The Vital Connection of Pace and Grace

Published November 3, 2020

What kind of leader are you?

Are you an early bird out to catch the worm? Or are you the slow and steady tortoise about to win the race?

Are you a look-before-you-leap leader or a haste-makes-waste leader?

Do you believe in nothing-ventured-nothing-gained action or in a more cautious better-safe-than-sorry approach?

Our contradictory proverbs reveal the dilemma most leaders face–is it better to go fast or to go slow? Should we be that Silicon Valley style rapid-response decisive leader that acts fast and breaks things? Or should we be a more deliberative leader who is not afraid to take time to weigh up all the options and plot the surest route to success?

The truth is we need both sorts of leaders.

I am extremely grateful for the decisive leadership skills of a lifeguard who dived right in to rescue my foster son before he even realised he was drowning. But I am also extremely grateful for the deliberative leadership skills of the teacher who subsequently taught him–eventually—to swim. We need both the immediate action-taker and the long-term strategist. We need those who are impulsive and those who are reflective.

The best sort of leaders are those who can do both.

We need leaders who know how and when to speed-lead, and how and when to press the pause button. We need leaders who have learned when to act on gut instinct and when to be more consultative and considered.

Chesley Sullenberger had been trained in the school of ‘better safe than sorry’ and it served him well for 29 successful years. But when the passenger plane he was flying had both engines taken out by a bird strike, he was somehow able to switch to a fast-acting decisive leadership style employing a technique never before managed, to successfully land on the Hudson river and save the lives of everyone on board.

The best thing you can do for our pace of leadership is to recognise your natural bent, and work on improving your unnatural bent.

In an emergency you don’t have time to gather focus groups or record staff meetings. The ability to quick think is critical.

But while agility and adaptability are great in a crisis, long-term success generally demands other skills: an ability and willingness to consult and reflect and weigh options and risks and collaborate. The decision not to rush might be the best decision you ever make.

Apple is known for its innovation and in particular the transformation it brought to the music industry through the iPod. But Apple did not invent the digital music player. The iPod changed the world not because it was the first to market, but because Apple bided its time, only releasing its iconic product when hard drive technology became available to carry a useful amount of music.

Whatever your pace of leadership is–it is not wrong. There are tremendous advantages in both the fast, decisive pace and the slow, deliberative pace. However sometimes the former can get stuck in headless chicken or steamroller mode, while the latter can find themselves locked into analysis paralysis or bureaucratic brain-freeze.

The best thing you can do for our pace of leadership is to recognise your natural bent, and work on improving your unnatural bent.

If you are a speed leader, take time to slow down occasionally. If your ‘go’ tends to be slow, use your deliberative skills to work out when you can afford to move up a gear. Probably the best way to do this is to actively seek out colleagues who naturally work at a very different pace to our own. Although this may bring its own challenges, it can helpfully broaden our perspective and protect us from getting stuck at one pace.

Sometimes our pace of leadership is determined by our personal preference. Sometimes it is determined by those around us or above us, by market forces or by things beyond our control.

In a global pandemic, there is a case for fast adaptation and more instinctive decision-making. And at the same time, the pandemic may have also forced a period of reflection and taking stock.

For leaders there is a vital connection between grace and pace.

Whatever our pace is, was, could be or should be, a self-awareness and appreciation of those in a very different part of the pace spectrum might improve not only the quality of our decisions, but the quality of our working relationships.

For leaders there is a vital connection between grace and pace. We appreciate grace from others when our own pace causes tension with those around us. We should be ready to offer that same grace to those whose pace we may find difficult.

These are also challenging times for those we lead. We need leaders who will neither exhaust us with an unsustainable pace nor leave us drowning as they dither.

So, let’s get the pace right in our leadership for everyone’s sake.

And let’s season it with a generous helping of grace, so that we can all find the speed to succeed.

About the Author
Dr Krish Kandiah is a 2019 Global Leadership Summit Speaker.

Dr. Krish Kandiah

Founding Director

Home For Good

An advocate for fostering and adoption, Dr. Kandiah is the founding director of Home for Good, a charity seeking to find permanent loving homes for children in the UK foster care system. He is the author of 13 books including his latest, Faitheism: Why Christians and Atheists have more in common than you think. He is a regular broadcaster on the BBC and a contributor to the Guardian and Times of London. An international speaker and consultant, he offers both creativity and academic reflection to bring strategic change, culture shift and innovation. Dr. Kandiah and his wife have 7 children through birth, adoption and fostering. He is available for corporate resilience and leadership seminars via Zoom--find out more about Dr. Kandiah at http://www.krishk.com.

Years at GLS 2019

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