Discover more from Admired Leadership Field Notes
Leaders Who Hedge Before Admitting the Answer Is No
Leaders are just like everyone else. They like it best when others accept their decisions and favor their answers.
They are not immune to the feelings of inadequacy when others react negatively to what they say or do. So, too often, when they anticipate a strong reaction to a decision, they offer a temporary hedge to ease the blow. They hesitate to say “No” or to communicate their decision. They actually suggest they have not reached a final answer.
The hesitation to tell others that a decision has been made that they won’t favor is natural. It gives people a glimmer of hope and postpones their distaste. The words and expressions leaders use are all too familiar: “We’ll see.” “Nothing final yet.” “I still haven’t settled on a decision.” “Still thinking that through.” “Maybe.” Leaders know the decision has been made but they are reluctant to say so. Who wouldn’t be?
Dodging the disappointment of others can be a powerful motivator to engage in these types of small falsehoods. Those who hedge convince themselves that the door to any decision remains partially open until it is finalized and executed. Therefore, it is not untrue to hesitate or hedge temporarily. Everyone does this on occasion. But, if and when it becomes a habit, a leader’s credibility is at stake.
When “We’ll see…” becomes the default as a means to avoid reaction, those on the receiving end soon frontload their disappointment. They come to see the leader as disingenuous and untrustworthy. This carries over to other issues and exchanges.
Once it’s known a leader can’t be straight with others, everything they do becomes suspect. The seemingly inconsequential habit of hesitating or hedging, rather than saying “No” or offering a decision, can derail long-term trust.
Leaders with this habit are rarely mindful they even do it. They become so used to hedging that it becomes a part of their communication style. While it isn’t lost on others who see the pattern, leaders can become blind to their own habits. As with similar routines, making a change first requires acknowledging the problem.
Ask yourself how often you use the expressions above or offer similar words that postpone directly communicating a decision that has already been made. The likelihood is that you don’t have a serious problem and can do better just by recognizing the dysfunction created when you do this.
For those who hear themselves hedge and hesitate far too frequently, now is the time to set a different course. It is far better to experience an unfavorable reaction to a decision than it is to undermine trust and credibility in important relationships.