The Power of Stubborn Inaction
The bias toward action shared by most successful decision-makers can also be a liability. Moving too quickly can be as detrimental as moving too slowly, although the latter is more painful to watch. Organizations need answers to their most pressing problems, and the best leaders deliver. Good leaders are decisive, we rightly learn. In fact, leaders commonly regret inaction more than action, hence the bias.
On occasion, however, an issue is layered by complexity and steeped in controversy. Choosing between "right and right" or "wrong and wrong" is more common than we like to admit. In such cases, inaction can prevent leaders from rushing in before an issue has matured and presented all of its wrinkles. By engaging in what Teddy Roosevelt liked to call “stubborn inaction,” leaders can buy time for more evidence to emerge and then gauge the best course of action moving forward.
A tenacious unwillingness to yield is a quality that the best leaders marry with the tendency to act and be decisive. When matters appear overly complex or involve choices with inherent conflicts, then inaction is the best decision for the short term. Not deciding is deciding, and the best leaders do it deliberately and strategically at times. Learn to stand down, at times, to stand up later.