Four Ruts That Will Sink Your Leadership

Years ago when the western U.S. was being settled, roads were often just wagon tracks. These rough trails posed serious problems for those who journeyed them. On one of these winding paths was posted a sign which read: ”Avoid this rut or you’ll be in it for the next 25 miles!”.

Just as the settlers of the old West faced serious problems when traveling roads with ruts, so too will you experience ruts on your leadership journey if not careful.

Ruts. Why is it so hard to break free from them? Intuitively we know that they are not healthy for us. As leaders we ought to know better but too often we fall back on “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality, not realizing it’s our death-nail.

I believe it’s not so much that we purposefully stay in ruts for the sake of a path of least resistance, but it’s because we settle. Here are four ways you might be in a rut (settling) without even realizing it.

You settle for small victories instead of big failures

I am not suggesting here that it’s an either-or, that you will have small wins or big failures, but ruts prevent us from evening daring to do big things. Accepting the same results over and over again without attempting large wins will always keep you down.

When settling on this level you have opted for the path of predictability that stifles productivity. Those who live in this rut will seldom venture off the paths of normal work much less an adventure off the beaten path where fresh ideas are welcomed and productivity flourishes. What are you settling for?

You settle for popularity instead of principles

One way in which your culture suffers is when you get caught up in popularity contests and the appeasement of opposing voices. At the end of the day, either your values and principles mean something or not. As a leader, you must give a compelling reason to follow a compelling vision. Those who belong will stay and those that leave will be doing you a favor in the long run.

This rut is about low expectations and the type of culture you will settle for instead of the one you create that raises the bar and benefits everyone.

We settle for a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset

The fixed mindset is all about staying on the same path like the wagon for the next 25 miles. It embodies the “we’ve never done it this way before” mentality that stunts growth.

This rut is about mediocrity being acceptable instead of embracing a growth mindset that taps into the potential and skills of everyone and daring to believe that the next  25 miles will be unlike anything ever experienced before.  The growth mindset rejects the status quo and puts everyone on a new and challenging path toward success.

You settle for followers instead of leaders

Anytime you settle for a culture of followers instead of a culture of leaders you will always be behind the curve and in a rut. Your goal should never be to develop a tribe of loyal followers but rather an army of engaged leaders who are all-in with the vision, values, goals, and purpose of your organization.

Ruts are harmful because too often we are in them without realizing it. We’ve grown so comfortable with the ruts and how we have adapted to them that any deviation from it becomes unfamiliar territory.

Here’s the bottom line– unless you get out of your rut the view will never change, nor will your future.


Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences. Doug is a John Maxwell Team member.

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