Leadership Lesson #3: Sometimes Faster is Safer

leadership lesson 3

Leadership Lesson #3: Sometimes Faster is Safer

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Category : leadership

When you think of doing something safely, images of slow, methodical, calculated action typically surface.

Safety came in a different form for me on parts of my hike the Pass Mountain Trail on Usery Mountain.

As I ascended the mountain, it was clear where the sporadic rains had washed away the hiking trail. In some such narrow parts of the trail, the ground crumbled beneath my feet making a hasty decent down the back side of the mountain feel like a near certainty.

In those places, safety came as speed. Faster was safer, contrary to our typical notions of safety.

It’s not so different at work.

You might be racing to be first to market with a new product or service, where safety comes in market share.

You might be racing to find a new job when something goes terribly awry with your current organization.

You might be racing to leave a confrontational meeting or a threatening encounter with a coworker to put a safe distance between you and your colleague.

Speed can make all the difference between feeling like we are in danger and feeling safe.

Our sympathetic nervous system (the fancy name for our fight or flight response) governs our desire to ditch a situation and look for higher ground (or lower ground when on a mountain!). As part of the autonomic nervous system, our fight or flight response is largely automatic.

It’s in our DNA to want to stay safe.

Our bodies and minds have one overarching goal, whether in the board room or on the mountain: survival.

Only through conditioning the mind and the body to be comfortable with discomfort, to consciously bring about a calm state of being, can we face dangerous situations constructively.

When we have a handle on our discomfort and can achieve calmness in the throes of discomfort, we can use that discomfort as an important guiding force in our lives, rather than having it rule our lives.

Leaders need to have self-knowledge and maturity to assess situations quickly and accurately and determine whether the best course ahead is slow, methodical action or rapid, swift action.  Strong leaders can still their fears and quiet their internal dialogue. From that place of stillness, they can see not only market conditions, employee engagement and confrontational colleagues, they can also see beyond market conditions, employee engagement and confrontational colleagues.

And it will become clear to them whether to speed up or slow down.

Summoning the calm that comes from years of yoga, meditation and other mind-body practices, I was able to assess the situation as the ground crumbled beneath me.

On that part of the mountain, faster was definitely safer.


Catch the full series of blog posts of my Lessons on Leadership from the Side of a Mountain.

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