Often leaders are caught off guard. Having not anticipated what has just happened, having failed to appreciate the magnitude of an event or the magnitude of a reaction they are caught in the headlights but do not want to appear as if they are blinded by the glare. When caught off guard one reaction is to leap, charge full steam ahead to react with the passion impulse and the drama of the moment. Another reaction is to do nothing and let the event pass you by hoping that there will be no after effect. The third reaction is the measured response.
The measured response implies that the leader recognizes the occurrence of an event but is not sure about its implication or how to react. A measured response is an effort to buy time to give a chance to see and hopefully find out how the wind is blowing. While more often than not a measured response is the most prudent course of action a measured response can become an inertia trap when leaders fail to convert the measured response into directed action.
There comes a moment when a measured response must be converted into a specific direction—a specific stance. That does not mean that one overreacts, but it does mean that the measured response must be put in the context of a vision, a purpose a commitment. A challenge for leaders is to know when the time for a measured response as a quick fix has passed. So whether in business or in government the hard challenges for proactive leaders caught by unanticipated events is to know when the time has come to move beyond the measured response and convert it into purposeful action.
Five moments when you may want to consider moving beyond a measured response:
- When the measured response speaks to yesterday’s events.
- When the measured response is no longer seen as action.
- When the measured response is seen a floundering.
- When the measured response is inconsistent with your vision.
- When your constituents have passed you by.