The fourteenth of our 20 Leadership Lessons Learned in East Africa: in simplicity, we find meaning. And why focus on simplicity? Because the way an idea is communicated highly influences its utilization. If you can distill an idea down to its essence—the purest form possible—then the idea can spread without being corrupted so easily. Simplicity embeds complexity in understandable language and allows for expansion of a concept based on the context.
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Leadership Essentials Make Exploring Leadership Accessible
If you can distill an idea down to its essence, to the purest form possible, then the idea can spread without being corrupted so easily. And we need our ideas and theories in leadership to spread.
Proven concepts like Direction–Alignment–Commitment (DAC), Social Identity, Growth Mindset, EQ, Mental Models, Boundary Spanning, and many others have been distilled to their simplest form in our Leadership Essentials toolkit.
In their purest state, these essentials can be drawn in the sand during a community meeting, easily articulated on flip chart paper, or presented in a corporate boardroom.
We can gather around an image of a 3-legged stool and talk infinitely about where we’re failing in direction, what we’re going to do differently to align ourselves, and why we’re gaining commitment across our team.
But why focus on simplicity? Because we believe the way an idea is communicated highly influences its utilization:
- Simple ideas dumbed down to fit on a poster are simplistic and potentially dangerous because they make us believe there are easy solutions to complex problems.
- Complex ideas are often where knowledge resides, but can include a huge amount of detail that obscures the real issues.
In contrast, simplicity embeds a great deal of complexity in understandable language and allows for expansion of a concept, based on the context. It offers the chance to take ownership of the concepts and apply them.
Questions for Further Reflection:
- What do you think other advantages of simplicity could be?
- Are there any times that using complex models is important?
- How do you think you can use the concept of simplicity in your work?
Tell us your big ideas in the comments.
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This series, 20 Leadership Lessons Learned in East Africa, was brought to you by CCL’s Ethiopia office and Leadership Beyond Boundaries, an initiative by the Center for Creative Leadership to democratize leadership development and unlock the power of human potential around the globe.
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