Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful ExecutionImpermanence and constant change has always been one of nature’s mighty laws. Today that pace is accelerating. Organizations are turning to Agile, Lean, and other strategies to become a victor, rather than victim, of change.

An organization’s speed is set by its leaders. In their newest book, Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution, Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman draw from their firm’s database of over one million 360 assessments of about 80,000 leaders, to show how leaders can provide optimum quality in the quickest time.

Here are a few key evidence-based findings documented in Speed: How Leaders Accelerate Successful Execution:

  • When asked “if this organization were able to move faster would it substantially influence our success,” 69 percent of 5,100 people agreed and 77 percent of top management agreed.
  • When either doing things fast or doing things right is a strength (rated at or above the 75th percentile) the probability of a leader being in the top 10 percent is only 2 or 3 percent. However, when both are rated as strengths that probability shoots up to 96 percent.
  • Correlating pace survey results and stress levels showed that stress is cut in half when people increase their speed.
  • Leaders rated in the top 10 percent on speed had direct reports with engagement levels in the top quartile.
  • The highest leadership speed correlates to the highest annual performance ratings.
  • The slowest leaders were nearly four times more likely to be terminated than their fastest peers.

A tool emerging from this new research is ZF’s Pace Assessment. This helps leaders determine their preference for a slow or fast pace. Answers to 15 pairs of choices are plotted on two scales; quality/quantity and patience/impatience. With a high correlation between this self-assessment and their 360 data, Zenger Folkman conclude “our data is very clear that the most effective leaders have a fairly quick pace and excellent execution.”

Speed provides plenty of practical tips and practices to increase speed such as chapters on “Speeding Up Your Day,” “Modeling Speed,” and — the oh so vital — “Accelerate Meetings.”

A key element to increasing leadership speed and effectiveness is cross-training. ZF analyzed 360 feedback data from 728,328 bosses, peers, direct reports, and others for 52,000 leaders across 49 behaviors. They statistically correlated the behaviors of leaders operating at optimal speed and found eight companion behaviors to increase effectiveness:

  1. Innovating
  2. Exhibiting strategic perspective
  3. Displaying courage
  4. Setting stretch goals
  5. Communicating powerfully
  6. Bringing external focus
  7. Taking initiative
  8. Possessing knowledge and expertise

Eight chapters (one for each of these companion behaviors) then provide application tips and examples.

A paradox of a highly effective and faster leader is he or she can often be the least stressed and the most balanced. Speed concludes with a chapter on life balance and discusses when to go fast and when to go slow. By speeding up in the right places we can create the space to slow down and enjoy life more.

Speed is a well-researched, practical, and easy read. It’s a timely book for today’s leadership and organizational changes, challenges and opportunities.