Thoughts on Leadership is the brain child of Paul Bridle. This is the place that Paul shares his monthly thoughts.

When to Fold ‘Em

Posted: December 22nd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »


know when to hold 'em

One of the important aspects of leadership is knowing when to stand firm and knowing when to fold. The Kenny Rogers song, The Gambler comes to mind.


“If you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.”

Leaders need to know when an issue is important and worth taking a stand on and when an issue is not worth making a fuss about. We all know a person that always has something to say on every issue. The problem is, people switch off when they speak because “it is him again!”.

Many times I have watched managers in an organization tackle issues as though it is something that needs to be won. They approach it like a contest they need to win or like they need to exert their authority. Every issue is seen as a challenge that they need to overcome and dominate. The mindset goes something like this:

“I’d better get control of this quickly before it gets out of hand. It’s amazing how they simply can’t get things done without my guidance.” Or “What a mess, I’d better deal with this quickly and show them how it should be done” and even worse, “I know how to solve this. I will tell them what to do and then move on.”

Approaches of this nature are ‘managing the situation’. It is only leadership when they are rarely used and at times when it is vitally important. It is not the ‘management’ approach a real leader uses. A leader weighs up the situation and doesn’t always speak first. Standing back often allows a leader to see who can rise to the situation and also about how people think or approach issues.

Once the discussion is under way, the leader will give input at the right time. As the discussion moves along the leader will evaluate the situation and decide the best way to get things done. In some cases they will push a little, in other cases they will push hard and in some cases they will go with the flow. The leader looks beyond the immediate issue and reflects on the longer term implications.

Doing this enables them to make a more strategic decision. For example, the leader may decide that what is being suggested isn’t the best thing to do now but equally it is not worth forcing a change of decision. It is far better to let the decision go because down the line is a more important decision that needs to be dealt with. It will be at that time that the leader will need to be more forceful.

So it is about knowing “when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em and when to walk away.”

How good are you at developing your instincts in this area? This is a skill that needs to be developed. We can very quickly develop the habit of reacting the same way every time and starting to lose the influence and ability to lead effectively.

So this month I am asking you to consider:

Before you dive in and offer suggestions, make comments, give direction or tell people what you think, do you stop and consider whether your input is needed first?

Do you weigh up in your mind how important it is for you to be contributing? Do you consider if this needs your comment or input? Do you encourage others to speak up first? Do you listen to what others say and consider the merit of their comments?

Most of all, do you have a mechanism to weigh up the importance of the subject being discussed to decide how quickly you should contribute or whether you should step back?

Kenny Rogers also ended his song with these timely words:

“You never count your money when you’re sittin at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealins done.”

If it does not go the way you wanted, don’t do a post mortem in front of people, walk away and consider what went wrong and what you have learnt from it. Equally, don’t gloat when you have got your way, it is time to commend others for their input.

Have a great month and keep the comments and suggestions coming (email: .

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A Seasonal Message

Thank you for your friendship and support in 2008 and we wish you a wonderful Festive Season as this year comes to an end.

In 2008 we have been thinking of ways to bring you things that can help you and your business in the most cost effective and beneficial manner.  With this in mind you will see the launch of several new things.  First of all the monthly Thoughts on Leadership will be moved to its own site (this one) and you will be asked to register there to get all that we will be bringing through that free channel.  More news on that soon.

We will launch the new Be Inspired series of case studies that we have filmed in 2008.  These are case studies of effective organizations and what they are doing that makes them so compelling.  It is the type of thing you can put in the DVD player or on your computer and show your team and then use it to discuss how you can improve what you are doing.

Later in 2009 we will launch the new Leadership program that will be the most innovative approach to leadership development of its kind.  The content will be based on my ongoing research and will make use of technology to provide something that caters for your people’s style of learning as well as their time.  It will be like a jigsaw because you will be able to take the pieces and make your own picture to suit the leadership development needed in your organization.  Most of all, you will be able to deliver it for yourself in-house if you have those facilities available.  It is exciting and we will tell you more as it becomes available.

So we look forward to serving you in more ways in 2009 and thank you for your friendship and continued support.  I hope that the challenges we all face in 2009 help us improve our offerings and make us better than we are today.     

Best wishes from Paul Bridle and the wonderful team at Bridle International

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