“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” –Colin Powell
Most people think that successful leadership requires extensive skill. But in all my years of coaching, I’ve learned that it’s less about our skills and more about the daily habits and virtues we demonstrate that drive great leadership..
Among these habits and virtues is a kind of skill that is vastly underrepresented in many of the materials I read on leadership and coaching. In fact, it’s almost never mentioned. I think that maybe it’s forgotten because it’s assumed that people would know this, but I think it’s worthy of repeating that a great leader is a master of simplification.
There’s so much distraction in the workplace, especially with an ever churning email inbox, that sometimes it’s a feat just to find focus.
A great leader can move his team and company forward by providing simple, clear solutions.
That’s goal number 1? Often times, we need reminding daily. Whether it’s in a company meeting, a casual conversation, or in the building of a strategic plan, keep it simple is of universal importance for a leader.
Without this type of singular focus, the company ship can get off course and head in the wrong direction. The crew needs to know where they are headed, and every great leader: provides clear direction so everyone stays on course.
Secondly, there cannot be clear direction without a driving purpose that’s shared by everyone, because everything you do as a team will be shaped by it. This is an incredibly important process to engage top leaders and all team members in. You can’t get to a driving purpose without their active partiipation.
This requires engagement, feedback sessions, raw honesty, and patience as a leader. However, when it’s all done, what you’ll have a driving purpose that’s crafted not just by the leader, but by everyone involved. That is the kind of purpose that’s invaluable to making every company and cause successful!
In your mission to provide clear direction and inspire others to fulfill the company’s purpose, you’ll need a way of communicating that works to reach everyone. Whether it’s a monthly company meeting, an email newsletter, or hosting a weekly Q&A with staff members, it’s essential that once you have your simplified sense of purpose, that you know how to spread the word!
Simplification is of no use if it’s communicated in a way that’s not helpful to people. This is a leader’s main responsibility to find the ways of engaging staff in ways they understand and can appreciate. Whether it’s about how to handle customer interactions or which actions to prioritize throughout the day, each employee should feel empowered to make these types of judgement calls based on the driving sense of purpose that’s shared with them from the top down.
If they do not feel empowered, a leader has not done their job properly. While that may sound harsh, it’s true of the best companies that employees are trusted to exercise their best judgement, as this promotes an atmosphere of opportunities, mutual respect, and responsibility.
The main way to empower your employees is to arm them with information. Don’t just give them the yearly pep talk or the information download once in awhile and expect it to catch on. Give them print-outs, live discussions, emailed reminders, conversations, presentations, and seminars to refresh their memory. Knowledge is a living resource that must be constantly refreshed.
A company’s staff should know the purpose and direction of the organization so well, they are mentioning how frequently they hear it, because the more they know it, the more they will operate using those principles. As the old saying goes, “You do know what you know.”
Let this be an encouraging reminder for leaders who’ve felt like they’ve needed to do something fancy to set a good example for their teams. It isn’t about reading every book on teams or becoming an expert in your field, as much as it is – staying devoted to providing simple, clear, purposeful leadership. You can do this! It just takes persistence and the knowledge that a team powered by simple clarity will get you all the places you need to go, together!
To your excellence in leadership,