Reaction vs Response

Image source: quapan

I mentioned in my last post that most business or leadership plans rarely go according to plan, but effective leadership is needed to deal with both foreseeable and unforeseeable disruptions.  Unplanned disruptions cause stress and the choices a leader makes when his best laid plans go astray define his leadership. Does he have a plan B when plan A fails?

Leadership choices in moments of crises usually fall in two categories. Does the leader respond or react to the stress? The difference between response and reaction is control. Reaction is automatic while response is considered. A leader reacting to stress is controlled by his emotions which are usually of the negative kind, while the one responding is controlled by his rational and thoughtful mind/self. Emotions are powerful behavioural drivers but if allowed unsupervised control, they can run riot. It is easy when things are not going a leader’s way to assume the role of a victim and look out for scapegoats for failed plans.

Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, talks about the window and mirror principle. Poor leaders during crises react by looking out of the window for people other than themselves to blame for the failure of their well laid plans. Good leaders look at the mirror and take responsibility for the failure of their plans because they realise the buck ends with the leader. Hilter was a leader who looked for scapegoats when his war plans started to fall apart during the final years of World War 2 but when Germany was winning, he claimed all the glory as the tactical genius.

The serenity prayer believed to have been authored by the theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, is a perfect mantra for the control/crisis dilemma that leaders confront. This prayer popularized by the Alcoholics Anonymous states that:

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

5 Comments

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5 Responses to Reaction vs Response

  1. Akinzo

    Hey Ola, Nice Piece…
    Accepting Responsiblity in the midst of failed plans is a quality of good leadership. – True but Tough!

  2. Skybaba

    Nice one…..

  3. Ogechi

    Oooo….another piece that’s too close for me to respond. I definitely like the truths illustrated, however, and I agree with them… if only everyone else could take up THEIR own cross!

    Ok, ok, so ya…the only other thing I want to challenge is that plan A may not fail, so plan B will be irrelevant. As such, I choose to say a leader should consider a plan B… IF plan A fails, and while at it, accept proper responsibility so a plan C won’t be required…

    I told you this was too close to home… well done, sir, good stuff.

  4. Pingback: The Power of Leadership Courage |

  5. Oladayo

    Some cartoon you have there! The guy standing has got something invisible to the sinking guy and t me that is keeping standing or something is dragging the sinking guy down …. Plans are not hit and miss and when they fail abandoning it is not enough and then move to plan B!
    A purpose to succeed could have hitches but delays, denials and some road blocks on that path should not preclude from abandoning ship!

    Check out your timeline for your targets, reassess and reorganise your plans to achieve that same purpose.

    You may need to reset, and push for a more realistic timeline . In previous articles with changes in plans and numerous failures the timeline changed.

    Be courageous and be strong!

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