Don’t Get Bored

The other day I was thinking about all of the people I know going through job changes, struggles, and frustrations.

Work isn’t supposed to be fun all the time. In fact, the Bible promises that work will often suck. (Genesis 3:117-19)

It’s hard to know the difference between a period of frustration and knowing it’s time to move on to another organization, seek another job within the current organization, or if you should just stick it out. (Tip: Never try to figure that out alone. You are too close to it to know.)

Sometimes you are supposed to push through. Seth Godin wrote a nifty little book I’ve found very encouraging in times of struggle called, The Dip.

And other times you are supposed to quit. Maybe best thing you could do for yourself is to walk into your bosses office this morning, tell him to shove it, and go on to something else. Jon Acuff has a great little book about that I’d recommend you pick up called, Quitter.

But I want to draw your attention to a third category. A category much more dangerous and toxic to the long-term health of your organization: The Bored Leader.

I see boredom– some calling it coasting– when a person has been at a job for a while, they’ve mastered it, they are more successful at it than anyone else previous. And frankly, there might not be another person on the planet who truly could do that role as good as they are doing it.

They’ve got their gig wired. It only takes 20% of their effort to do what others couldn’t do with 120%. I’ve seen this in all sectors. Big companies, start-ups, little churches, big ministry organizations… it’s somewhat common.

Now, having a bored leader isn’t automatically bad. If that person can manage their boredom it can truly be the best for everyone. That said, I want to point out 3 specific risks that I’ve seen take down too many organizations to remain quiet about.

3 Risks of a Bored Leader

  1. Creeping Laziness – When you know you can complete 100% of your job with 20% of effort, it’s really hard to put in 100% effort like you should. The single biggest place a bored leader hides his laziness? Meetings. In fact, it’s where bored leaders often congregate to not feel so bad about being bored. I hate meetings. Most meetings are just an excuse to fill a calendar so you can talk about the work you need to do while not actually doing it. Want to kill a meeting culture? Calculate the man hour cost of the meetings you’re invited to and write that number on the white board when you walk in. Of course, there are other places you can be lazy at work. But you know a leader is bored when they start to get lazy. (Late for work, blowing off deadlines, and letting momentum carry them instead of them driving momentum.)
  2. Creeping Arrogance / Sin – Leaders who are chopping wood don’t have much time for vice. Why? Because it’s way more fun to hit home runs at work than it is to take a 4 hour lunch and drink cocktails. And while a highly successful leader may have soaring confidence in their ability… probably accused by outsiders of arrogance… it doesn’t automatically creep into arrogance. But a real risk to a bored leader is the onset of arrogance and/or flat out sin. I know way too many people who have allowed small things, like counting a personal item as a business expense to grow into full-fledged sinful entitlement. (Proverbs 16:18) When I watched The Wolf of Wall Street I thought it was a darn close metaphor for some of the excess I know about from bored (gulp, church) leaders.
  3. Creeping Mission – Sometimes I read about a product launch on Mashable or catch wind of one organization I know buying another and I think… what in the world are they thinking? What makes someone at Google think they ought to start a social network when they are really, really good at search and ad placement? Boredom. What makes a company who is really, really good at tourism think they’ll be good at running a restaurant? Boredom. A few years back John Ortberg spoke at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit on the topic of the Shadow Mission. The shadow mission is the thing that takes you off course. And a bored leaders most dangerous wanderings will lead your organization away from your core mission to chase something that they are purely chasing because the core mission isn’t doing it for them anymore.

What’s the Real Risk?

Here’s the thing. Almost all of the stuff above is risk to the individual leader. Worst case for them is that they are going to get fired.

But the real risk? The real risk is to the people whose lives will be turned upside down by the bored leader. When that person fails, by sin or laziness or chasing a shadow mission– he writes checks that other people’s lives cash. They are held accountable with their very lives in ways that the bored leader often doesn’t even ever see. That’s the sick, sad truth.

Why is boredom so common? Human nature.

What’s the solution for boredom in leadership? Getting a life.

Don’t get bored.

Boredom kills.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

2 comments

  1. Wow, you nailed it once again. I find myself resonating with at least of of the above dangers. Its hard to believe with so much ministry burnout that someone could fall into these categories. Its really necessary to have a good balance for sure.

    So have you talked to Jon Acuff about this stuff? I am a BIG Quitter/Start/SCL advocate….yall could cowrite a book on this alone!

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t know Jon personally at all. We’ve met at least once… but yeah, not like I’d even call him an acquaintance. Wish I lived in Nashville so I could stalk him. 🙂

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