Why Leaders Should Never Simply Stick with “What They’re Good At”

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Two happenings took place last week which not only created quite a stir in literary circles, but which also provided a powerful lesson in leadership.

The first happening was the long-awaited release of J.K. Rowling’s first book in five years. The book, titled The Casual Vacancy, is aimed at adults and is her first book since the final installment in her Harry Potter children’s series.

The second was the largely negative “buzz” the book created among many critics.

The New York Times wrote, “The real-life world she has limned in these pages is so wilfully banal, so depressingly clichéd that The Casual Vacancy is not only disappointing – it’s dull.”

Added The Daily Mail, “More than 500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature crammed down your throat.”


Perhaps, then, it’s little wonder that the over-arching feeling of many has been summed up by the critic who decreed that Ms. Rowling should “stick with what she’s good at.”

Look, I’ve never read a Harry Potter book, and I won’t be reading A Casual Vacancy.

But to suggest that someone should never dare step outside the confines of their predictable sphere is an affront to any creative person.

And it also flies in the face of one of the prerequisites of effective leadership; courage.

In addition to the need for humility, leaders require the courage to know when it’s time to step beyond the familiar, and to act on that courage.

When you practice courageous leadership you can expect at least three important results:

1.   You can expect to possibly take your organization to new levels
There is truth in the old saying that “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

2.   You can expect to grow as a leader
Courage is a leadership muscle that must be flexed from time to time in order for you to grow in your leadership.

3.   You can expect to fail sometimes
Taking bold, courageous steps doesn’t always work out. Simply know that to be true. And don’t let it stop you.

If you want to take your leadership – and your organization – to the next level, sometimes it starts with a dose of courage.

And you may need to move beyond “what you’re good at”.

When have you exercized the leadership courage to press beyond what everyone else expects? What were the results?

the author

Scott Cochrane

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