The Lost Art of Simplicity
This is going to be a difficult POV to write, because making a case for the power of simplicity is no easy task. And yet, more than ever, I’m convinced that simplicity is the scarcest commodity among leaders, and probably the most important. Here are some good quotes that attest to this on a theoretical level.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote, “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” Albert Einstein believed that “most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in language comprehensible to everyone.”
And yet, in my consulting to organizations of all kinds, from high tech companies to churches to banks, I find that there is a natural tendency among managing leaders to add unnecessary complexity to situations, problems, descriptions and solutions.
The Dangers of Dishonest Marketing
Summer involves a lot of air travel for me, and so I suppose I get inspired, or provoked, to address my airline frustrations and relate them to leadership and management. But the purpose here is not to complain about bad service.
That’s not to say that the flight that stimulated this essay featured good service. It didn’t. It was one of the big, legacy air carriers, and even as we were boarding the flight attendants made it clear that they were not looking forward to our disruptive presence in their workplace.
What Leaders Won't Do
In the course of my career, I’ve always been amazed at what leaders will do for their organizations. So many founders and CEOs will spend countless late nights in the office, endure long and grueling business trips, even sacrifice their own financial resources, all to increase the likelihood, even slightly, that their enterprises will succeed. Sadly, these efforts often come at the expense of their health, their families and their sanity.
But the one thing that amazes me more than what leaders will do for their enterprises, is what they so often won’t do – endure emotional discomfort at work.
Leadership and The New Pope
The Papacy is a singular, unique position, one that can’t really be compared to any other leadership role. Still, the events last week surrounding the election of Pope Francis brought to mind three surprising reminders of something I’ve written about before: the qualities of sacrifice, humility and selflessness that all true leaders must possess.
The first example has to do with the place where a new pope goes immediately after being elected. It is called The Room of Tears. As one website explained, the name stems from the idea that it is the place where “new popes have often been overcome with emotion at the thought of the heavy burden that has been given them.”
Now, we don’t generally imagine a newly hired or promoted CEO going into a room for solitary recollection or emotional processing, but it would make quite a bit of sense.
Christmas Letters, Dog Food and Reality Television
Every year during this time, we receive Christmas cards from families that include letters describing their various activities and status changes. Though I am sure they are usually well-intentioned, some of these updates seem like marketing-oriented press releases, which is why some have come to refer to them as “brag letters.” You probably know the kind of letters I’m talking about. “Jimmy was voted most wonderful ten year old in the tri-state area, Barbie and her husband, Ken, had the county’s most beautiful baby, and during our semi-monthly trip to Paris we had a great time eating escargot with Meryl Streep and her kids.
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