Authors note: For purposes of anonymity, and to protect my own ass, the people in the article are referred to as “the leader” or simply “they/them.” In addition I paraphrase throughout and thus chose to not use quotation marks to indicate conversation. The wording may not be exact, but it is close to what was actually said. All in all it makes for an awkward read in places and I apologize for that, but could not think of a better solution.
On a recent business trip I had the very good fortune to spend a large chunk of time with a highly distinguished senior leader in the company that is my current employer. On the last day of our trip as we drove back to airport heading home the recent promotion of a colleague became the topic of conversation. This leader remarked on how much of a driver this person was, how aggressive they were in getting things done, how action oriented they were. Indeed, I knew the person well and completely agreed. They were the type that if a task could be completed in a second, they would want it done in a nanosecond, and figure out the best way to make that happen. It was clear the leader felt these were all positive traits and certainly for the role this person was in currently they were. I thought the discussion had ended, but after a brief pause the leader continued saying that in this persons new role those traits would still be useful, but that it would be interesting to see if this person could temper them. The new role would be as a manager over several other senior leaders many of whom had very different styles and would not react well to the very aggressive posture often taken by their soon to be boss. One of the key’s to effective leadership at the senior levels is patience the leader went on to say. Acting is easy, action is easy, anybody can do it if they are motivated and have the desire, but knowing when not to act, that’s the trick. It requires wisdom and judgement to know when to act but it requires even more of both to instead sit back and simply watch events unfold. What it requires is patience, great patience. As I nodded in agreement the leader continued. Many times I am asked to intervene in some situation, weigh in on some email, or make some decision on something. Of course when it is required I do, but I think very carefully each time before doing anything. Don’t forget that in this company, and I think it is true in many, but probably not all companies, once you act on something, you own it. How much do you really want to own? How much can you handle? How much can you afford?