Brian Cavanagh CONSULTING

Leadership Lessons – The Value of Pace

In preparation for a new leadership role, I took a 360 evaluation. The process was pretty revealing. It showed that some of my assumptions about my strengths and weaknesses were off the mark. More importantly, something I thought was a strength was identified as a weakness. Yet without the 360 evaluation, I would have been blissfully unaware of it.

Let me explain. The feedback from the 360 stated that ‘I looked like a man in a hurry’ and such an approach can have a negative impact on others. Initially I felt a bit bruised about the feedback. In previous leadership roles, ’being in a hurry’ and ‘leading from the front’ was something I prided myself on. I felt my impatience for change and my leading from the front approach produced progress and results.

It had served me well and I was reluctant to change. However, this new role involved leading a new board overseeing a large, complex and politically sensitive organisational change process. Add to this combustible mix, contested opinions on the way forward, and pressure to come up with a speedy solution, it got me to question the ‘man in the hurry’ strategy. Whilst such a strategy had worked in developing, it was not be the best approach for major change programmes.

I recognised I had to change my approach. I saw my role to create an environment where board member members – along with other prominent stakeholders had the time and the space to challenge, question, reflect on the fundamental purpose and outcome of the change process. I knew the change process would not be accepted if I pressurised the board into making quick decisions. So, I dropped the man in a hurry approach and opted to concentrate on decision-making quality – more so than quick decision-making.

Rather leading from the front, I lead from the side, adopting a facilitating style to encourage intensive discussion and debate within the board, key stakeholders, and the wider community.

After some testy debates and conversations, the board came to a unanimous agreement on the direction of organisational change. I learned a crucial lesson in leadership – that you don’t always need to be out front setting the pace to be a leader. Rather leadership is about recognising the pace of others, and sometimes working at their pace, rather than imposing your own.

Ultimately, the board ended up getting to where it needed to be. And I lost my ‘man in a hurry’ tag.