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Leadership Velocity

Leaders should aim for velocity, not speed

Although often used interchangeably, velocity and speed have different meanings. Leaders should aim for velocity, not speed.

Simply, speed is the rate of movement. Velocity is the rate of movement plus direction. If a dancer took one step forward and one step backward, they would have a certain speed of movement. But they would have zero velocity because overall they did not move in any direction.

When thinking about leadership, speed is insufficient. Leaders often associate speed with action — we do things — and, the thinking goes, action is good. But those actions are often contradictory or dilutive. It is easy to have different parts of a team moving in different directions. As a result, leaders and their teams generate speed of action but no velocity.

Instead, a leader wants to create the conditions that accelerate directed action — in the direction of accomplishing goals or objectives. This is true for people leading small and large teams.

Leadership velocity — accelerating your team’s ability to accomplish goals, with increased speed — has an animal spirit. Velocity produces velocity like success produces success. It works the other way too. Stagnation produces stagnation, and speed produces frenzy.

The world seems to be moving fast. Industries are transforming. Businesses are starting and closing. Countries are re-arming. Hackers are hacking. People are trying to keep up.

To get ahead of the ever-changing curve, leaders need to focus on the signal of velocity rather than the noise of speed.