Can Success Fool Us?

Posted on Mar 04, 2019 by Mark Muehl - Best Practices

Often, adversity strengthens us, while success can fool us.

In the Global Leadership Summit of 2018, Rasmus Ankersen (chairman of Danish Football Club Midtjylland), spoke to the struggles of gaining and maintaining success. He shared the assumption that good results come from superior performance. However, this is not a good assumption to draw. As an example, he shared the success of the 2011-12 Newcastle football team- success which ownership attributed to new contracts and good performance. For many years before, Newcastle labored in, at best, 10th position. When 2011-12 was completed and the team finished 5th, management was sure the good times were going to roll. They didn’t make any changes and were ready for years of success. Their assumption was the good standings came from excellent performance. In reality, when the following year found them finishing in 16th position, it was found that their success could largely be based on luck. Even though they had fewer shots on goals, fewer accumulated goals and a low goals scored vs goals allowed ratio, they had rung up a good year of wins in 2011-12. Really, one could say, Newcastle got lucky and was blinded by success. Lucky rolls and some tight wins skewed the ledger to show success. The statistics told a different story. Since management was blinded by its success, it failed to see the winning year was due more to a trip, a fall or a lucky post kick. Since then, Newcastle has continued its losing ways.

It might be argued that often we in Lutheran circles measure success in blind numbers, too. A tick up in enrollment, a budget that exceeded revenue expectations, acknowledgements from peers, and banner years for sports teams all can lead a school into blind expectations that whatever brought about the success will continue. Instead, the reality may be that the enrollment increased because of a conflict in another local school. Revenue may have been up because of an unexpected gift. Acknowledgements from peers, while deserved, may have simply been due to coworkers’ ability to write the application. And the sports team? It sure helped to have the perfect chemistry with “that” particular group.

Leadership success can also be deceptive. A leader can fall into the lure that a created system of checks and balances, objectives and assessments, and business savvy are the perfect system and everyone should follow suit. Or it could be the leader determines his system of working with people is the perfect one to run a school. Communication tools, various meetings and special events might be the perfect blend of working with people so again, everyone should follow suit. It worked in Pittsburgh so it’ll work in Fort Wayne, IN!

In next week’spost, we’ll take a look at a different perspective- a perspective that views success in a different light.