The dangers of success

13 03 2007

Today a Google search for the word “success” turned up 321 million websites.

“Failure” got 218 million sites.

We all want to be successful. Leaders are expected to be successful.

We’ve been trained, rewarded, pushed and prodded to become successful. School, work, games and personal life, we are always focused upon success.

It is probably genetic in nature. Competition to survive demands success, and therefore the desire to succeed is an inherent quality in human beings.

Success brings recognition, wealth, favor and fame to the individual or group. All are benefits and rewards of being successful. We like the rewards and benefits….we really do.

Business loves success. In fact, business is not very tolerant of failures, especially leadership failures. To be a leader in a business environment means that you must be successful and get your objectives accomplished.

We strive for success, we really want it to happen, we plan for it, we train, we learn new things, we even modify and manipulate external factors to assure the outcome we desire. Despite all our planning, spending and preparations we are not always successful. No one is successful all the time.

We often forget that past success is not a guarantee for continued success, and that failure is always a learning experience, not always a bad outcome.

The illusion that we must always be successful, and the glory and attention that success brings is not always a good thing.

“Pray that success will not come any faster than you are able to endure it” Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe

Success, and particularly continued success, can lead an individual or organization into the following behaviours and attitudes.

  • Cult of Personality / Fame. The focus is on the personality and not on the present or future work outcomes. It becomes more about who is doing it and less about what to do.
  • Fear. Avoiding or agonizing about doing something different, new or original, “ we were great doing this…let’s keep on doing it”.
  • Can’t let go. Inability to let go of a success and move on to the next challenge. Unwillingness to say “that project and party is over…what’s next”.
  • Over Confidence. Invincible attitude leads to strategies, theories and attitudes that may provoke attacks on enemies or punish those in a weakened position.
  • Loss of control. Inability to gauge or control excess or weakness. Losing touch with the reality of the situation.
  • Yes Men. Lack of honesty from the people around you, no real challenges to ideas, methods and objectives.
  • Hangers on. Distractions and undesirables begin to fill the agenda and schedules.
  • Closing Networks. Cutting ties with old networks and individuals to move “up” in status.
  • Depression. When the happiness or emotion of succeeding does not reach previous levels of emotional highs or didn’t meet the expectations.
  • Risk. Anxiety about repeating the success may drive one to take larger risks, or to eliminate risks.

So go on seeking success, it’s the right thing to do.

Don’t take the failures too hard, learn from them, pick them apart and understand exactly why failure occurred.

Celebrate when you do succeed, take your 5 minutes in the limelight. Then put your feet back firmly on the ground and get back to work.

“Try not to become a man of success but rather become a man of value” Albert Einstein.

Related Links

Why do we fail

Leadership lesson – A Message to Garcia


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One response

20 03 2007
saranga

so true!
some of them i have experienced in my long career.

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