December 14, 2015
Change Your Ways To Lead With Speed

In changing times, leaders have to move fast to stay ahead of the competition. You can’t be a slowly emerging butterfly, gradually changing, to lead and to influence in a rapidly changing environment. You have to be a cheetah, acting on instinct with speed and agility.

Yet there are implications to leading with speed — it’s not just operating the same way faster.

Serial entrepreneur and billionaire Mark Cuban regularly relies on his quick decision-making skills to spur success. He’s said, “You have to build your business faster than anyone else. The ‘sprint’ doesn’t have a finish line. There’s never a point where you can say, ‘We’ve made it.’”

Cuban has the acute ability to trust his intuition before he has all the facts to back up gut feelings. He perceives situations more than he analyzes them.

But this kind of intuition takes time to develop. Leaders who are wired for precision may find quick decision-making a challenge. Before you can trust your instincts, you must understand the implications of leading with speed.

Action Over Analysis

Leading with speed and agility means forgetting perfection. You won’t have all the answers before moving forward; you must be comfortable letting answers emerge as you adjust. Taking action is more important than having everything figured out.

The routine must be handled with precision. Repeated processes can be managed with minimal surprises. As a leader, spend your time anticipating tomorrow. Efficiency in repetition frees you up to manage the unpredictable.

You will also need to rely heavily on others. To be effective in a high-speed environment, it’s essential to have solid talent to depend on, trust, and collaborate with. Many leaders think talking out decisions will slow them down, but discussing ideas helps to reduce bad choices and sparks innovative solutions faster. Surround yourself with talent who can work effectively in a judgment-based environment where critical decisions are made quickly and resolutely. In this kind of environment, relying on processes or policies can often delay those imperative decisions.

The New Style of Leading With Speed

Instincts may not be measurable, but they can be developed and improved. There are several ways to do this.

Know when you know enough.

Don’t aim to have all the answers, but know when you have enough to make a sound decision. This balance keeps you grounded with the right information, but it also prevents you from waiting for the perfect solution. Find that happy medium, and lead with informed intuition. Evolve your views and plans over time.

Practice short-burst planning.

Know long-term outcomes, but use short-term planning to establish progress even when there is much yet to learn. Then make updates based on new information as it comes. This short-term planning connected to longer-term outcomes bridges the present uncertainty to your bigger goals.

Experiment more.

Test a few ideas. Learn from your small-scale experiments and then go big. This approach promotes faster movement and places less pressure on getting everything sorted upfront.

Don’t make mistakes fatal.

When you move faster, you’ll make mistakes and create plans that don’t work. Your team must understand that you will tolerate well-intentioned failures. If your team members believe a mistake is fatal, they will stay on the sidelines. If a move is too risky, it will induce the team to wait for all the answers. Take managed risks, move forward in steps, and adjust quickly.

Leading with speed may be uncomfortable. But the more you practice, the more natural it will become. Work on sharpening your instincts, and soon you’ll be less butterfly and more cheetah just when the situation requires it.

Patti Johnson
Patti Johnson is a career and workplace expert and the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and organizational development consultancy that she founded in 2004. She’s also the author of “MakeWaves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life.” She and her team advise clients, including PepsiCo, Microsoft, 7-Eleven, Accenture, and Frito-Lay, on creating positive change in their leaders and organizations.

Other Articles by Patti Johnson:

Why Smart Leaders Are Buffers And Translators

Team Building And Other Leadership Band-Aids That Don't Work

Avoiding Decision Paralysis In The Face Of Uncertainty

Should You Think Small This Year?

3 Ways Leaders Create Change Resistance