There is an African Proverb that says:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”
It’s the paradox we face as leaders right now. We are forced to move fast because the world is moving fast. We are also forced to believe we must involve everyone. Yes, we want to go fast, and yes, we want to go far!
Typically, that turns into something like this. Boss lady calls a meeting of the team. Everyone jumps on the Zoom call and the lady boss says, “Hey, we need to make some changes” based on some market/industry/tech change. “So, we are going to use this time to brainstorm and make some decisions on what we should do.” We’ve all been in these meetings.
The other way this can go is, no meeting, Boss lady brings in a few confidants on the team, gathers some information, and then she just makes some decisions. Good or bad, she’s the boss, and she’s paid to make these decisions. A little old school, we are told this isn’t really how it should be done anymore.
The reality is, both actually work, differently. One is fast, one will go far, and we need both.
As a leader, sometimes the best course of action is to just make the call if there is a need to move fast. Look, we have a new product launch that got moved up and we need to be fully staffed in four months. I’m pulling in a few, or one, people who can handle this item and I’m getting out of their way. Go make this happen!
We understand, as leaders, this might piss some folks off. “Well, no one asked my opinion on this!” Yes, you are correct, and by your reaction, I can see I made the right decision by not pulling you in, we desperately needed to move fast! I wasn’t looking for input, I was looking for fast results.
Then, we have times when what we are trying to do will have a long-term impact on our organization. A bunch of moving pieces, multiple stakeholders. Moving quickly, while desirable, might not be the best course of action. We need to hear folks, and folks need to be heard. We want to go ‘far’ with this project.
My leadership comfort zone has always been to go fast. If you’re fast, you can course-correct with the extra time. If you go slow, my belief was, the decision will most likely be made for you. As a leader, were you hired to make decisions, or have decisions happen to you? Now, this isn’t really the case, but man that sh*t sounded good on my PowerPoint slide deck!
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Both strategies are correct. Both have a purpose of when to be deployed. Too often, we tend to stick with the one strategy that we feel most comfortable with as leaders. It’s important we understand what we are most comfortable with because that is also our blind spot. I have to remind myself constantly, to slow down, when it’s right, so we can go far.
I’ve worked with a ton of leaders, who were most comfortable with going together, truly believing they were being the best leader. In the end, they failed because while they were well-liked, they didn’t execute fast enough for what the business needed.