In recent days two major news stories confirmed for me that managing pace is one of the most significant leadership challenges in the years ahead.
Both the Don Imus story and the dismissal of charges against the Duke lacrosse players are complex events with many layers of meaning. I am only writing about one: timing and pacing.
Whether it be due to our 24-hour newscycle or other factors, the rush to judgment seems like a more pervasive and prevalent risk. Slowing down, taking time to gather all the facts, thoughtfully contemplating options, and then making the most informed choice can almost seem suicidal when the drumbeats of bloggers, protesters, pundits, and the public are engaged in a deafening commentary on what you should or should not be doing.
When the Duke story originally broke university administrators were criticized by some as moving too fast and not being supportive enough of the players while simultaneously being condemned by others for perpetuating white privilege and not taking a more principled stand.
With Imus, both MSNBC and particularly CBS have been criticized for taking too long to lower the hammer while also being challenged for "caving in."
While these two examples are current, you don't have to look far back in the calendar to see a myriad of similar examples from all walks of life.
Sure, managing an unfolding scandal has always been a challenge and an entire industry of publicists and crisis managers are always on call to help do just that. But we've gone far beyond the arena of scandal. Now leaders' daily decisions are subject to so much scrutiny and external commentary that managers and leaders at all levels in all organizations are going to have to develop their capacity to set an appropriate pace.
- How long can you wait before having to take major decisive action?
- How quickly can you engage in due diligence and critical thinking before making a decision?
- When is time of the essence and when might time be on your side?
- And if you choose to go more slowly, more deliberately, are you equipped to manage the potential onslaught of criticism for doing just that?
These are just a few of the questions we need to spend more time thinking about or else we will always be subject to the tyranny of the pace that others establish for us.