Is a Sense of Urgency Sustainable in Your Organization?

When the world delivers volatility, uncertainty, and even chaos (VUCAH world), leaders are given the opportunity to thrive by showing their real colours – courage, can-do attitude, chutzpah, initiative, drive, influence, agility, emotional intelligence to name a few.

If you are thinking that good leadership creates order and predictability rather than thriving on uncertainty, the answer is no, it doesn’t, that is the role of management – the function that ensures the right things get done at the right time. We manage stability and lead change.

If change is the engine that ensures survival in a VUCAH world, then urgency is the lubricant that keeps the engine running at the right speed. Leaders have an innate sense of urgency. This keeps them in the lead and is one of the characteristics that attracts others to follow them, that is, until it scares the heck out of them. A sense of urgency can too easily be interpreted as a string of urgent requirements which rather than engage and excite the team creates extreme pressure for them.

Team responses under this pressure can include:

  • Deflection or avoidance of issues.
  • Fast execution with little conscious attention to the task (fast brain thinking) which means too many compromises made in the name of speed.
  • Expending time and energy to manage the leader by lowering expectations, thinking up excuses and over-resourcing existing commitments.
  • Filtering information and sheltering their teams from the leader’s “unrealistic expectations”.

Urgency doesn’t need to be scary or unsustainable. In fact, a culture of urgency is synonymous with a culture of continuous improvement; it’s about getting the right things done at a pace that lets your organization excel. It is incumbent upon the leader to give their team(s) everything they need to embrace and enjoy a culture of urgency and improvement (Critical Factors for Leading in a VUCAH World).

Great leaders may not love chaos, but they will thrive in it and if they want their teams to thrive as well, they need to pull ego out of the way, and embrace humility, authenticity, and empathy as the main operating system, trust becomes prevalent and navigating ambiguity with critical thinking becomes second nature to your team.

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