The danger of being lukewarm


What would you rather experience in your organization or team - or life?

  1. Palpable (even disruptive) frustration, dissatisfaction, and unrest; or

  2. Lukewarm survival, with its flat affect, and quiet, passive, go-along-to-get-along compliance?

On a rough day, you might vote for #2 all the way. "I just don't have the bandwidth to..." is one of the most common mantras I hear from leaders.

But there is poison in those words, for the real challenge of leading people who serve people is not burnout, it is lukewarm-out.

Pre-burnout has fire to it. It ticks you off. You want change! You may leave, throw a fit, or complain to your friends, but at least You. Want. Change. And someone is going to have to find the bandwidth - now!

From this passionate place comes the energy to decide - decide to leave, decide to stay and fight for what's important, decide to damn the torpedos and just do it.

The far greater danger is when we go lukewarm. We do what needs to be done, survive the nonsense - then come back tomorrow and do it again. We are resigned and have long ago stopped believing things could actually be different.

From this passive place, there is no impetus for change, no reason or energy to decide. In nature, lukewarm is where food rots, infection grows and disease spreads.

How can you tell when the heat's been turned down?

When is the last time...

  • Someone asked, "What if..." we did this or tried that?

  • Anyone talked about your purpose and vision - as if it mattered?

  • You saw "shining eyes" around the table?

  • You gathered to tell stories about making a difference?

And when is the last time you all felt like insurgents, gleefully finding a way around the barriers and past the gatekeepers?

Perhaps it's time to get a fever. Time to lead. Time to make a difference by doing something different.