The Boss Complex

The Boss Complex

I got my first traffic ticket in more than 5 years.

The police officer asked me if I knew why he pulled me over. I had no idea.

“You rolled through that stop sign back there without stopping.”

“Hmmm. I did? I didn’t even see it.”

“You didn’t see it?”

“I’ll tell you … I probably should have. I’ve taken that corner more than a thousand times. But no … I didn’t.”

He gave me my ticket and I moved on with self-pity and self-righteousness (“Doesn’t he have more important things to do with his time and our tax dollars than grabbing people running stop signs in suburbia.” “Great! A $100 trip to the grocery store.” etc.).

Traffic Ticket

Over the next 24 hours, I caught myself running or almost running a stop sign more than 10 times. (Really!) 

No tickets, no feedback for more than 5 years and I’d become invincible. I did no wrong. King of the streets (as much as a mid-lifer in suburbia can be king of the streets). I’d become dangerous.

It got me thinking about something I call The Boss Complex… something that can happen to people in leadership positions. I’ve had it (and still do at times), met people with it, and know people who’ve had it (and still have it). 

We push things. We fail. We succeed. We become confident and then maybe a little too confident. We start to know a lot … maybe everything … becoming less approachable … less inviting… creating situations where people are afraid to tell us the truth … uncoachable (check here to be sure you’re coachable).

Feedback slows (or stops). Our self-awareness slips. Our bad habits settle in. We drain others and get in the way of good things happening. We become dangerous.

And it can happen to anyone … leader or not.

Lead Simply Books

We are all leaders (regardless of title).

And we lead by example … one way or the other.
Give your team a better example (a quick 30-minute read).

Learn more

My $96 ticket … a nice little coaching session where no one got hurt. It reminded me of my responsibility to others (on the street and at work). It reminded me to model the behavior I want to see (for other drivers and for my kids … Lead Simply, right?).

And, if just 10% of the people reading this are a little safer on the road (and/ or lose their Boss Complex), that’s a lot of good coming from those tax dollars being spent on a police officer grabbing some guy running a stop sign in suburbia.

With awareness, comes responsibility.


  1. We’ve got all sorts of tools here at that can help you encourage people to care more about their work and the people they work with (and for). And when people care more, good things happen. (Really.) Start something special by looking around our site or call us at 1-866-952-4483 with questions. We’re real people and we’d love to talk with you.
  2. I run fairly regularly. Too many times I’ve come up to a street corner where a driver rolling through a stop sign would’ve taken me out if I wasn’t paying attention (the driver looks left for cars but not right for people … texting drivers too). I’ve also been on the driver’s side … lucky a runner (or another car) was paying attention when I wasn’t. A good reminder to pay attention either way and give people the break we want to be given (to Love Your People).
  3. If I get another traffic ticket soon, while almost always earned, I’m guessing I won’t value the coaching session as much as I did this time.
  4. How do you solve a problem like The Boss Complex? (♫ How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? ♫) You help people Lead Simply and Smile & Move. And you do it every day. (Every. Day.)