Leadership Lessons: Slow Is The New Fast

Slow is Good

It is time to bust open the myth about speed being the winning card for success. Speed is not your friend. Speed kills.

Unfortunately, “speed” is what is taught in many leadership development classes today as the way to success. The name of that game is: “Fast and Ferocious Wins!”

But I have three countering notions to “Speed Wins!” They are:

Not so.
Never was.
Never will be.

Microwave Leadership

TV DinnerPerhaps since the advent of the TV dinner in 1953 for C.A. Swanson & Sons or from the rise in popularity of instant coffee after WWII, the idea of “faster is better” for every aspect of one’s life began to take hold in the minds of people.

I can sacrifice some flavor for the convenience of speed” began to take mind share in the populous.

This mentality accelerated through “the space age” and hit it’s multi-generational stride with the wide adoption of the “the information superhighway” called the Internet.

So, of course, when I coach high-potential leaders they want the instant version; the list of five (max) one liners that will guarantee success. Instant, pronto, snap-of-a-finger, blink-and-think, right now, red-hot, all your success-in-an-hour seminar

Stop the Madness!

My experience and wisdom says…


Their experience and wisdom says…


On Chaos and Control

Let’s get to basics…

Yes, the world is still whirling in space at a dizzying clip. That has not changed. What has changed is the speed with which we get information and how we are to compute it all in our brains. It does seem that everything is more complex.

But is it? And if so, how do we literally use our heads to make appropriate decisions?

Maybe responding to the chaos of complexity is getting in the way of actually making solid decisions that have long-term positive impact. Due to technology, there is a new quality of openness available to all employees in a company.

  • We need to consider using this technology as a tool and not our master.
  • We need to control its usage and not let it become another form of addiction.
  • We need to slow down our responses so information at the speed of light can work for us.

Redefining Leadership

Please Slow DownMaybe it is time to redefine leadership…

My definition is that everyone in the company has true leadership potential.

Unique, positive changes can happen in this new era of open communication.

More input; More creativity; More options.

Yet, here is the yellow sign of caution:

There is a need to slow down:

  • To Read
  • To Re-read
  • To Question
  • To Think
  • Then to Re-think, Review, and Revise.

No, this does not have to take weeks or months; it can be done quickly and effectively. However, it MUST be done to move forward. Complex changes require forethought and then the decision-making process can be fast and furious.

When we don’t slow down and sit down, the tendency is to react to symptoms rather than consider the holes in the system. To make a system whole it is important to see the information and issues underneath the symptom.

It means you must connect the dots of the patterns in play.

If we don’t take the time to rethink even the most basic of assumptions; in short to unlearn the things that had led to past success but are likely to be anachronistic in the future, we enevitably miss the mark.

Slow Motion Panic

Executives who have spent years learning how to “get ahead” are being asked to change the very thinking modes that made them successful in the past. These executives often experience panic when it comes to slowing down to access information, have open dialogue, collaborate, and dig back into past beliefs of how work should be done.

“If it worked then, it should work now” and the old mantra “time is money” are passé. The fix-it-fast and let’s move on does not cause real sustaining transformation in a company.

In fact, there is no such thing as organizational transformation; there is only individual transformation that happens within a group. When YOU change, that is when the culture can change. This new world of opportunity is waiting for YOU to slow down and sit down to ask the questions. It is then the challenges of this complex new world will unfold and decisions will become clear.

Think of it this way: slow down, sit down, learn the new plays and the touchdown is inevitable.

Slow is the new fast…

Bookmark Leadership Lessons: Slow Is The New Fast

Sylvia Lafair, PhD. is President, Creative Energy Options, Inc.
She does Workplace Relationships, Conflict Resolution, Exec Coaching & Consulting

Email | LinkedIn | Twitter |  Web | Blog | Book

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5 responses to “Leadership Lessons: Slow Is The New Fast

  1. Absolutely great article!
    I always say “follow the process.”
    Thanks for the reminder.
    Hope and Peace.
    Andrew S. Dungan


  2. Great topic Sylvia — thanks for raising it.

    It seems to me that fast and slow are not mutually exclusive; the challenge –and opportunity– is to understand when each is appropriate.

    What I tend to say to leaders I work with is that while it may be true that we live in an increasingly VUCA-world (velocity, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) it doesn’t necessarily mean that we and our organizations should take on those characteristics as well. And as Sylvia suggests, this is a difficult message for executives to hear, and even more challenging for them to adapt.

    In fact, I stress that we must allow and enable ourselves –and those around us we are able to influence — to “learn” our way through the challenges and opportunities presented to us.

    The hardest part for leaders to “get” is the need for reflection as a precursor to planning and execution, because reflection does not come naturally AND generally is not rewarded in organizations that emphasize speed.


  3. Bravo! Well-said! This is a great article. In addition to thinking we can’t slow down because we might miss something, I think people often fear slowing down because they fear that if they do, they might see something (themselves) that they don’t want to see. Slowing down in order to increase self-awareness, explore new perspectives and dive deeper into things can be scary to those who have long operated on adrenaline and constant action.


  4. You raise such an important issue, Sylvia. What you’re suggesting will indeed seem foreign to many since our culture bombards us with fast and speed so relentlessly.

    I think it’s important to recognize that slowing down and taking a more thoughtful approach at the right time is quite different from procrastination and inaction. There are countless examples of people making costly mistakes because they didn’t take time to plan or think things through.

    Thank you for bringing up this important perspective.


  5. Pingback: Perfect Pace·

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