While often quick to act, on the evening of June 20, President Donald Trump grappled with whether or not to attack Iran.
That same day an unmanned U.S. drone was shot down by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most vital shipping routes. The attack urged the president to retaliate, in what has been an already escalating conflict among Washington and Tehran. Though many, including Trump, questioned that the shootdown may very well have been a mistake, what appeared to be an attack provoked the president to quickly counter.
The following day, Trump was quoted saying the military was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate against the three sites that took part in the downing of the American drone. While the Air Force was ready to carry out air strikes to attack Iran overnight, the president was prompted to pause due to what would be too high of a risk. The attack would have a potential death toll of 150.
As leaders there are often more moments when we need to learn to step back, to reevaluate our action plan or simply do nothing. Here are five steps to know when it is time to back off:
- Pause. Just stop for a moment. Don’t rush to a decision. There are times in life where emergencies require urgency, but before you determine this is such a moment, consider your options. Some moments call for immediate action and others call for an immediate pause. Take note of which moment this is.
- Pay attention to those who have gone before you. Just this week, Politico reported it was Jack Keane’s appearance on Fox News, the evening of June 20, that caused Trump to reconsider. The four-star Army general stated, “mistakes happen,” referring to an attack ordered by former President Ronald Reagan in 1988 on an Iranian airliner which in turn cost the lives of 290 people. Reagan owned up to this horrible mistake, but it was a costly one none the less.
- Listen closely to your advisors. As the president reportedly took a moment to hear out General Keane, listening to mentors and experts in your area of expertise is vital for your leadership in any area of life. (In fact, mentorship is vital for life!) Particularly in moments of decisions under pressure, never be too proud or rash to hear the views of those who may know better than you.
- Carefully calculate why you are backing down. Gather your information. Head to your advisors and mentors — if you have ample time, mull over it — and critically plan out why you are backing off. Choosing to do nothing may feel like an inactive choice, but it can have more of a paramount effect than doing something.
- In the aftermath, consider your critics with a grain of salt. There will always be critics: when you jump to a decision or pause, when you take action, or when the most difficult action is being still. But if you know you have made the best decision, stick to your guns.
Between news reports and members of Congress, no doubt this rare moment where Trump decided not to act drew many critics.
In leadership, not everyone will understand or agree with every decision you make. Yet, the president’s restraint in reacting stood as a moment in his leadership, one which every leader can learn from. When it was all a definite go and then suddenly it wasn’t, it brings to light the significant moment when choosing not to act is the most courageous choice.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the President of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and is the author of “Framework Leadership.” A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the president of one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. As president, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership at the university and is also a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern’s president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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