Finding the Space to React

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Urgent issues and changing priorities – these are the daily experiences of leadership.

That’s why this insight from Viktor Frankl, offered by David Noble and Carol Kauffman in their book “Real Time Leadership,” is valuable:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

This space between a stimulus and a response provides the time for leaders to choose the best way forward. In such situations, the impulse to response with urgency can cause leaders to react instinctively, like an involuntary reflex. But this impulse can be resisted by realizing that there is time to gain clarity about the circumstances, to assess what’s needed, and to plan next steps.

The authors propose 5 steps to create this space between stimulus and response, helping leaders focus on the situation and manage emotions:

  1. Be calm, to better manage your response to the threat;
  2. Be clear, about your current challenges and highest priorities – external (goals/others’ expectations), internal (your values/mindset), and interpersonal (relationships/social intelligence) — to see things for what they are;
  3. Be curious, taking time to gather information that will enable the generation of alternative responses and thoughtful decisions;
  4. Be compassionate, empathizing with others to encourage their suggestions, maximize the number of optional responses, and discover what they need to move forward;
  5. Be courageous, challenging existing assumptions, precedents, and perceptions of reality, speaking truth to power when necessary.

How might this process improve your response to the next urgent challenge?

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