Curiosity Didn’t Kill The Cat. Here’s What Did…

We’ve been told time and time again that curiosity killed the cat. Sure, it may be the case in a few instances. When you’re curious, dangers can arise.

But there’s something much worse that leaders should fear.

Curiosity won’t be the killer of most leaders. That falls at the feet of a true killer.

Leaders must be cautious of complacency.

What Is Complacency?

Complacency, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:

Self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies

Think about the definition for a few moments. Let it sink in. Is this what you want?

The Dangers of Complacency

Leaders are called leaders for a reason. They get out there and blaze a new trail. Leaders take their staff to new heights.

As a leader YOU need to be aware of the dangers that are around you. Not to a point of paranoia but you must recognize that there are dangers you will face.

Complacency will also help you settle for average or below-average performance. It’s the status quo, after all. So it must be okay.


You mustn’t put up with average or below-average performance. This will drag the company down. Your employees down. And, eventually, your leadership down.

All one has to do is look at examples such as Circuit City.

Circuit City was at the top of the electronics game. Business was booming. Employees were happy. Life was great. What could happen?

They became complacent. They felt they had arrived. They neglected:

  • The growing Apple Computers market
  • Neglected the growing competition from stores like Best Buy
  • Failed to improve their website

And now they’re gone.

Complacency Kills

Following the Circuit City example, you can see how complacency can kill a thriving company. Complacency stops momentum and opens you to the dangers you no longer see.

As you begin to become complacent, you open up the door for new and innovative leaders to take your spot. Or to not see the misstep you’re about to take.

Decisions become cloudy and you become unconcerned. Eventually leading your team to their death.

What can you as a leader do to avoid complacency?

  • Be on the lookout for new ideas: New ideas can actually kill complacency. It opens your mind up to new possibilities. Your brain begins to process the steps you will need to take to succeed. New ideas keep you fresh and alert.
  • Get rid of naysayers: What? Wouldn’t this help you stay aware of the dangers that leadership faces? Nope. Nada. NO. Naysayers will keep you in a rut of doing the same things and getting the same results. If the naysayers are unwilling to change, move them out and get people who will move the company forward.
  • Create a clear purpose: Teams that know they have a clear purpose are always looking for a way to move forward and get closer to reaching their purpose. If your team doesn’t know WHY they’re there, their drive dies and complacency sets in. Create the clear purpose and make sure your team knows the purpose.

You must be ready to nip complacency in the bud. It’s a cancer to your team.

Begin looking for new ideas, rid your company of naysayers, and give your team a clear purpose. Doing this will put you on the right track.

This isn’t the end of killing complacency. It’s just the beginning. You’ll have to work on it day in and day out.

Good luck!

Question: How have you let complacency seep into your life? What are you doing to get it out? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Accountability is key to keeping complacency at bay.  Knowing that there is someone in my life who will hold me accountable to keep charging forward is huge.

    • Awesome Jon! I can see that being a complacency stopper. 

  • You hit some key points. So many naysayers out there! Hard to encourage them to see the positives but we need to help them overcome the obstacles they see, because like it or not, there will always be naysayers.  Sometimes more naysayers than anyone else.

    Also, I think making sure everyone knows they are important and plays a role is critical. I’ve been one teams where some don’t feel their part is important and they end up distracting others. It’s hard sometimes to be a leader, to be able to recognize when people are struggling, when they are being overwhelmed verses needing more responsibility.

    Your title reminds me of this quote “curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought him back.”

    • TC, I love your comment about making sure everyone knows that they’re playing an important part on the team. It’s easy to overlook this. How do/would you go about letting the employee know that they’re fulfilling a valuable role in the company?

      • When I figure that out I’ll let you know (plus I’ll be a millionaire).
        For now, it’s a case by case basis. People can’t be grouped together like cattle. Each person is unique and responds differently. So I ask for God to reveal to me what I can’t see. I ask to see people through HIS eyes and to love them with HIS heart.
        Now, if I couldn’t only be a better listener.

        • Good advice TC. It’s easy to try to figure out a formula rather than giving individual attention.

  • Funny you mention Circuit City. I was reading  Good to Great by Jim Collins just a few year after they started shutting down stores. In there he talks about management and how they have learned to build an incredible culture and hand it down. 

    But, later he mentions that pretty much all companies are one poor leader away from destruction. 

