Friday, October 28, 2016

waiting/acting-a leadership paradox

Once the decision to act has been made, the next decision is when to act...and is it better to act quickly and in short order or wait until the right moment - whenever that might be?  Whether it deals with relationships, families, small, or large organizations, or even in one's personal life, the decision to wait or act has consequences.  Western culture tends to have a bias toward action while eastern culture seems to have more of a bias toward waiting...and again, both biases have consequences.  For those in leadership positions, especially in larger organizations, deciding to wait or deciding to act has rippling consequences across the institution.  So what is the right answer?  How does one know whether to wait or act quickly?  Here are a few thoughts on what leaders can think about in these situations:

  • attempting to determine what, if any, harm might be done in the interim before acting
  • determining what else is happening in the life of individuals or the institution
  • considering if the situation might change for the better if one waits
  • thinking through all of the steps needed to act properly and having the time to accomplish those steps
  • taking the time to think through the consequences (known and not known) that might result from the action
  • having time to seek enough counsel from trusted friends and advisors
  • considering the message that is sent to others from acting quickly or waiting to act
  • reflecting on what it is about the person making the decision that is leading them to act more or less quickly
Here is the paradox - for each of the above considerations, there are seldom right and wrong answers...they all merely have differing results and consequences.  The leader uses her experience, her knowledge, her wisdom, and her gut to make the decision to wait or act quickly, and then moves forward.  Personally, I never what to be the one who is known for making rash decisions AND I never want to be the one that is known for waiting forever to decide and act.  Embracing and living out that paradox is not only a sign of competent leadership, it is also good and well for the unit or organization that is being led.  Making the decision is only the first step...deciding when and how to act on that decision may be more important that the decision itself.

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