Blog CULTURE The Urgency of Leadership

The Urgency of Leadership

by Peter May
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“Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value” Jim Rohn

Enough has been said about the challenges at play amidst the global pandemic that is COVID-19. This blog is not written to further explore these concerns, nor to provide tactical approaches on how to combat its impact. Rather, it is written to highlight a specific mindset, that, when enabled by leadership, can help companies turn crisis into opportunity.

I am talking about urgency. It is something more important now than ever before, to both your survival and your ability to prosper in the face of this great uncertainty.

Most often, it is a lack of urgency that is attributed as a cause of failure within organizations, or an impediment to their ability to meet objectives. Implementing change within an organization is, in fact, almost impossible without a genuine sense of urgency, and your efforts as a leader to direct an organization towards a specific goal, particularly when pivoting from your current strategy, will likely be futile without it.

Personally, I see two major inhibitors to urgency within an organization, and believe that it is the role of leaders to address them directly:

Complacency

“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. It is only the paranoid that succeed.” Andy Grove

Complacency, a sense of self-satisfaction, especially when accompanied by a lack of awareness of our deficiencies, is toxic for an organization. And it is much more widespread than you believe. 

In transportation, everything that can go wrong often does. However, as an organization, we can be better prepared to reduce the chance of failure. Take onboarding a new client, for example, if we’re complacent in our assumptions or in the arrangements we’ve made, we almost always set ourselves up for a rough start, trucks will show up late or not at all, or drivers don’t meet client expectations, detracting from our credibility with the customer.

When we are prepared, when we have a clear plan in place, ensuring 2X or sometimes even 3X the required supply so we are able to deal with these errors immediately and provide an exemplary service to our customers. 

‘Expecting the worst and preparing for it’ enable performance, as it is often under the pressure of failure that we as individuals and organizations are able to achieve great things. 

False Urgency 
“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important, the important are never urgent and the urgent are never important.” President Eisenhower

Urgency is an effective antidote to complacency, however, it is a ‘false sense of it ‘, which can be just as dangerous and can manifest at both a human and organizational level. 

In individuals, it is characterized as energy motivated by rage, anxiety, fear or frustration. It creates a frenzy that pushes people to produce, to be busy, but also to be focused on input not output. As a result, it leads to missed opportunities, distraction, and poor results – which ripple across the organization. These individuals create a constant state of emergency, only detracting from their ability to create true urgency, and causing friction within their team… Think of the boy who cried wolf. 

At a company level, such a phenomenon can be created when we are not careful in how we think about strategy. Trella has limited resources and as a leadership team, we need to ensure that we are maximizing the output of these resources – not only by creating urgency, but by ensuring that that urgency is well directed. Focus is one of our greatest mantras – we limit our vertical expansion by focusing on specific marketplaces, and build teams invested in selected networks. If we do one thing, and we do it well, we will win. Leadership can create urgency, but when ill-directed we risk wasting precious resources and realizing ineffectual outcomes for the business.  

It is, however, perfectly possible to transform both complacency and/ or false urgency into a real “sense of urgency” and it is leadership’s greatest prerogative to do so:

  • Lead by example

People generally emulate the behavior of leaders in their organization. Ensure that leaders meet agreed-upon deadlines and  expectations, and the team will follow. Equally, the opposite will be true. – Without commitment from top management, the vision and changes required of an organization will not cascade down

  • Consistently challenge the team 

The complexity involved in developing a digital trucking marketplace dictates a level of urgency that ensures we are able to consistently meet customers expectations. To do so, one must encourage their team to continually challenge both themselves and the management to ensure that the actions of the organization are aligned with its vision

  • Provide structure and measure the team 

Measure what matters. If leadership is able to create a consistent system of objectives that are cascaded from organisational wide objectives all the way down to individual metrics – it drives accountability and progress. This ensures that complacency is found out and addressed immediately, and that any urgency that doesn’t contribute directly to the organization’s objectives is shut down.

  • Develop leaders not managers

An organization is built with people. At Trella people come first, and we regard them as our key asset. When forming teams, look for people that give feedback, can take feedback, are action-oriented, protect the company’s values, and create a sense of urgency.

In today’s world, particularly that of start-ups where the pace of change is high, the continual threat to their survival forces urgency into organizations’ very fabric. At Trella, we cannot afford to create a sense of urgency from time to time. It has to be part of the daily operation and it has to be self-preserving if we are to succeed. In my opinion, this has become the single most important point for our leadership, and has become a competitive advantage. Without it, we could not have reached the scale we have in such a short period of time. 

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