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When urgency trumps complacency, it empowers leaders

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Urgency is the quality or state of being unrelenting or of something needing immediate attention.

It is a force or impulse that compels leaders to project a sense of urgency in others.

Likely everyone, in life or work, has experienced the challenging demands of urgency, or dealing with the contentment of the status quo in ourselves or others.

A sense of urgency is almost always a primary instigator for revolutionary achievements.

“The antithesis of urgency is a conscious or unconscious complacency,” wrote John Kotter of Harvard University.

Complacency is a self-satisfaction or unawareness of risks or deficiencies which can lead to unexpected vulnerabilities or dangers.

Complacency embraces the status quo. We often underestimate the enormous power of complacency and its pervasiveness.

Urgency calls for swift action or immediate or serious attention.


False urgency is another pitfall that hinders accomplishment. This mindset is very different from compliancy, and its effect can be more detrimental.

False urgency creates an illusion of engagement. This urgency is grounded in anxiety and irritation.

It’s the equivalent of running in circles. There’s a feeling of movement, but you’re not moving forward and eventually wind up in the same place you began.


This detriment usually results in frustration, disappointment and self-incrimination because of wrenching failures.

It creates a feeling of “what’s the use of trying.”

It leaves a damaging impact on self-efficacy and impedes or prevents future participation when urgency is required.


The need for urgency is constant. It can be dealt with successfully in one situation then arise unexpectedly but just as quickly in another.

When one discovers this, it produces an ability to create a sense of urgency on demand. In fact, urgency has very little staying power on its own and needs to be generated.

Urgency is driven by a desire to succeed, and success is fleeting and unsustainable.

Inevitably, urgency is replaced by complacency. This is particularly true when relaxing after a success.


Effectiveness requires a consciousness to maintain urgency. This requires developing a mindset that is senior to business-as-usual.

The ultimate purpose of any business strategy is to create superior products and services for a competitive advantage. That demands a workforce aligned with corporate goals.

This is accomplished through workforce enrollment – when others embrace a possibility with the same enthusiasm and commitment as if they had created it themselves.


Alignment causes a bigger game: from business-as-usual to working inside a creative mission.

Alignment empowers leadership by creating a culture of shared values. This is distinct from group think, which stifles input and creativity.

Alignment is not an edict or command but a creative process which empowers all, engenders responsibility and keeps everyone in the game and having a say in the outcome.

It’s hard to complain when you choose to participate in the game and call the shots on how you play.


A sense of urgency is a two-way street. Workers who function with urgency have a greater sense of purpose and satisfaction.

At the same time, an often overlooked benefit of workforce urgency is that leadership is empowered by workers who align with them, so they become better leaders.

The result is a win-win for everyone, promoting a high level of accomplishment that is shared by all.

Jon Craighead, president of Craighead Associates LLC (www.craigheadassociates.com) of Pocono Pines, has more than 20 years of experience as a consultant, working with senior executives in Fortune 100 corporations to sole proprietorships. Serving the Poconos and northeastern Pennsylvania, he can be reached at jon@craigheadassociates.com.

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