The 24-Hour Rule: Leading through the Discipline of Pause

Leader speaking

In his new book The 24-Hour Rule: Leading in a Frenetic World, bestselling author Charles Fred explores a simple yet profound concept that can improve the lives and success of leaders.

Many of the situations and circumstances leaders encounter fall outside their control. They can’t stop financial markets from fluctuating, prevent new competitors from emerging, or technology from continuously evolving. Yet they can control one very important variable in their lives: how they respond and react to other people. When they exercise discipline in this regard, they improve how they live and lead. And when they don’t, they become the source of workplace stress—a mentally crippling force that diminishes the health and performance of entire teams and organizations.

In The 24-Hour Rule, Charles Fred examines the epidemic of workplace stress and leaders’ role in contributing to it. He presents new research conclusions from a five-year study of entrepreneurs. His findings show that “leaders single-handedly determine the stress levels of their organization.” And his conclusions point to the cause: a new mental model that sees success as “getting more done in less time.” He writes, “Unfortunately, when we search for examples of leaders succeeding amid the frenetic activity, we often discover the behaviors and lifestyles of famous billionaires. What we observe from these fortunate individuals is not replicable by mere mortals, yet many of us attempt to emulate them in vain.” In other words, leaders feel compelled to live up to the working habits of Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk, habits that are popularized by media and not an accurate or sustainable reflection of the behaviors needed to succeed.

As a result, many people in leadership roles are motivated to adopt unsustainable behaviors—working harder and longer hours, meanwhile demanding the same from employees. Born out of this frenetic pace is an environment of perpetual stress, one that makes controlling one’s responses and reactions more difficult. Adding to the problem is leaders’ lack of awareness about causing stress. Fred writes, “most leaders are unaware of their infectious behavior . . . In fact, most leaders believe they are setting a tone and an example for high performance.”

The solution? Fred calls for leaders to adopt the discipline of pause—the simple act of taking the time needed to gain control over one’s impulses and respond in the best manner possible. As he presents, pausing can take any number of forms—meditation, exercise, a deep breath, etc. Whether it means taking five seconds or 24 hours, pausing provides leaders the mental room and clarity they need to act intentionally and thoughtfully. Anticipating the objections of his readers, Fred further defines what it means to pause. He writes, “Pause is not a delay but a discipline. It’s not a waste of time, rather it affords us the time to deliberate before we act. . . Most importantly, it does not delay our ambitions or dampen the need to hustle.”

Fred calls the discipline of pause “a forgotten leadership competency.” And while technology is not solely to blame, it does make pausing more difficult while enhancing leaders’ ability to act on impulses. For this reason, the importance of pausing will continue to increase. When leaders are more deliberate in how they respond and react, they improve everything from how they spend their time to their relationships to their organization’s collective success.

You can order The 24-Hour Rule by visiting Amazon. Magnusson-Skor offers a special discount and free shipping for purchases of 10 or more books, which is available here.


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