The Speed of Leadership

Myspace, Facebook, and Web 2.0

I used to hear someone constantly repeat this expression of “slowing down to the speed of wisdom.” I’m not sure why I disliked that saying so much, but I did. Maybe it was the way it was said (with a tad–a heaping and overfloweth tad–of self-righteousness), perhaps it just sounds so consultant-speake, and, quite likely, I don’t like slowing down TOO much (though there is, of course, great wisdom and insight that’s generated when you just stop and think; it’s all about balance).

Actually, as I write, I realize it isn’t the latter–it’s the first thing that irritated me. So there’s wisdom in slowing down. But this entry is about speeding up. Not just keeping up, but moving ahead.

There’s a great video on YouTube that speaks so visibly to the speed of technology, and it’s transformative effect on how we interact and connect. It’s not that the takeaway is that you should be on MySpace (though apps similar, like Facebook, are  really powerful connection tools). I think there’s something inherent in this that relates to market leadership that requires a Web 2.0 level of communication, connectivity, and speed.

And it’s not about slapping an iPhone application up for your business, or creating a Facebook page–though those both might be good idea. It’s more systemic than that, a more transformative change and cadence that’s rippled throughout our environment, in a way that some people don’t even realize. This has nothing to do with hard work, but the connectivity and speed at which people can work–together, and apart, and how that can create in you a new level of leadership position. There’s a great quote whose author I can’t remember, but it probably dates back five years ago (pre Facebook evolution)–so it’s more applicable today than ever before.

“It’s no longer the big who eat the small, but the fast who eat the slow.”

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3 Replies to “The Speed of Leadership”

  1. I think all of what you said is true and it’ll be fun to watch how you, and Univera, handle this exponential growth – especially given Bill Lee’s tendency to slow down and do things right. Like you said, you have to balance it all.

    Another interesting example of how transformative technology can be: I currently work of a large tech company. I’ve been working for my new boss for 1 year and so far have seen his face, over video conference only, twice. We live in a completely different time zone (which, I’ll admit is weird). Actually, currently only one person on my team lives in the same state as me, but he lives a few hours away, so I don’t even see him very often. With phones, email, IM, and the occasional video conference we’re able to pull this off. Of course, this also means that I have meetings at 6am and 10pm fairly regularly. 🙂

    As a result of this, I work from home almost every day and many others are just like me. So my company has started selling office buildings across the country because they simply no longer need the space. We are realizing tangible cost savings that only communication technology could provide.

  2. James, fascinating story about your company environment–thanks for sharing. It takes a progressive Company to trust that type of structure, so many are affixed to brick and mortar and time clocks and face time that it makes such a transition difficult. And, certainly, a lot depends upon industry.

    The growth will be interesting, for sure, and there’s such a balance between being able to stay current and progress competitively in a dramatically changing environment–yet also pacing oneself (and that of the organization) for balance, foresight, strategy, execution, and success.

    For example, Toyota figured it out. GM didn’t. Two companies on the surface that were similar (focus on automotive, market dominators, multi-decade history, resources, talent) and resulted in some DRAMATICALLY different results. The speed at the environment, and the organizations ability to a) absorb reality, and b) respond had a huge impact. Though, perhaps most notably, even those examples don’t just have to do with speed but really identifying what the customer really really wants.

    If you have THAT, then you’ve got the keys to the kingdom that will can (CAN) open up a new world of opportunity.

  3. Raz, Toyota and GM are great examples. Of course we need to be careful not to make our heads spin: You need to absorb reality, AND respond, AND identify customer needs AND do it fast enough to stay current AND pace yourself to preserve balance… Gosh, this reminds me of the first time I played football and golf… Ha ha.

    Given these examples, clearly balance is key. What are some things Univera is doing to stay balanced? I’m thinking more structurally and culturally here. Not, “we’re making an iPhone App.” Though, I’d be OK if you responded with, “Actually, we are making an iPhone app to view back office reports, videos, product information. You’ll also be able to sign up new people, change CPs on the spot and make orders while they’re standing there.” Ha ha.

    Again, I appreciate your thoughts. I think the nature of this post demonstrates that you’re at least seeking that balance.

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