Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Simple or Simplistic?

General Colin Powell [Chairman (Ret.), Joint Chiefs of Staff] in his work, “A Leadership Primer” describes the following principle:

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”

Complexity and its accompanying confusion are often challenges for good leadership. The more responsibility one has the greater the challenges one must address. These challenges are frequently very complex with multiple consequences both real and imagined. How does a leader lead with simplicity without becoming simplistic?

A leader must listen carefully to all sides of a complex issue, not jumping too quickly to conclusions or solutions and thinking through possible consequences. It is a must to withhold judgment on a matter, especially for the intuitive leader, until others on the team have weighed in with their thoughts or have had time to input their ideas. Bringing the team to a point of decision together is an art form to be developed. Know your team members and their respective styles and lead accordingly.

Practice speaking is short, concise sentences. Try to use fewer words. Think in terms of memorable sounds bites and share accordingly. Speak in terms of word pictures that can create mental images for others to clarify the complex and make it simpler and memorable.

Beware of becoming overly simplistic on an issue. The simple becomes simplistic when we leave out essential points or ignore key factors. Simple is good….simplistic is bad!

It addressing complexity seek to break the issue into more manageable parts. Address some of the easier parts first to create a sense of progress and momentum on the team so that you can have more confidence when dealing with the more difficult pieces. Work off of the 80/20 rule where 80% of a solution can be enough to move forward, rather than spending a lot of time and energy to hammer out the final 20%.

Are you communicating in a way that leads to simplicity or complexity and confusion? Ask your teammates for some feedback on your communication.

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