How People-Pleasing Crushes Your Leadership Potential

So This Is What You Do

Because we’re all afraid of rejection, you and I revise our ideas until we think they have the greatest chance of acceptance.

And in principle, that’s a good idea. Who wants to introduce something that ultimately only five people on planet earth are going to find helpful?

But often, in the process of trying to get people to buy into your initiative, you take the edges off of it.

You dilute it.

You compromise.

You talk about what’s possible, not about what’s best.

And then you die a little inside.

Then This Happens

So…you introduce your slightly watered-down idea/product/change/innovation hoping people will applaud wildly.

Except they don’t. People still don’t like it.

You hear from the critics.

A few people leave.

More people threaten to leave.

You grow more scared.

So you retreat.

You revise your plan. You sand more of the edges off. You compromise more. You try to offend as few people as possible.

And then you die a little more inside.

Except now, your product becomes, literally, unremarkable.

Criticism, remember, is a remark, and a remark indicates you might have a truly remarkable idea.

Can you imagine what might have happened had you gone with your original stellar idea you were afraid to even say out loud???

Do you see what you often do when you water down your bold changes as a result of criticism? You change a remarkable initiative into an unremarkable one.

Being inoffensive ultimately makes you ineffective.

And Suddenly You’re on the Fastest Path to Irrelevance

That’s why far too many leaders end in a place where they are too afraid to be bold. Too afraid to try something new. Too afraid to even dream.

They reduce potentially great initiatives to the least offensive form they can find, hoping everyone will buy in.

Except your ability to attract new people just went out the window.

The only people who really like your new idea are a small core of the people who already liked your old idea…and any growth potential is jettisoned.

Here’s the lesson far too many leaders never learn about trying to offend as few people as possible:

If you attempt to offend no one, you will eventually become irrelevant to everyone.

Where does this land you as a leader?

With worship services that are bland enough to inspire no one, including the 40 or 400 people who are there but who strangely want to keep it that way.

Adopting mission statements so drab they could have been lifted from an HR manual.

With a vision for the future that looks far too much like the past.

It’s not that difficult to head down the path to irrelevance.

When your vision for the future looks too much like the past, you need a new vision. And that’s where you’ll end up if people-pleasing causes you to lose your courage.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.