There are times when a leader needs to take immediate & decisive action. For example: resolving service interruptions to key transportation infrastructure resulting from illegal blockades. However, short of a national threat, these times are few and far between.

Most often, the best move is to pause.

I recently witnessed a great example of a leadership pause. To set the scene, imagine you are the president of a minor sports organization. Your club is preparing for a provincial competition and your access to a training facility is cut short due to a series of preventable service interruptions. Your head coach, athletes and parents are very upset. What do you do?

This is the situation I found myself in. After responding to the immediate challenge by overcoming the obstacles of access to and condition of the facility, I paused to consider my next move. I quickly discounted the option of venting frustration over social media, this is rarely a good move. Instead, I opted to communicate the facts of the situation to the head of the non-profit organization responsible for the facility. I didn’t pause for quite long enough as subjectivity and a tone of victimhood entered into the last line of my text.

Within 10 seconds of hitting the send button I could see the text bubble pop up. I waited with bated breath for the response. The text bubble then disappeared!!! A few seconds later the text bubble popped up again. I was fraught with anticipation to see the response to my irrefutable evidence of transgression. To my dismay the text bubble disappeared again. It was a good hour before I got a response.

I was out paused!

The response was very professional. It acknowledged the facts of the situation and included a tone of empathy. It also set the record straight and brought to light several factors that were unknown to me. Had I paused longer to consider possible explanations, or simply left out the emotionally charged victim tone of the text, I would have spared myself some embarrassment.

So what gets in the way of a leaders’ ability to pause?

In a word … Anxiety.

Not only does a leader need to manage their own anxiety, but also the anxiety of the system.

What factors does a leader need to consider to accomplish this?

I’m going to pause and bring my best thinking to this question. See you next month. If you have any thoughts I would love to hear them, click here.