[Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Miles Anthony Smith. Miles' mission in life is “To Chart the Course, Pave the Pathway, and Light the Lane for Others to Eclipse My Own Success in Leadership.” He’s the author of the new book Why Leadership Sucks: Fundamentals of Level 5 Leadership and Servant Leadership.]
Stay one step ahead of your people, and you are called a leader. Stay ten steps ahead of your people and you are called a martyr! -Unknown
Allowing ourselves to run too far ahead of our team only leaves them in the dust; they cannot follow what they cannot keep up with. Most visionary, creative leaders have minds that process things quickly and intuitively. If we aren’t careful to slow down a bit and explain the intuitive leaps, our unprepared organizations will go off halfcocked. Without the entire organization rallied to the task, we will muddle through and execute poorly rather than with excellence. This doesn’t mean we have to move at a snail’s pace either; our team members may have to speed up a bit. Just be careful not to be Speedy Gonzales.
If Everything’s a Rush, Then Nothing Is.
If we ask too often for things to be done last minute, we risk giving our team the perception that everything is last minute. At that point, the team will have little motivation to respond to really time-sensitive tasks. Moreover, we risk the team losing confidence in our ability to lead. Have a little respect for your team and ask for things to be rushed infrequently, only when they genuinely need to be expedited. Then you must match your own behavior to your expectations by responding to your team in as rapid a fashion as you expected of them. Don’t delay your approval or revisions; answer your team as quickly as you expected them to get you the initial information. It will build trust by demonstrating that you will hold yourself to the same standard and will respect their time.
Don’t Get Caught Up In the Tyranny of the Supposed Urgent.
Reevaluate your priorities regularly; if you don’t, you will get swept away in the deluge of “urgent” work that floods your desk. Some purportedly pressing stuff actually isn’t, and it is up to us as leaders to discern the difference between the two. Consider limiting the number of tasks you are engaged in and using the extra hours for more productive tasks. I know that at times I get my head down and keep the same routine, when I should stop to reevaluate my schedule and refocus on the areas of greatest importance or influence. We owe it to ourselves and others to sit down at least once a quarter to reevaluate what is truly exigent in our lives and business and prune out the superfluous involvements. Learning how to stop doing things is more important than learning how to start; most of us don’t seem to have a problem with the latter.
The Bottom Line
Not slowing down for our team, thereby leaving them in our leadership dust, is an all too common mistake we leaders make. If we want our leadership to flourish and become much more effective, we must have a measured pace, match our own pace expectations, and not allow every task to become a supposed crisis. This is the least we owe our team for their commitment to the tasks we ask them to complete everyday.