As a leader, your greatest power is to do nothing

Superheroes have had their day. In today’s world of exponential complexity, neither Batman nor Superwoman would cut it. To be able to run at lightning speed is nice, but will only get you to the wrong place faster.

Sometimes, you just have to stop. Literally. Just do nothing.

This is hard.

Leaders have a bias for action. You don’t become a leader by doing nothing. By the time you are a leader, doing nothing feels wrong. Stuff is happening. You need to give direction. Stay in control. Do something. Anything.

And yet, doing nothing is one of the most powerful things you can do.

Take fighter pilots. The mere words conjure up images of Top Gun, and heroic flight manoeuvres to outwit the enemy. You’d naturally assume that fighter pilots are men and women of bold action and fast reaction.

But that is not the case. Fighter pilots take great care to plan and prepare. To think. To act with pure intentionality.

Fighter pilots are experts at doing nothing

Up in the air, the first rule of any emergency is to do nothing. To observe. To understand. To override your immediate bias for action. To systematically work your way through the problem. This is what fighter pilots train for.

The reason is simple.

Flying at 500 knots, if you react instantly to an emergency, you die. If you respond intentionally, you live.

It kind of sharpens the mind.

Now think back to your situation as a leader. Do you react to situations, or do you respond? Do you take time to think and reflect, or do you always favour action? Worse, do you let your diary be driven by the actions of others?

According to studies, 97% of leaders regard strategic reflection as important – and yet 96% say they don’t have the time for it.

Just let that sink in for a minute. Leaders don’t have time (or rather, make time) to do what they regard as important. To think. Instead, they spend their time acting and reacting. Being superheroes. If leaders were fighter pilots, 96% would probably die in action.

So the most powerful thing you can do right now is… NOTHING.

Take a step back, reflect, and sit with the situation you are grappling with right now.

What are you observing around you? What are you sensing? What are you feeling? What does it mean? What is the real problem?

And therefore, what is the real solution?

As a coach, I’m an expert at helping you do nothing.

If you don’t have time for that, fair enough and good luck to you. But if you want to be like a fighter pilot – like the 4% of leaders who make time for strategic reflection – then drop me a line.

Just remember, I may not react instantly.

Photo credits: Lion by Ansie Potgieter on Unsplash. Fighter pilot Kristin Wolfe via