How Do Leaders Go From Gliding To Transformation?


Enjoying the moment and reaping the benefits of our accomplishments, can be a healthy exercise for leaders. It can also be a confidence booster as we validate reaching a goal and gliding along to watch how all of our hard work made a difference. We also can learn a great deal as we reflect on the good, bad and the ugly of our efforts. But when does the floating turn into complacency? At what point do we turn to ourselves and acknowledge that we are simply stuck and merely coasting along? Or as James Kouzes and Barry Posner describe in “The Leadership Challenge”, it is important for leaders to challenge the process and look for innovative ways to improve. When is that exact time or is leadership all about continual change and transformation?


Partnering with organizations and leaders in my profession, I am often called in when a new challenge is about to be launched. I am brought into the discussion to strategize ways to train employees on how to incorporate the new initiative into their current job functions. In one company, I was recently asked to create a leadership program for emerging leaders. I asked two questions: “What is prompting you to do this at this time? What are the issues?”  They responded: “We are having problems with two different departments sharing information. These individuals are our future leaders and they just can’t communicate with each other in an effective way. We need to help them grow into their future roles.” Gliding was no longer an option.

Here are some triggers that may help you decide if you or your team is ready for a new challenge:

There is a great deal of conflict

More often than not, when organizations, teams or individuals are experiencing conflict or frustration, it is a red flag that something needs to be changed. It is a wake-up call that a process or a connection is not performing at its best. Although we may want to just glide along and pretend the problem doesn’t exist, it is always best to address the issues head on. Even if it is hard work resolving the conflict, not dealing with it is far worse.

It feels like everyone is on “auto-pilot”

Have you ever felt like your daily routine was just mundane- same old tasks and experiences with little variation? I certainly have gotten into that place where every activity I participated in was recognizable and predictable. One can almost say that things run by themselves with little innovation or change on our part. On some level, it works and feels confortable- at least things get done. On the flip side, when every action looks and feels similar with no or little risk, there is no seizing of new opportunities. To get out of glide mode, leaders must get out of “auto-pilot”.

 There is no spring left in your step

When we were little kids and we were happy and stimulated, we would often skip along or sing a tune as we went through our day. One sure sign that we are ready for a new challenge is that there is no “pizzazz” in our daily work lives. Igniting a sense of joy and trying some new approaches to old problems, can get you off the glider track onto the adventure track. Challenging ourselves daily with at least one new idea can open up new paths and directions that we never contemplated before.

Are you a leader merely gliding along, not looking to change things up or take a risk? How do you challenge the status quo? How do you go from gliding to transformation?


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12 thoughts on “How Do Leaders Go From Gliding To Transformation?

  1. This is such an important topic, Terri! I see people all around me who are complacent…and in my former business, complacency could truly kill!

    The answer for me has been to nurture an inquisitive mindset. When we are curious about the world around us, it’s hard to be complacent. Curiosity is a discipline…we have to work at it.

    Look at children…they are never complacent and they are always learning!

    Great post!

  2. Curiosity is a wonderful discipline for leaders to cultivate. Sometimes people are unaware of the complacent stage they are in. Things are flowing and work is getting accomplished, yet no new ideas or experiences arise.

    Recognizing the need to challenge and explore is essential for leaders to begin a journey forward.

    And yes, children are the best role models to remind adults of the importance of taking risk and continually growing.

    Thanks LaRae!

  3. I believe if you are always learning you are always growing.

    How do you transform?

    Keep an open heart. open mind and open will.

    It keeps you transforming.

    Love your article, love your insights. I learn so much from you.


  4. That is the key, Lolly- to keep learning and provide yourself with opportunities to grow and blossom.

    Being open to receive new ideas and experiences helps leaders get off the gliding path onto an adventure path.

    Thanks Lolly for all your wonderful additions!


  5. Terri – That sense of joy, the spark… I totally know what you mean. Even when I’m doing work that I love to do, when I get to “that place” it’s just a grind. Hard to really make a difference with that attitude, huh?

    I’m with you! For each one of us, learning comes in the stretch, not the glide. Leaders that are gliding are not only keeping themselves in the comfort zone but everyone else around them. I’ve actually seen really awesome talent leave leaders because work is no longer fun, challenging or remotely unconventional… it’s just work.

    Love the learning that you share here – important lesson for everyone.

  6. Life is full of challenges and how do I grow from each of these challenges is what I ask myself. I take each as a learning. Open mind is difficult through many challenges but the only way to overcome.

    Loved your insights Terri.

  7. Alli, it is about stretching out of our comfort zone and not just gliding. The initial awareness that we need to change things up can be the more challenging thing for leaders because we often wait too long to begin the discovery forward.

    I also have noticed that complacency can take over very easily before we even know what hit us. We just have to keep trying and learning and exposing ourselves to new concepts and people. I learn so much from you!

    Thanks Alli!

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