Speed as a Leadership Skill

Managing by speed does not mean ordering everybody to move faster. It means driving out the complaceny that cripples the teams into inertia. 

There are many mantras that describe management styles like ‘’Manage by fear’’, ‘’manage by crisis’’, ‘’manage by wandering around’’, etc. Each of these different approaches have their believers and each of them can prove to be more effective at different times. I have always been a believer of careful usage of ‘’manage by speed’’ approach. 

I want to approach ‘’managing by speed’’ from an angle of avoiding complaceny in today’s corporate world. We currently live in a world where change is continous. Not episodic like in a Netflix series. In this world, ‘‘sense of urgency’’ is a capability, not only an attitude and it is the exact cure of ‘’complaceny’’. 

If you feel that your team is mostly discussing internal matters and external priorities like what’s going on in markets, emerging trends, etc hardly get their place in the agenda; if your team members are spending long hours developing power point presentations and if discussion of important issues get delayed due to busy agendas, then complacency has taken over. 

But how can we improve sense of urgency in an organisation? It wont be happening by asking the team to act faster. This way you will only increase the stress level in your team. In his book, ‘A sense of Urgency’’, John P. Kotter is listing a few tactics to inject sense of urgency in the organisation like: 

1. Bring the outside in 

Avoid the blindness of ‘’we know best” by bringing the outside in through data, people, videos, sounds, objects, etc 

 2. Behave with urgency every day 

Lead by example. Shouting ‘’faster’’ in the corridors will create stress not urgency. The right attitude is ‘’Urgent Patience’’ which means acting each day with a sense of urgency but having a realistic view of time. It means acting now for a result that will realize 5 years later. 

 3. Find opportunity in crises 

Crisis can be used to create true urgency 

 4. Deal with the Naysayers 

Never ignore the NoNos in the organization. Address those who are always working hard to hinder change either by distracting these distracters or by coaching them out of the organization or immobilizing them with social pressures. 

Regarded by many as the authority on leadership and change, John P. Kotter is a best-selling author, award winning business and management thought leader, business entrepreneur and Harvard Professor. Below is a link that introduces Kotter and his work. 

In short, the learning I noted down in my 5th year as a corporate citizen was: 

‘’ A true sense of urgency is driven by a deep determination to win and not by fear of losing’’ 

John P. Kotter