A Lion
Executive Presence,  Leadership

Be Like a Lion: Enhance Leadership Through Pauses and White Spaces

Carol, a Vice President at a communication company, wanted to up her leadership presence. But she didn’t know how to create that learning space as she felt overwhelmed by her busy schedule. I suggested she try something on a small scale as an experiment. She decided she would try a meeting-free travel day that week. 

To her surprise, Carol found that it was perfectly acceptable to reschedule some meetings that fell during her travel days. She thought she had to be constantly available, like her mentors and bosses modeled for her. After the first experiment, she found other opportunities to create meeting-free white space in her schedule. This change made her feel calmer and think more strategically. All she needed was the time to reflect rather than constantly putting out the daily fires.

Conor, a Senior Director at a global engineering consulting company, was dealing with the challenges of his role. When we started our conversation, he seemed overwhelmed, so I suggested he take a deep breath. After this brief pause, he felt spacious and realized the importance of incorporating such breaks into his daily routine.

When we met again a couple of weeks later, Conor shared that taking planned pauses had transformed his work. It shifted his focus from daily details to more strategic thinking. As a result, he contributed valuable insights during meetings and became more productive overall. In addition, Conor’s newfound awareness of creating “white space” in his schedule led him to delegate tasks to his team, something he had hesitated to do before.

Pauses and white spaces allow room for reflection and strategic thinking. This Harvard Business Review article mentioned:

The habit of reflection can separate extraordinary professionals from mediocre ones. We would go so far as to argue that it’s the foundation that all other soft skills grow from.

This other article, The Power of Pause argues,

…Imagine that the balls — or issues, challenges and opportunities thrown at us on a minute-by-minute basis — are either rubber balls or crystal balls. There are also other team members in the game. If we don’t catch all the rubber balls, they will either bounce or somebody else will catch them for us. If we don’t catch the crystal balls, they will break. The problem is that, the more exhausted, overwhelmed and frustrated we are, the harder it is to distinguish the rubber balls from the crystal balls.

Carol and Conor’s stories reminded me of the lion and a chipmunk metaphor. Lions, as leaders of the jungle, move deliberately and thoughtfully, while chipmunks, a lower-ranked member, react impulsively to every stimulus. To enhance our leadership effectiveness, we must incorporate pauses and white spaces into our schedules, allowing us to observe, connect the dots, and act purposefully – like a lion.

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The featured image is from Pixabay.com

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