Episode 36

Published on:

18th Jan 2021

Thought-filled pauses increase the influence of leaders

Thought-filled pauses increase the influence of leaders

Thoughtful pauses are a first line strategy with soft skill development

In 2018 I had the opportunity to hear Juliet Funt speak on her ideas about White Space. Juliet is the CEO of a company called White Space at Work and she refers to white space as a strategic pause taken between activities - like taking little sips of water.

Juliet shares about the thieves of productivity and how, when we take the things we do well and move them to the extreme, they become unproductive. 

Four thieves were identified: drive, excellence, information and activity.

DRIVE can become hyperdrive

EXCELLENCE in the extreme becomes perfectionism

Continual seeking for INFORMATION evolves into information overload

And extreme ACTIVITY becomes frenzy

How do you avoid the thieves?

When you can’t (external)or won’t (internal) plan what you do at work, including the pace and pressure of your days, you will become increasingly less effective.  

15 years ago Frances Hesselbein, former CEO of the girl scouts and now President and CEO of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute wrote, the first challenge facing leaders “ is a matter of how to be leaders – not how to do leadership”. Frances is now 105 years old.

Dr Eugene Haebaker, in his book, Essential Soft Skills That Transform Leaders and the People They Lead looks at building and maintaining a healthy spiritual, mental, and physical foundation. Rather than white space, he calls this time, Sacred Space. Again, focusing on the idea that leaders will likely fail when they are not grounded in a space that consistently offers planned thoughtfulness.

White space and sacred space are parts of the same continuum. Perhaps they involve different levels of thinking but the bottom line of planning your space is that as leaders, you and I need to determine how we choose to engage in this protected time. 

Pursuit of your own strategy to protect time that allows you to think for yourself prepares you to be ready to act on what you think, to clarify what your position is, to be able to articulate what your focus is and where you want your focus to make a difference. 

Coming out of regularly recurring spaces of planned thoughtfulness, your voice can provide clarity and even calm in an overly busy world.

What about Cyberspace and the profound effect on our use of time. Both good and not good. 

Questions to Ask:

How can a leader optimize their use of cyberspace to protect a space needed for strategic thinking for furthering the foundations of their leadership?

 Can a leader pursue rhythms of work that allow for space to continually affirm who we are and not just what we do?

Who am I being? What do I think? Where is my focus? How am I influencing and adding value to myself and those around me?  

Pause and reflect. I promise you’ll grow as a result of it.

Are you looking to grow in this area. To be more strategic in your thinking. You can reach me at www.healthyleadership.online. As a leadership coach, I’d love to connect and talk about how I can support your growth.


Juliet Funt, CEO, White Space at Work


Frances Hesselbein quoted in Chief Executive, January/February, 1995, 38.


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About the Podcast

The Art of Leadership
The Art of Leadership focuses on soft skills... some of the hardest skills a leader will ever learn.
The Art of Leadership with Dr. Niña Ellison focuses on the soft skills of leadership, their value and the power of their influence. As a leader, if you are interested in moving from success to significance then balancing both hard and soft skills is essential!

Hard skills are demonstrated through technical expertise that results in clearly measured goals being reached. They are vital to the success of any initiative or program. On the other hand, soft skills emphasize the transformation of people. They highlight behavioral changes and making a difference in people’s lives.

This podcast is for leaders who are seeking a fresh perspective into some of the hardest soft skills a leader will ever learn. You can connect with Niña at https://www.ninaellison.com

About your host

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Niña Ellison

In 2019, after years of leading teams varying from international disaster relief and healthcare to the US Corporate world, Niña founded Healthy Leadership to focus on her passion for partnering with leaders in their growth and sustainability. Her own journey into soft skill development has convinced her that while her technical skills helped her get her foot in the door, her soft skills moved the influence of her leadership from success to significance.

As a soft skill specialist Niña takes monthly deep dives in her podcast series, The Art of Leadership, to explore the underlying dimensions of soft skills. She knows that soft skill development is not so much about WHAT but HOW a leader leads.
• From a 10,000 foot view a leader pursuing soft skills asks, “How do I problem solve; How do I manage time and energy?”
• From a 1,000-foot view that same leader, as they dig deeper into soft skills, begins asking questions like, “How do I listen; or How do gain self-control?”
• From Ground Zero the leader recognizes that there are underlying dimensions of soft skills as they ask, “How do I model respect for all; How do I sustain hope; How do I demonstrate appropriate love in the workplace; How do I maintain the right attitude?” How do I lead by serving?

Nina believes that behind every wildly effective and sustainable system and process are leaders and teams who have interwoven soft skills into every phase of their work.