The Backstory – Speed Leadership

Speed LeadershipThis is the backstory to the book Speed Leadership: A New Way to Lead for Rapidly Changing Times.

The basic idea expressed in this book reflects a frustration that most, if not all of us have had to endure. Namely, the boss tells us how important leadership is to the success of the organization, yet the boss is a very poor leader. Leaders also say that processes must be improved, especially your processes, and imply that there is nothing about the boss’s work processes that need to be improved. The double standard is both obvious and disrespectful of people.

Around 2012, I began to think about leadership in terms of processes rather than how leadership is normally thought of — as behaviors. That, in turn, allowed me to ask a simple question: “When I worked as a leader in industry, what processes was I engaged in on a daily basis?” I identified 15 leadership process that consume the majority of leaders’ time. Then it suddenly became clear to me: Now that I understood leadership as processes, I could identify the specific errors that occur in each one of the 15 processes. I quickly identified more than 150 errors, about 12 per leadership process. When examined more closely, there are more than 500 errors that leaders can make, day in and day out.

If I know the errors leader make, then I can engage in productive problem-solving and create practical countermeasures such as visuals, standard work, and standard work combination sheets to reduce or eliminate the errors. I can now do something that one could never do before: I can improve leadership in a tangible, specific, and scientific way, rather than the usual behavioral or leadership competency approaches. Speed Leadership is a true breakthrough because it transforms leadership from art to science!

The many leadership process errors that leaders make distract employees. The errors take employees eyes off the challenges that the business faces and what their customers want. The distractions cause employees to be less motivated to identify problems, understand their cause, and apply practical countermeasures. In other words, bosses that make lot of mistakes in their 15 leadership processes do not set an example for improvement and inadvertently undercut employees’ interest and enthusiasm for improvement. Instead, employees stay narrowly focused on their task, nose to the grindstone, with just enough appearance of teamwork to get by.

Think about it. Leaders – dozens, hundreds, or perhaps thousands in an organization – each leader making numerous leadership errors every day. Employees are frustrated with their leaders because of all the basic errors that they make, and leaders are frustrated that employees lack motivation, creativity, and are poor at teamwork. Cause-and-effect is unclear to each party. How can such a situation continue?

What do followers want? Do they want lousy, mistake prone leadership, or great, error-free leadership? Or do they want great, error-free leadership, not only so they can focus on their work, and be more effective team members, but because it informs them that their leaders respect them. Clearly they want the latter which, in turn, unlocks employee enthusiasm, creativity, and innovation.

Leadership is a service provided to followers. An error-prone service (or poor-quality product) is not what employees (or customers) want. But, about 80 percent of leaders’ service ranges from awful to mediocre. Only about 20% of leaders’ service is considered good to great by employees. Why? Because the good-to-great leaders make fewer errors than the awful-to-mediocre leaders.

My recognition of leadership as processes has been an eye-opening experience from which you can learn great things. Speed Leadership dives into all of the details of the leadership processes, the many errors leaders make, and the practical methods that can be applied to correct leadership process errors. You will be amazed by what you read and what you learn. It is a new beginning to the practice of Lean leadership.

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