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What makes a good leader? Hint: simplicity could be a key to leadership success

- October 11, 2021 3 MIN READ
simplicity is a key rule in leadership

Possibly one of the more persistent debates in business, sports, and life generally is this whole idea of what constitutes a good leader, writes Andy Reid.

It’s a fascinating topic when you look at the opinions of ‘leaders’ around the world. Steve Jobs talks about ‘innovation’ being at the core of leadership, plenty of others talk about forging paths, leading from behind, and there is generally a list of 5-10 qualities that a leader must possess such as courage, decisiveness, ambition, optimistic and being observant.

The challenge I have with the vast majority of popular opinion, is that on many occasions they’re…well…complicated! It’s no wonder that business coaches around the world make the amount of money that they do, half of the crap they go on about takes a Batchelor’s degree to remotely comprehend to an executable level.

Hilariously and somewhat ironically, for me, it is these self-proclaimed industry leaders that counter-intuitively highlight what (in my humble opinion) makes for a good leader. Which is. In one word “simplicity”.

Simplicity in understanding oneself. Simplicity in planning. Simplicity in communication and awareness. Simplicity in execution.

Let me make this simple!!!

Simplicity in understanding oneself

In order to lead others, we must first have a true understanding of ourselves.

To be able to hear that inner leader, there needs to be a simplicity (within) that provides total clarity around our values (or DNA) and in turn our decision-making. It is the freedom to listen to gut instinct and to have conviction in our decisions, as well as having the calmness within our minds to interpret information in a productive way before leaping to conclusions.

The only way to be able to do that is to be unequivocal in the understanding of our own minds. Without a degree of simplicity, there’s generally very little room in there to process any other information without some form of bias which isn’t ideal for leaders!

Simplicity in planning

A leader in planning is someone who can see a ‘grand perspective’ of the entire situation, understand what they have available in terms of skills and resources, and because they have a true understanding of themselves, can very simply put the pieces of the planning puzzle together.

They see the simplest route to get from A to B, considering any foreseeable issues that may pop up and making sure that their own ego doesn’t get in the way of progression.

Simplicity in communication and awareness

‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’ Albert Einstein

Leaders have an acute awareness to be able to tune in to people’s emotions and modify their communication to get onto the same wavelength as their team when broadcasting.

Their ability goes beyond the understanding of said plan. Many thought-leaders end up never becoming true leaders or humans, because they are so in their own heads. They don’t take the time or energy to tune in to the audience in order to broadcast their theories into simple terms that everyone can understand.

Simplicity in execution

I was taught very early on that you only run as quickly as the slowest person in your section.

This means you ensure that your execution is simple enough for the least gifted person in your team. The best leaders also impart a greater perspective on the group to allow for a holistic understanding as to why the execution of a task is running in a certain direction.

That in turn creates 360-degree accountability, in which the entire team is constantly on the same page with regards to what the end goal is and the processes required to get there. There is no confusion or ambiguity as to where everyone stands.

I could come up with so many different words to describe great leadership, most of which have been bastardised by the corporate landscape to sell more product or discipline staff. However,  I’d be adding to the noise that has often prevented some humans from realising their potential as leaders in their own right.

If we focus our energy on simplicity, in both our theories and our actions, then our intentions and goals become rather easy for anyone to buy into. This in turn makes it a lot easier for your team to follow you into whatever battle you’re about to face.

Put simply, the greatest leaders have the IQ to simplify a problem, and the EQ to be able to communicate it simply enough for followers to understand on their terms, which will leave them genuinely feeling inspired to take action.

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