Speaker | Entrepreneur | Author

Sam Davidson's blog

Every Tuesday, I write.

I share an idea I’ve come up with, a struggle I’m wrestling with, a puzzle I’m turning over in my head, or a story that I think the world needs to hear. You can sign up to get these emailed to you each Tuesday morning by clicking here

On Thursdays, I write at Batch about a business idea or concept, usually through the lens of my day-to-day work as co-founder and CEO or from the viewpoint and lessons learned of our purveyors. Follow along here

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The Slow Leadership Movement

I have a cast iron skillet I use for nearly everything these days. I mostly use it to make eggs in the morning, but I'm not afraid to use it to roast some cauliflower or bake cornbread, too. 

I remember getting this piece of cookware from my mom several years ago and it sat in a cabinet unused for a very long time. Cast iron isn't super convenient, after all. You're not supposed to put it in the dishwasher. It's heavy and even unwieldy. It's best not to use soap on it (gross, right?). You get the picture.

But the beauty of the cast iron is that the more you use it, the better it gets. You can spend years seasoning it to your liking so that anything you make in it comes out delicious. But above all, you can't speed up this process. It takes time. The cast iron is a long play. Settle in, chef - this could take a while.

I'm learning more and more to appreciate the slowness of leadership. People take time to develop - to mentor, coach, direct, guide, and transform. Deep leadership requires the creation of moments, not the manipulation of time.

This article details that a bit more. Essentially, we track time in two ways: chronologically and qualitatively. Both are necessary and valuable, but confusing the two could be detrimental to our individual and communal well being.

A lot depends upon our keeping and tracking of time. Meetings start at a certain time, packages need to show up on a certain day, events and days come to a close before the clock strikes a certain hour. But if all we do is measure the worth of something by its duration (quantity), we're missing out on a fundamental opportunity to grow and lead.

Instead, we need to take into about the development of something, regardless of its duration. A team meeting can be scheduled for an hour, but if camaraderie hasn't been built or decisions haven't been made, then it must go on, clocks and calendars be damned. 

Last year at Batch was a whirlwind. Our internal mantra (which I drove) was, "Say yes. Move fast." We were racing headlong toward a big revenue goal (which we exceeded by 10%). But this year, having seen the costs of speed (driven by chronos), we've shifted. We've taken what we've learned and this year's key phrase our entire team repeats is "Focus." We're still chasing top line growth, but also striving to achieve bottom line success. 

That bottom line (profitability) is being measured as a percentage of revenue and every team member contributes to it. While still providing a high level of quality and service, we're reducing costs, finding efficiencies, and all chipping in. In the midst of that, kairos is happening. We're building community internally on and off the clock. We're taking our time to do it right. And we'll be keeping that up all year. 

I'm ready to go slower myself. The last decade as an entrepreneur has been spent going rapidly. I recently wrote this to a friend:

"So I want to go slow. I want to walk on old trails. I want to cook for an hour and eat for two with people I enjoy. I want to read a book - on paper - outside. I want to look at stuff way older than me (trees, art, monuments, mountains, humans) and see what they simultaneously reveal about the past and the future. I want to talk for a long time with company I enjoy. I want to listen to music that's just now being made but will be in a museum some day. I want to shake hands and give hugs and clink glasses and slap backs in laughter and sweat and cry."

Focus only comes through a slowing down, I believe. And when you slow down, you begin to see so much more. Airplanes zoom by at hundreds of miles an hour and even if the view is breathtaking from on high, details disappear. But spend time with the earth underfoot and you'll see the moss that's taking it's sweet time to cover that tree in a brilliant green. 

Companies can be fast, but leadership - for the sake of our people and our very hearts - has to be slow.

Sam DavidsonComment