As the pace of business gets ever faster, leaders must learn to combine speed with effectiveness, say Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, writing for Harvard Business Review.
The authors analysed the 360-degree feedback evaluations of over 50,000 leaders and measured how quickly leaders could:
1) spot problems;
2) respond to them; and
3) make the necessary changes.
They found that the overwhelming majority (95%) of the best leaders – “those rated in the top 10% in leadership effectiveness by their colleagues” – were judged to be “both particularly effective and particularly quick” in reacting to new trends and problems.
Drawing on their research, Zenger and Folkman list five steps to becoming a “fast and effective” leader:
1) Build trust. “Without trust, colleagues resist moving fast (or at all),” say the authors. Long-standing leaders should have already built trust through “strong, positive relationships and demonstrated expertise”.
New leaders can inspire trust by sharing the processes behind their decision making and enlisting the support of trusted members of the team.
2) Clarify your strategy. Make your vision clear to colleagues and they will better understand what you need them to do. The authors explain: “It’s not hard to move fast when everyone is clear about where you’re going and, equally important, where you’re not going.”
3) Be brave. You need to demonstrate your own courage in acting with speed if you want to inspire others to move quickly with you.
4) Surround yourself with experts. Don’t allow personal pride to prevent you from seeking expertise from others, warn the authors. Rather than slowing you down, “accessing world-class expertise allows you to work faster and make better decisions”, they say.
5) Set stretch goals. The authors feel these “reinforce the need for speed” and “encourage people to get on with their work rather than ponder”.
Zenger and Folkman conclude: “Certainly, speed is no substitute for judgment. And, yes, too much speed can leave people feeling rushed and frazzled. But if your company’s energy is lagging, maybe it’s time to consider upping the pace.”