The Waiting – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: June 11, 2022

If we do some soul-searching of our own leadership journey and look back on when we hesitated to make a decision, we were probably covering up our desire to avoid conflict and our fear of taking action.

There was an old command I heard a lot in my early training as a US Army Infantryman which went something like “there are only two types of people on the battlefield, the quick and the dead…which one are you going to be?”

Whether we are leading in a large complex organization or an early-stage start-up, the most effective leaders have a bias towards action, not hesitation.

As we look to build and strengthen our leadership, we need to critically assess the times when we waited to take action. Here are few times in my own journey that may stimulate some reflection of your leadership history:

  1. I hesitated on taking the necessary action with a teammate who was not a good fit for the team. The story I told myself to rationalize hesitating: “It must be a leadership issue, I need to lead more effectively to improve the function of the team with this individual…it must be me, not them.”
  2. I hesitated in making a product development decision. The story I told myself to rationalize hesitating: “If we can just wait to get some additional data, we can make a more effective decision.”
  3. I hesitated in making critical resource trade-offs to optimize a product launch plan. The story I told myself to rationalize hesitating: “It is too early in our launch to make a major resource trade-off. There are so many factors to consider, we just need to stick with our plan.”

All of these reasons could be justified as being somewhat valid, but what they communicate to our people is confusion and what our people desperately need from us as leaders in clarity and action.

As you reflect on the times you hesitated, I am confident you will come to a similar conclusion that I have come to in my own journey. More times than not, I was letting fear or the avoidance of conflict delay the inevitable decision I needed to take from the beginning. As we look to build and strengthen our leadership, we must continue to shorten the time when we see an action that needs to be taken and when we actually take it. Our people will embrace a bias towards action and the health of the business will be better as a result of the swiftness of our decision.

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