I’ve often observed, as I know you would have too, leadership scenarios in which leaders have instinctively reacted rather than responding intentionally.

Reacting and responding are very different.

Reactions are generally instinctive, reciprocal or in opposition to the situation or person.

Responding takes time. In reality, it is reacting with intentionality. It requires pausing to consider the desired outcome rather than rushing in impulsively.

Of course, not all reactions are bad, and quick reactions are often needed in the life of a leader. However, by and large, and especially in this strained and pressured moment, the greater need and wiser action is to respond rather than react. One of the marks of a leader who is growing is their deliberate choices to respond well.

Following are two examples of leaders who responded intentionally rather than impulsively reacting.

Deborah was a wise and discerning leader who was grounded in her leadership and the uniqueness of her influential role. She wasn’t power-hungry but she had humility, leading by working with and through other people. Her responses were measured, carefully thought out and established in prayer. Judges 4:4 describes her as “The one who is responsible for bringing people back to God”. As the leader, she could have reacted wrongly to Israel turning away from God to worshipping idols which had led to constant oppression. Instead, she was committed to a worshipful relationship with God, staying constant in the challenges and, in the process, raising up other leaders such as Barak.

Before Nehemiah even touched a brick to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, he prayed, mourned and fasted. He then approached the king for permission to go and requested favour for his task. His intentional response to process his emotions, spend time with the Lord, to gain clarity, strategy and leadership for the way ahead meant the wall was rebuilt in record time: 52 days. Even with every distraction thrown at him, he stayed true to his God and true to the goal.

Every leader needs to learn to press pause, pray, and permit Jesus our peacemaker into our soul so that our reactions come from a place of faith, not from a place of fear.

If this resonates with you today, if you know that you are battling internally with some reactions that don’t feel all that good or holy, let me encourage you with these final points

Hit the Pause button
Commit to a deeper level of prayer
Permit Jesus to be the lead in your reactions and responses