Keep it simple, stupid. The KISS principle, as it is widely known, is so ingrained in our vernacular that, regardless of your lot in life, you have likely heard it.
It is my contention that, because of its pervasiveness, the expression (and its meaning) has lost its punch. Unfortunately, nowhere does it appear more that KISS has lost its sheen than in leadership circles. Somewhere along the way, business leaders have lost sight of the fact that simple is better. Preferring, instead, to over-complicate much of what it takes to be an exceptional leader.
Consider some of the more popular leadership topics dominating current business thought pieces today:
- Emotional Intelligence
All have garnered complicated and over-engineered treatments by self-proclaimed leadership gurus attempting to take credit for contriving approaches for easy application of the concepts within businesses.
I prefer to keep things simple. I believe that if we treat people decently, they will follow us.
Am I not considered emotional intelligent if I demonstrate empathy for others? Do I not build trust by operating transparently? Won’t I begin to reset my company culture if I treat people fairly? Isn’t decency at the core of each of these ideas?
If you agree, can’t we take a step towards simplicity and work on being decent? It seems, if we do that, we will improve our trust, empowerment and engagement potential as leaders. Sure, we can apply complex theories and attend training sessions that help us to be better listeners, communicators and the like. However, all of those skills start in a place that suggests we want to behave more decently.
Let me share a few ideas for how we can keep things simple as we work to improve our leadership effectiveness.
How To Keep It Simple
Here are 6 ways to keep our leadership approach simple and be more decent to the people that we work with:
- Know what’s important – The pursuit of every “shiny object” that comes our way only confuses and frustrates the people whom we lead. By keeping our focus on what’s truly important to business success helps us ignore the distractions that can lead to chaos and shambolic leadership.
- Don’t seek perfection – The pursuit of perfection overcomplicates your leadership style. It adds another layer of “should be” thinking and can make you a tough personality to follow.
Instead, recognize that perfection is an aspirational idea, one that shifts meaning with your business environment (i.e., Once you perfected your execution, customer desires change or new competitors enter the scene requiring a pivot to something else – making perfection is a frivolous pursuit in itself). That said, being agile in your thoughts and actions is far more important trait to develop.
- Give yourself permission to change your mind – As referenced above, a willingness to change your mind is a vital characteristic to cultivate in yourself. It enables you to make mid-course adjustments more seamlessly – helping your team to make needed adjustments more comfortably than would be the case if you were too rigid to shift thinking. You help to keep it simple by giving yourself permission to change your mind during evolving situations.
- Don’t look for short-cuts – Life Hacks may be efficient, they don’t always promote decency. Instead of looking for the easy way out, create a mindset that is willing to do whatever it takes to help your team win – even if that path requires more effort on your part than a short-cut that may leave destruction in its wake.
- Find a coach – A good leadership coach can help you keep all of these ideas front and center. They can offer advice on how to put this advice into action.
Some of the leaders that I coach use me as a “leadership buddy,” who reminds them to work hard at achieving the goals that they’ve set for themselves. I also provide them with needed feedback and act as a sounding board – helping them to keep things simple and to lead more decently.
- Trust yourself –When in doubt, trust your gut. Confidence is nothing more than remembering evidence of your own success. Of course, working with a coach can only help you draw wisdom from your experience. That said, when deciding on how to lead others, trust your record of accomplishment and seek to act decently. Don’t let self-doubt creep into your psyche and muddle your leadership method.
To close, Leonardo Da Vinci once said:
“Simplicity is the ultimate art.”
I suggest that we strive to make leadership our “art” and remember to seek simplicity in how we lead.
Written by James M. Kerr.
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