Sunday, June 26, 2016

Simplicity and clarity are a leader's best friend

Leaders who communicate with simplicity and clarity achieve more because their staff don't need to guess at the direction. Simplicity and clarity win over complicated and convoluted every day. If you cannot tweet your truth it is too complicated.

There are many smart people but fewer who can communicate with such clarity that they can mobilize others. Good leaders have the gift of taking complexity and communicating it with simplicity. This was one of the great gifts of Winston Churchill who could galvanize Briton around simple messages that resonated with those he led.  FDR had the same ability.

Gifted leaders have great knowledge that can be their undoing if they don't take the time to simplify their message until it is short and memorable. Staff and others don't need to know the intricacies of a concept or situation. They need to know the bottom line and direction. This often means that leaders must take the time to reflect on what they are communicating, simplifying and clarifying until they are at the essence of what needs to be communicated. It is not necessarily an easy process but the alternative of complexity  confuses rather than clarifies.

For instance, in the organization I formerly led we were committed to open dialogue on any subject. There are many facets to that but we settled on this way to communicate our commitment: We practice robust dialogue where any issue can be put on the table with the exception of personal attacks or hidden agendas. There is a great deal in that one sentence and it communicates a commitment in a simple and concise way.

Even values and guiding principles that form the culture of an organization must be communicated in a clear and simple way. Not just a word, but with a memorable phrase that captures the essence of what you mean by the value.

It is the job of a leader to understand what needs to be communicated and to take the time to refine that communication for the clearest and simplest way to communicate it. Many leaders do well on the former but default on the latter.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com.


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