Welcome to the Summer Camp Leadership blog. For those of us who lead summer camps, making a positive difference in the lives of young people is our passion. Turning that passion into a reality, however, takes more than the ability to lead songs, teach archery or plan craft projects. Creating camp experiences that truly transform lives takes leadership. Leadership that creates a vision for the future, leadership that inspires and engages others, leadership that remains focused and stays the course. My hope is through this blog you'll find ideas, inspiration and tools to help you be a great summer camp leader.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Can Success Lead to Failure?

I recently came across an interesting post on how success can actually lead to failure. Greg McKeown, CEO of THISinc., writes in the Harvard Business Review Blog:

Why don't successful people and organizations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is due to what I call "the clarity paradox," which can be summed up in four predictable phases:

Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure.

We can see this in companies that were once darlings of Wall Street, but later collapsed. In his book How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins explored this phenomenon and found that one of the key reasons for these failures was that companies fell into "the undisciplined pursuit of more." It is true for companies and it is true for careers.
As I read McKeown's blog post I thought of camps I've visited who were very success early on but declined over time as they expanded their program. When they were narrowly focused on doing a few things well they thrived. But as described in the "clarity paradox," as they succeeded they found new opportunities that diffused their efforts and reduced their clarity. This eventually led to decline.

It's important that as we achieve success, we be careful of the new opportunities that success provides. Are the new opportunities consistent with our vision, mission and values? Will they strengthen the core of who we are as a camp or send us in directions that weaken us. Can we sustain the focus and attention that led to success if we expand?