host (who really counts how many points there are in articles like this anymore?) of ideas, or habits, or secrets, that will help leaders around the world avoid the stress caused by the quest for “higher levels” of performance and help maintain the status quo within your spheres of influence—if you have any.

Don’t Have a Vision

Visions are nothing more than “pie in the sky” dreams about the way things should be, not the way things really are. Having a vision for your organization only stresses people out and puts too high of expectations on them—expectations that are impossible to live up to in the end. And besides everybody forgets the vision after the town hall meeting anyway. So leaders need to save everyone the stress—don’t create a vision.

Don’t Set GoalsIMG_0517

Like vision, goals are a big stress in any area of life. People don’t need really need goals; it only sets you up for failure and disappointment. People come to work and know what they’re supposed to do and should be left alone to get it done—they don’t need a goal to tell them what they need to do. Without the stress of goals we don’t have to plan our week or take time every day to think about our activities we need to do. Without the burden of goals, people are free to just get straight to working—on something!

Don’t Give Feedback—And Never Ever Ask for Feedback

Feedback is just an illusion. It’s just someone else’s perception. By offering feedback you’re suggesting that something could be actually done a certain way—that’s pretty judgmental if you think about it. The reality is that everybody has their own way about going about doing things. By giving feedback to someone you’re know judging them, you’re insinuating that things could be done even better, and this is very disruptive to an organization—especially when you give feedback to someone that’s been leading people for 20 or more years. By asking for feedback you’re insinuating that someone knows how to do it better than you. That’s a no-no. You’ll look like a fool and people may begin to think that you don’t know how to do your job if you ask for feedback

Don’t Listen

There’s only so much time in a day that you can sit around and listen to people’s complaints and problems. A leader that wants to maintain the
status quo and promote mediocrity, keep things flowing, should have no part of listening to somebody else’s challenges concerns or feedback. Time is of the
essence so don’t waste time listening to people’s concerns, and they’ll figure it out on their own—probably.

Don’t Solve Problems—Today

Like listening, problem-solving is another big waste of time. Problems exist, they always will, so what’s the point of trying to solve a problem when the reality is there will be 10 more, at least, that will spring up the next day. And if you really must try to solve a problem, sometimes you do, than the best strategy is to put it off until tomorrow. An average leader instinctively knows that today is all we have, and today’s troubles will take care of themselves; tomorrow.

Don’t Measure Performance

Yardstick-500x375Our society is beginning to understand this at a youth sports level—it’s time to understand this at a corporate level. If you hand out trophies and reward people for a “excellent” performance, what does that say to the rest of the organization? Measuring performance is just another way to discourage those who want to show up and work and just collect a paycheck. It’s another way to create distrust of the executives. Remember, your mission is to help your people survive, it’s not up to you to help them thrive—making the “scoreboard” irrelevant.

Feed Them Coffee and Donuts

This is a no brainer. Pavlov proved long ago that food, and now today, coffee, is a real good way to keep people satisfied. As long as people can come to work and know that donuts and coffee will be available, they will keep showing up. Sure it didn’t really work out with the orca whales at that Entertainment Park, but then again people aren’t really whales—food defiantly will satisfy humans. It’s not that complicated.

Which brings us full circle. Today’s leaders need to provide a safe environment with moderate expectations. The primary purpose of leadership is to help people survive and get through life in one piece—and enjoy the weekend. Leaders who follow these simple guiding principles will more than likely produce a culture of mediocrity and maintain a steady balance and certainty in an otherwise uncertain world.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant for The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He works with Fortune 500 Companies, Small Business, and Start Ups developing Performance Intelligence strategies that are linked to research based, leadership development curriculums and cutting edge application software.

Top 3 Reasons Why Being a Great Leader Isn’t Easy

A few months back, I asked a group of leaders for a show of hands on who had experienced either oversupervision or undersupervision. Almost every hand went up. But then I asked how many had themselves oversupervised or undersupervised their direct reports. Only one or two hands shyly peeked out from the crowd.

So what’s going on? Well, leaders can sometimes be unaware of what they should and should not be doing. And this lack of awareness separates good leaders from great leaders. Great leaders know that leading is a never-ending journey that can be filled with treacherous obstacles.

So what do you need to know to become a great leader?
Continue reading

British vs. American Culture!

5 Things People Do To Look Really, Really Busy

Top 5 Office Pet Peeves (Leadership Quote)

The 3 Habits of Highly Effective Millennials

We’re doing something a little different this week.

Instead of a written post, Gus Jaramillo and I collaborated on a video post as part of the Leadership Quote vlog series. Subscribe for future videos!

Act Before You Think – The “OODA Loop” in Leadership

I have always been taught to “think before you act” – I should  consider what exactly I want to do; why; and what the impact is. This way, you have clarity on what you’re doing, and you can avoid making the wrong decision or upsetting people (especially important in leadership).

However, we’re working in business around the globe, using real-time communication, and keeping up with continuous improvements technology; and we need to keep pace with a constantly changing environment – and this means changing our decision making process to match this faster pace.

The “OODA Loop” is not new – it was developed by US Air Force Colonel John Boyd in the 1950’s, and refers to the recurring decision cycle of: observe-orient-decide-act. The quicker this cycle can be processed, the more an organization or individual can gain the upper hand, by being one step ahead of their “opponent’s” decision making.

The model demonstrates a four-point decision loop that supports fast, effective and proactive decision-making:

Observe Gather as much relevant information as possible. (In business, data becomes an important part of this process).
Orient Analyze the information, and use it to change the situation. The better and quicker the leader of an organization is able to gain clarity, the better the decision that can be made
Decide Determine a course of action. Having good data analysis and orientation allows organizations to make better and more repeatable decisions.
Act Follow through on your decision. Act with energy, discipline and drive. This is the heart of the execution process

You cycle through the loop by observing the results of your actions, reviewing and revising your initial decision, and moving to your next action. It needs to be a smooth, continual process, and the faster you can move through each stage the better. In fact, if you were to sit down and map out each step, it would slow down instead of speed up.


The initial concept was based on military combat operations. Consider a fighter pilot trying to shoot down an enemy aircraft. Before the enemy is even in vision, the pilot considers information of the enemy pilot (level of training, cultural traditions, etc). When the enemy aircraft comes into the radar, our pilot gets more information on speed and size of the enemy plane. A decision is made based on the available information. Our pilot can then loop back to observation: is the attacker reacting to the action of our pilot? Then to orient: is the enemy reacting characteristically? Is his plane exhibiting better-than-expected performance? Based on these, he can cycle back through the loop to making a decision on his next course of action, and carry it out.

Fighter Pilot (TopGun)

If you’re looking to work on your leadership, and become a better leader, your first step might be to create an action plan. “In order to be a better leader, I want to do this, this, and this”. Whilst this action plan might focus your efforts, and provide a roadmap; it is just that: a plan.

When it comes to leadership, the way to produce the change of mindset – to improve the skills you require to become a better leader – is to act differently, rather than just think about it.

In fact, acting differently is more likely to make you think differently.

Someone once told me that, if I act like someone that I would like to meet, in time, I’d become a person that other people want to meet (and this is now written on a piece of A4 paper, stuck on the ceiling above my bed, and I read it every morning when I wake up). This is Boyd’s OODA Loop theory applied to being a ‘nicer’ person; but the same can apply to leadership. Act like the leader that you would like to have leading you, and in time, you’ll become the kind of leader that others want leading them.

You can try something new and, after action, observe the results – how it feels to us, how others around us react – and only later reflect on what our experience taught us.

In other words, we “act like a leader” and then “think like a leader”.


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