November 2, 2020
(Article first appeared on Harvard Business Review.)
It’s obvious that business is moving faster and faster and that to keep up, leaders at all levels need to know how to pick up the pace.
That’s easy to say. But is it so? Is there a correlation between speed and perceived leadership effectiveness?
In a word, “yes.”
We recently analyzed 360 feedback evaluations on more than 50,000 leaders to assess the impact of speed on their colleagues’ impressions of each executive’s overall leadership effectiveness. For this purpose, we created a “speed index” that measured speed in three simple ways: how well a leader can spot problems or trends early, can respond to problems quickly, and can swiftly make needed changes. (If you would like to evaluate your own pace and see how you compare, take our Pace Assessment by clicking here.)
We then looked to see how high scores on the speed index correlated to overall leadership effectiveness ratings by focusing on the exceptional leaders in the pool (those rated in the top 10% in leadership effectiveness by their colleagues).
What we found was that of these 5,711 top leaders, 2% were judged particularly fast but not exceptionally effective (that’s about 114 of them); 3% (some 170) were judged to be highly effective (that is, people trusted them to do the right thing) but not particularly fast. And fully 95% (that’s more than 5,400 of them) were judged both particularly effective and particularly quick. That is, being good is only marginally better than being quick, but the fact is both are necessary, and neither alone is sufficient, to be perceived as an exceptional leader today.
What makes a leader both fast and good? We analyzed our 360-degree feedback data from more than 700,000 colleagues to see what set fast-and-effective leaders apart from those who don’t move fast enough, or who race quickly and stumble. Here are the top five factors, listed in descending order.
It’s interesting how often our pace affects our attitude. Let’s face it — slow is often boring. Think about people you have worked with who keep things going at a fast clip versus those who move ponderously as they ensure that everything is completed. 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.
-Joe Folkman & Jack Zenger
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