Insights for Leaders

Keep It Simple

“People must have self-confidence to be clear, precise, to be sure that every person in the organization understands what the business is trying to achieve….Clear, tough-minded people are the most simple.” — Jack Welch

“The Economist” recently observed that the rate at which mankind makes life complicated seems ever to accelerate – and this is a bad thing.  To help reverse this trend, they have suggested a new rule: “Henceforth, genius will be measured not by how fancy, big or powerful somebody makes something, but by how simple.”

Some proven geniuses are in agreement. Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” and Walt Whitman, “Simplicity is the glory of expression.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders insist on keeping things simple so that others can easily understand and effectively engage in the work.

The Brutal Facts

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” — Max Dupree,  The Art of Leadership

Today more than ever, we are bombarded with more information than we can reasonably process.  The leader cuts through this overload to discover the key facts of the current situation – providing others with a reliable contextual interpretation and direction.

In this quest to define reality, the leader courageously pursues the truth, knowing that clear, fact-based communication takes extra work but is the doorway to creativity and consensus.  Jim Collins writes, that organizations that become ’great’ exercise ”the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of their current reality, whatever they might be.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders pursue reality and truth knowing it is the key to their biggest insights and breakthroughs.

Achieving Greatness

“Good is the enemy of great.  And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.” — Jim Collins, Good to Great

When Tiger Woods changed his golf swing in 2003, most people criticized because he did not win a major in 2003 or 2004, failing to dominate the game as before.  With yesterday’s five shot win at the British Open, on top of his victory this year at the Masters, he is once again dominating the sport.  Tiger’s “good” golf swing was the enemy of his “great” swing.

As Tiger has demonstrated, what you are doing well may be the barrier to your next breakthrough.  For example, if you are a ”good” leader, you may be blocking the greater growth of your organization by not empowering others to lead with you.  Mario Andretti said it this way, “If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough.”

The Bottom Line:  Leaders have the vision and courage to let go of the good in pursuit of what is truly great.

Simple Problem Solving

“Your idea needs to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you are currently working on.” — Thomas Edison

The simplest way to solve a problem is to borrow an existing idea. Military designers borrowed Picasso’s art to create better camouflage patterns and tanks.

After working with owner-entrepreneurs for 40 years, management consultant guru Peter Drucker said, “The myth is that an owner-entrepreneur can depend on a flash of genius.” The ones who depend on the flash of genius will also go out like one. King Solomon, recognizedby many as the wisest man to ever live wrote, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders solve problems by borrowing and adapting proven solutions.

The Power of Vision

“There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long range success than an attractive, worthwhile and achievable vision of the future widely held.” – Burt Nanus, Professor of Management at the University of Southern California

Vision is a destination toward which your organization should aim, a future that is better, more successful, or more desirable than the present.

Vision is a “life or death” proposition. If you’ve got the right vision for your organization, you’ve got a powerful engine that will drive you and your people into the future. If you don’t, you are at best limping along; or, you may be in the process of dying.

Professor Nanus contends that the right vision “is an idea so energizing that it in effect jump-starts the future by calling forth the skills, talents, and resources to make it happen.” At Visionworks, when we help a client “jump-start the future” with a compelling vision, there is an energy and unity that grips the organization and propels it forward.

The Bottom Line: Leaders create the future by unleashing the power of vision.