In this week’s Leading Behind the Scenes, Marlou Hermsen makes the case (without laughing) that those who wish for a better world should seek to, “CHANGE the world without being a smug twat.” If the statement makes you smile, and does not offend, it means you’re probably on the right track, because, as Marlou further explains, smugness, besides being a deterrent to team collaboration, is also a creative block. Collaboration is key to success, but when individuals are smug twats, they stifle new ideas and thwart joint ventures.
According to Marlou, there are people who work for worthy causes to personally benefit — via the acquisition of money or notoriety. These types of gains can lead to smugness. Instead of seeking profit, she says, find a purpose. But, how can one not be smug when they have been successful? Easy. Reflect. Celebrate the small steps, but don’t lose sight of the big picture. Avoid superficiality. If one remembers that work is never done, the impetus to be smug will diminish.
Despite wanting to change the world for the better, Marlou don’t consider herself to be an activist. She says, “The word ‘activist’ has a stereotypical feel, a negative connotation — it reeks of smug twat, of someone who is an individual, rather than a team contributor. Even though I have spent my whole career actively working towards change, I avoid labeling myself an activist. Instead, I prefer to be called naive.”
Naive is the opposite of smug, exactly what we need to succeed. Naive implies that one is not jaded, that one is open to new ideas. Curiosity, drive, and commitment are elements of naiveté. Once a person has become set in their ways, these traits vanish, and smugness takes hold. It’s like losing your superpower.
Everyone has a superpower — it’s comprised of what you enjoy doing, plus what you are good at. Superpowers are about balance. And balance is the key to being energy-resilient, which is so important when working towards a goal.
Marlou has learned that changing the world does not occur in a straight line. Instead, she notes, it’s two steps forward, five steps back, ten steps forward, one step back. As such, it would be easy for a smug twat to lose their balance, and energy, and forgo an opportunity to change the world.