I’ve been looking forward to Sophie Devonshire’s new book for quite some time. When it came, it was brilliant. I read it at speed, maybe inspired by the title.

Actually it’s around two years ago that I sat down with Sophie in Carluccio’s Richmond to talk about her vision for the book. I downloaded all my thoughts, ideas, experiences. She listened politely. And then off she went to interview some of today’s great business leaders, and from those insights she has shaped a fresh and engaging proposition for business leaders.

Sophie is a super engaging business leader herself. Her obsession with speed and acceleration in business is infectious. She recently became CEO of The Caffeine Partnership, working alongside my friend Andy Milligan, and together they lead this unique business consultancy which works with leaders to find more purpose and pace. You can also join her Superfast community for more, and read the ‘Pacesetter Profiles’ online at superfastthebook.com or follow @s_devonshire on Twitter.

Leading with speed

The back cover captures the book’s core idea: “In today’s fast-paced world, leaders need to move at speed. The rate of innovation and change in organisations and the challenges of impatient investors or shareholders mean leadership decisions must be quick, smart and deliver real impact.

Superfast provides cutting edge inspiration and a host of exciting ideas about how to accelerate performance in an agile and thoughtful way, shedding new light on leading in a world which is fluid and uncertain. You’ll learn the practical solutions to leadership questions which the most savvy global leaders employ, and map your own shortcut to personal and professional success.

Leadership is not just about moving fast, however. Superfast will show you how to use your time in the smartest, most efficient way possible – slowing down when necessary to get decisions right and accelerating elsewhere to unlock growth.”

Here are some of the key messages:

  • The need for speed in business. Pace can drive performance. Leaders need to move at speed.
  • Today’s business environment is changing fast, so leaders need to better balance agility with resilience. Purpose and pace are required.
  • Leaders need to use time as smartly to achieve the most impact as efficiently as possible.
  • But it’s important to be responsible as well as responsive. Sometimes you need to slow down to get things right.
  • The pace race: repeated pace setting is an essential leadership practice.
  • Time is finite but energy isn’t, so manage your energy, not just your time.
  • Purpose drives pace: a true mission creates accelerating power and a great filter for ideas. Define it. Love it. Live it.
  • Structure for speed: create fast frameworks. Delete levels and empower frontline staff.
  • Editing is expediting: superfast means less. Aim for minimalism, reduce decisions for others, make it easy and create constraints.
  • Human understanding: know your audience, your team, and yourself.
  • Truth matters: candour and honesty help resolve conflict.
  • Hire smart, fire fast: take the time to find the right people and then get them in fast. Hire people who can decide, then delegate. Say hello to the best and goodbye to the worst. When you know, let them go.
  • Decide, delegate, deliver: think slowly, act fast.

Coincidentally I’m with Matt Brittin, Google’s boss in Europe, in Denmark this week. I’m interviewing him about his ideas on leadership at the Thinkers50 European Business Forum. He said “Leading at speed is essential in a world of accelerating change, complexity and uncertainty. When the one thing you’re sure of is that things will change, the way we lead people has to change too.”

Finally, here’s a great summary from British Airway’s Business Life