Approval is a Bad Metric

I'm always on the lookout for ways to know if I'm successful as a leader as well as for ways to track whether or not our organization is successful. Though I don't know any magic metrics for either, I do know one thing: approval is not it.

I don't know a person alive who doesn't love approval. I certainly do. But the desire for approval is an evil task-master who will never be completely satisfied.

If approval is your primary metric, you'll never reach your potential as a leader or an organization.

- You'll become an insecure leader leading an insecure organization. You will thrive when people compliment you, but that only lasts as long as your most recent performance. The next time you'll wonder why the same people didn't say the same things.

- You'll never make difficult decisions. Difficult decisions often alienate people. You won't have their approval. Sometimes, the disapproval of people will be the very best outcome.

- You'll never be a true leader. Leaders who seek approval first always follow public opinion; they don't lead the public.

- Your influence will shrink. Nobody wants to follow a leader who has no courage and no spine. Using approval as a metric will ensure you never make the decision that needs courage.

- Your organization will only go as far as people are comfortable going, which is not very far beyond where they are.

This isn't to say you should ignore the opinions of others. Those opinions will test your theories, enlighten your blind-spots, sharpen your thinking, and check your pride. They will also help you think through pacing, communication, and the cost of moving forward. Approval is an important thing to measure, but it isn't a good metric for measuring success.


Kim said...

That's a good word. Thanks.

Anonymous said...