By Anna Lisa Bond

We often hear people use the word pause. It is used in many contexts, having very different meanings. To pause: a temporary stop or rest; a cessation of activity; a break or suspension. Pausing can occur in a moment and it can expand into a longer period of time. What is our current understanding of the action “to pause”? A moment of breath, a break from an environment, a retreat from the norm, an opportunity to reflect? A time of nothingness?

But what, if anything, does pausing have to do with leadership?

This is an invitation to consider what it means to create space for intentional pause as part of a leadership practice. A period of time committed to suspend what we know, our habits and our usual activity. A time to intentionally position oneself in what may seem a state of nothingness, but which is actually a declared space for an alchemy of creativity and novelty to flourish. Pausing invites us to consider what it’s like to be farsighted enough to suspend what we know and do, trusting that in the process, new possibilities of being and acting will emerge.

“What sleep is to the mind and the body, pause is to leadership and innovation.” (Kevin Cashman, author of The Pause Principle)

As leaders, we know how to instruct, advise, inform and inquire. In leadership roles, we are required to respond to the systemic needs of the organization on a moment-to-moment basis. This is what leaders do. We have developed great muscles for asserting drive, control and getting things done. These skills are why leaders are in the positions they are in.

However, great leaders are more than this. They are more than doing and achieving. They are more than the operational skill set required in their roles. Great leaders are transparent and intentional about their own development as professionals and as people. They are aware of the impact that they have on their environments and relationships, and consciously invest in their own vitality. The common element that these people share is that they recognize the value of, and commit to crafting the art of, pausing as part of their practice.

When we choose to integrate the practice of pausing, we invite a presence — a presence that offers the possible gifts of a different perspective, a rejuvenated mind and body, a gentle shiver of recognition, or perhaps a subtle shift in how we sense ourselves. It is difficult to experience what is just beyond our knowing, until we create the conditions for that awareness and learning to be cultivated. Once we begin to develop the art of pausing into our practice, we begin to experience, know and see something different about ourselves. In that very moment, we widen our capacity as leaders and as people. Each of these moments impact the environments and relationships that we are responsible to and for. By becoming the curators of our own collection of pausing strategies, we continue to challenge and revitalize others, simply because of our commitment to widening our own conversation and reflection with ourselves.

What could a honed practice of pausing offer you?


Anna Lisa Bond is Roy Group’s practice lead for Education.