CEO LEARNING: Superior discontent: grumpiness done well.

November 24, 2020
By Rowan Belchers

I’ve spent a lot of time listening to CEOs’ complaints and I’m always stuck with how the energy of our conversation takes a dive that requires course-correcting.

It’s something about the combination of CEOs being ambitious, having high standards and liking things being done their way that makes for a combustible combination!

At its essence, it’s not a bad quality to have. It pushes for excellence. However, there is helpful irritation and unhelpful irritation and it’s good to know the difference.

The concept of ‘superior discontent’, which I first heard mentioned by Jacques Nienaber in the excellent documentary ‘Chasing the Sun’, helped me make sense of this.

Superior discontent energises.

Inferior discontent de-energises.

There are two questions to answer: 

  1. What are the aspects of your work, your career, and your business that you aren’t satisfied with?
  2. Relative to these, how are you showing up and – specifically – are you letting yourself slip into inferior discontent? (complaining, resisting, being small, being petty, sabotaging)

Here is an example from my current experience: 

  • My superior discontent is being a (mostly) South African focussed business whilst seeking to serve a global client base.
  • My inferior discontent lies in the tech challenges presented by having to do my work in post-Covid conditions.

My work lies in shifting my mindset to one of seeking out beautiful tech solutions that will make for memorable online teaching experiences.

That feels appealing and doable rather than heavy and unenticing.

Rowan Belchers

Rowan Belchers

Rowan is the founder and CEO of Lockstep, a business leadership consultancy. Lockstep works with CEO’s, executive teams and future leaders globally, partnering with clients who seek customised leadership solutions. Rowan is a highly respected advisor to CEOs with over two decades’ experience in guiding businesses and their leaders towards reaching their fullest potential. Rowan leads The CEO Project, a Lockstep initiative.
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