    Now, I don’t know their story 100%, but it makes sense to me that the leader dropped the ball somewhere along the way and it was the end of what was once a great company.

    I think we’ll start to see this with Walmart before too long if they don’t get their act together. People aren’t going to put up with poor leadership forever. 

    • I’d have to agree Jared. One bad leader can quickly bring down an organization. I actually worked for Circuit City in the early 2000’s and you could see a management style shift that completely changed the culture. Very sad indeed.

  • What a great post Joseph.

    The thing I have found about complacency is that it spreads quickly to every area of my life.

    When I get complacent about my diet, my energy levels are sapped. I wake up later and go to bed exhausted. My wife and I miss praying together as a couple…

    When we miss praying together, our relationship sours. We talk less and are shorter with each other.

    When our relationship sours, my stress rises which causes me to lose focus at work, which I also did because my energy was down and because I did not exercise because I slept in and felt bad.

    When I sleep in and feel bad, I lose time. I don’t write a blog post in the morning, which leads me to be on edge about getting behind on that. When I am on edge about that I…

    All because I was complacent with my diet. Or anything. 

    Complacency is dangerous and toxic.

    • Matt, that’s a terrific point. Complacency is almost like a cancer in how it spreads. Amazing how it creeps into every area of our life when we let it slip into just a small one.

  • I like that part of being on the look out for new ideas. New ideas invigorate, kick out monotony and just shake things up.

    • Thanks Ngina. How do you watch out and record the new ideas you find?

      • Evernote! And sticky notes 🙂

        • What’s your strategy for Evernote? I use it to capture ideas but have a hard time going back and acting on the ideas. Help a brother out!

          • Evernote has become my default ‘processor’. As in, that’s where i do 99.9% of my writing. I use ‘notebooks’
             to organize my topics and clip things from the internet, quickly jot things down as they fly through my mind. Because I use evernote everyday, it’s easy for me to find something (even by accident!) and act on it. And ofcourse am intentional about finding out things that need to be done..(okay some of the time 🙂 ) My sticky notes are all over my dining table and some walls, so those ones i cannot miss!  I also use google calender esp for important dates and things we need to do with hubby. Bottomline for me – if it’s out of sight, it may very well end up being out of mind, so i try to keep stuff infront of my eyes as much as i can.

            okay i hope this has been helpful 🙂 🙂

            • Thanks for the advice. It sounds like you keep Evernote at the forefront of your work and that’s how you’re able to review it often. I may have to give that a shot and use Evernote to write from now on.

  • Great post! Being complacent is never a good thing. We should always strive to move forward. Thanks for sharing this post today!

    • Brandon, you’re right. It’s never a good thing to be complacent. Glad to hear you’ve learned that while you’re still in school. Have you had to battle with that as you close in on graduation?

      • Oh yes! It is not really a complacent issue for me…although I am a high school senior, I will be graduating from my local state college with my AA degree. I really can’t afford to get lazy with assignments. I am becoming more anxious than anything because I am ready to graduate and move on to the university to get going on preparing for medical school.
        I am having to practice patience more than anything at this point. Everything is happening so slowly, but I know it will eventually seem too fast.

  • Great insight Joseph. I think the “lookout for new ideas” part is particularly important. In today’s ever-changing tech world, it’s integral that leaders stay on top of the trends. 

    • Thanks Tessa. Yup, there never will be a shortage of new ideas you can use. How are you capturing the ones you see?

      • I write them down. That’s the only way I can remember them!

        • That’s a great way Tessa. Do you have a review system to go over the ideas you’ve captured or a way to implement them?

          •  I don’t have a set system, which is something I need to be working towards. I typically write them down, and then I never return to them. Same thing with notes from books that I read, which I am going to change today. 🙂

            • Glad to hear you’re pushing forward and creating a system to review notes. Please feel free to come back and share it with us once you’ve done it.

          • Joe,

            I write ideas down and then review them during weekly review sessions.

            I need to place a higher value my weekly reviews though!

            •  You and me both Thomas. My weekly/monthly/yearly reviews have not been consistent, not even remotely….

  • Jeff

    It’s just as you say:  I kept “looking for a way to move forward and get closer to reaching my purpose”, whatever my purpose(s) may become. 

    I generate new possibilities by adding new experiences to my life.  This I did by simply moving into convenient new experiences, not by going out of my way to get those new experiences.