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  • Jerry Phillips

The Team Can Only Go As Fast As The Leader

On Saturday I was driving home from visiting my daughter and two of the grandkids when it struck me; no business can go faster than the leader.

I was on a two-lane, hilly road where the speed limit is 55 mph. I admit I have a high energy level and I’m not the most patient person. I typically drive the speed limit and maybe a few miles per hour over. But this time, I was following two other cars. The lead car would drive 45 down the hills, and 35 up the hills. I was frustrated at the very least. I wanted to get home. They were in my way.

My frustration was growing to the point I was thinking of options to my route, just to eliminate the need to follow someone who obviously didn’t know my desire to drive faster. Then it dawned on me. The issue was mine, not theirs. I was the one who was letting it frustrate me.

As I drove, I thought about the saying, “If you’re not the lead dog, the view is always the same.” It occurred to me that the team can only go as fast the leader.

I recently worked with the executive team of a client of mine, and I stated that the first line manager was critically important to the execution of the strategy. Most first line managers were great at their previous role, so they were promoted into the leadership role and expected to perform at the same level without much structure or training. I see it in multiple companies, especially with remote leadership. It often leads to disappointment and failure.

My client is in a restructure mode and they are creating an entirely new organizational structure and sales process. The leadership team is new to the business and they are a brilliant team with outstanding leadership at the top. They have found two great candidates for the new roles they have created, and they are working to bring them in, and jump start the new structure and new processes. The leadership team is thoughtful and moving at a pace that fits what they are trying to accomplish.

I’m confident they will have success in hiring strong leaders and working a turnaround of the sales team. I may want them to move faster, but it’s not my call. I have recognized it is not about me and my pace, but about the pace they need to move. My brother used to tell me to “Slow down to speed up!”. I’ve worked hard over the last ten years to make that happen, but I’m not always successful in abiding by the advice. It’s good to have reminders like a slower paced driver on a two-lane road. I just don’t want it to happen too often!

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