Common-sense Leadership: Respond not react...

A big benefit to teaching leadership and communication workshops to adult professionals is continuous learning: every time I teach a class, new revelations come into focus.

One such “aha” moment (where one realizes something that may not have been obvious before) is that Leadership is really about learning to Respond to a situation or stimulus instead of automatically Reacting.  Why is this important?  Responding is the thought intensive process of actively listening, pausing, and then gathering ones “thoughts” before speaking.  Gathering of one’s thoughts involves the neocortex (center) of the brain whereby we override the reptilian (instinctual) brain and the limbic (emotion-induced) brain, and hopefully create a response less prone to immediate and autonomous reactions (based on instinct or emotion).

Considering how eastern cultures (such as Japan) seem to habitually pause before asking questions at a conference or before coming to an agreement gave me “pause” to reflect on how this practice conveys power and respect – and is one often used by practised politicians at press conferences.  This results in less “eating one’s premature words” and less damage control as opposed to when one speaks too hastily or without due thought.

This is a common-sense tip on how to practice better leadership in your own workplace no matter your position:  remember and practice active listening (if you are thinking of what you are going to say – you are not listening!), pausing, gathering your thoughts (and perhaps even saying “please give me 15 seconds to gather my thoughts”) and then thoughtfully responding.

Food for thought – what do you think?  Could this be helpful in your workplace?


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Comments (10)

  1. Hi Carol,

    I agree with you that pausing for gathering thoughts before asking questions ( or even replying to answers to questions) really helps in giving thoughtful reply with lesser chances of rephrash our sentences to make it clear.

    This small pause helps us to rearrange our thoughts, and then come to conclusion in better way.


    • Yatender,

      I like your statement “come to conclusion in a better way” – what a great way to put it. I think too often we react and don’t realize that such reaction is an instinctual thing and we neglect to appreciate the power of coming to a conclusion period.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  2. Your analogy to eastern culture is so accurate. It is common for managers in the western culture to make snap statements. Without thinking of the subconcious (sic) thought as to the affect upon its receipt. It is difficult to take the human factor out of the conversation. The interpersonal nature of the damage can have unintentional affects upon the project. Unlike ergonomic training, that affect can cause conflicts without intent.

    • Hutch,

      Thank you for your comments – I agree that we in the “West” can often learn from others including Eastern cultures that are fast emerging as the New Knowledge cultures. Thank you for reading!


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