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How to be Dissatisfied Like a Leader

“Satisfaction is death.” George Bernard Shaw

The only people more dissatisfied than leaders are artists, pubescent teens, and curmudgeons.

“Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.” Thomas A. Edison


Dissatisfaction – by itself – only makes life miserable. Yes, dissatisfaction drives change, but it takes more.

I know some dissatisfied people. Only a few of them are leaders. Most use dissatisfaction as an excuse to not try, give up, blame others and wallow in the safe squalor of discontent.

Leaderly dissatisfaction:

The drive to make things better is at the heart of leaderly dissatisfaction.

Leaderly dissatisfaction is driven by what could be, not what was. Putrid discontent, on the other hand, basks in the stench of a dissatisfying past.

Leaderly dissatisfaction believes things could be better. Individuals could matter more. Teams could execute more effectively. Organizations could make a bigger difference.


People who want others to make things better for them complain the most.

The difference between leaders and complainers is leaders smell skunks and dream of perfume. Everyone else runs from the stench.

Organizations are gloomy because we listen too closely to dissatisfaction and too little to aspiration.

Listen and challenge:

Listen to the concerns, complaints, and dissatisfaction of others. Then ask, “What could we do about that?” 

“There are two kinds of discontented in this world, the discontented that works and the discontented that wrings its hands. The first gets what it wants and the second loses what it has.” Og Mandino


  1. Focus more on aspiration than dissatisfaction. How might dissatisfaction translate into aspiration?
  2. Turn what you don’t likes into dreams. The more complaints you have, the bigger your dreams might become.
  3. Hang with people who change things. Avoid do-nothing talkers.

How might leaders deal with their own dissatisfaction? With the dissatisfaction of others?

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