Simplicity Is The Ultimate Sophistication

It seems that, sometimes, people are naturally attracted to making things complicated. We like to manage, to analyse, to strategise, to understand. And it can be very satisfying too, the ability to make sense of the complex and unknown. One might even say that it gives us a sense of power – the sort that comes from knowing stuff that others don’t. Indeed, that’s what seems to be expected of managers: to always know more than everyone else. It’s often how they’ve got to where they are – and really that’s no bad thing. We need people who know what they’re talking about at the head of any organisation; we just don’t want them to take refuge amidst complexity.

Great leaders on the other hand are all about simplicity. The simplicity that comes from a clearly articulated Why. The simplicity of remembering that who we are being is as important as what we are doing. The simplicity that comes from being as comfortable with not knowing all the answers as we are when we do. Leadership steps up when logic and analysis don’t apply.

As with all things, it’s the balance that’s important. We need to manage and we need to lead. The rather attractive thing about leadership is that its essence comes from our authentic self, what we believe, not from the hard graft of business school or years of experience in the field. People can – and do – lead without formal training: it starts with being clear on our Purpose and that of the organisation to which we belong.

Often we can get so tied up in complexity – in managing – that we forget about the power of simplicity. It’s the simple things people remember. The simple action, the simple word. It’s the simple things that become absorbed in a culture. It’s the simple, clearly spoken truth or belief that inspires – not the complex facts or data. And when people are inspired, new possibilities emerge.

Great leaders have an ability to make things simple. To bring clarity – even in chaos. To focus, and have others focus, on what really matters. Management can be complex. Leadership can be very simple indeed.

As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Make life simple and hear the welcome cry from all those around you.

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