Giving Up Your Security Blanket

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There comes a time in every toddler’s life when it’s time to give up the security blanket, or the binky, or whatever it is that calms the child in stressful situations.

There comes a time in a leader’s life, too.

Okay, so maybe I haven’t witnessed too many leaders literally dragging around a tattered, faded scrap of fabric, but figuratively . . . oh my! How many times do we clutch on to systems, or programs, or markets that are worn and full of holes simply because of the predictability and comfort of knowing what to expect, and the warm memory of past glory. Security blanket, indeed.

A recent issue of the magazine Fast Company (www.fastcompany.com, February 2015) included an interview with Katie Couric who, when asked about her decision to become Yahoo’s global news anchor, said, “When you’re a part of an established entity, there’s so much incentive to maintain the status quo. A lot of times, the people who are leading are at the end of their careers, so they don’t want to throw everything up and see where it lands.”

Giving up the security blanket — throwing everything up to see where it lands — can leave you vulnerable . . . no doubt about it. When you forfeit the comfort of what you know, those first few steps might feel a bit shaky. What if you trip and fall? In most cases, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, I’ve found there’s a confidence in those who have “given up the blanket” that usually results in pulling themselves up, brushing off their back side, and stepping forward in a new direction . . . toward a new market, or solution, or opportunity.

I’m not suggesting you have to take crazy risks. I’m merely challenging you to consider if perhaps you have outgrown some of the approaches or perspectives being used within your organization. There’s nothing wrong with comfortable, per se . . . as long as it doesn’t hold you back from an opportunity that could extend your mission reach or market share. Unfortunately, the more you are snugged in with your blanket, the less likely you are to notice those opportunities.

When you as the leader hold tight to “what has always worked”, chances are your staff will too. The new ideas, the “what ifs,” will quickly get smothered by blanket-toting lieutenants who are following your lead, thinking you’re guiding them along a safe route . . . right up to the point they discover it is actually a dead end.

Look around. Be brave. Take the first step. Lead. Before you know it, you’ll find out you really didn’t need that old blanket after all.

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