Four Responses Leaders Choose On A Daily Basis

Science has proven that the most effective responses to behavior, those that will make the most impact, are immediate and certain.

The opposite of that is true as well – people are confused by responses that are delayed and uncertain.

If you serve in some type of leadership capacity there are people who are waiting, watching, and wanting to hear your response.

Every day.

As a leader is confronted by the situations, the crisis, and the performances that surround him or her, there are typically four responses he or she can make…

1. A Negative Response.
This is the type of response everyone tries to avoid. No one likes to receive a reprimand (even if they deserve it). The leader must acknowledge the truth of the situation. And the truth may need to include consequences, punishments, and an acknowledgement of poor performance. A leader must always offer a negative response for the right reason and with the right motive. Avoiding negative responses because of fear or discomfort can actually lead to greater consequences further down the road.

2. A Positive Response.
Everyone likes a positive response. People like to receive them; leaders like to offer them. Effective leaders quickly acknowledge the positive performance of someone with recognition or reward. Encouraging certain behaviors in others is better accomplished through positive reinforcement than negative, especially when it occurs in a way that is “immediate and certain.”

3. An Observation.
An observation may be positive or negative. In the words of Max DePree, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” (This point is supported by the first part of the quote, but the last part is too good to leave out.) A leader may serve in the capacity of coach or mentor. He or she provides people with another perspective. There may be a performance or system or situation that needs attention. The primary goal in offering an observation is improvement.

4. No Response.
Unfortunately, this is often the most common of responses leaders give their people. When there is no response from the leader, it results in guessing. People spend their time trying to guess how the leader will feel or respond to a situation. Guessing leads to “delays and uncertainty.” Positive behaviors may decrease because they don’t receive the positive response needed to reinforce them. Negative behaviors may increase, or at the very least go unchanged, because they are not confronted. While there may be specific situations where a leader must remain silent, I believe that 99% of the time a leader needs to offer some type of response.

Think about your own leadership role. What types of responses are necessary from you today?
Whom do you need to respond to immediately?
What observations have you made that need to be shared?
Why might you be tempted to remain silent when those around you need to hear from you?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

4 thoughts on “Four Responses Leaders Choose On A Daily Basis

  1. Great post for anyone in a leadership position. I write books about group development and teambuilding, and so often our content focuses on the importance of constant communication with the team. So simple, yet so often overlooked!

    • Hi Ann:
      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate you stopping by and affirming these concepts within your field of expertise. I agree…it’s so simple.

  2. Tim – Great post!

    Really appreciate the immediate and certain vs. delayed and uncertain comparison. Great food for thought in my own communication style.

    Seems like most managers only go between No Response and Negative Response. Even worse, is some who combines the two (if that is possible). It drives me crazy for someone to have a negative approach, but they give little insight into their thinking or how they believe the right approach is.

    As a leader, I do find I occasionally go the “No Response” route. If I do, I let folks know that I want to hear what others have to say before I weigh-in. Typically, those will be in situations where I see it as a coaching opportunity or in cases of “group think.”

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic!! Great stuff!

    • Thanks Chuck. Yes, there is the occasional need for silence. But you’re right on the money…the leader explains or defines what the silence means (in this case–allowing others to speak up first).

      Really appreciate the comment!

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