What Is Simple Leadership?

In my recent post on 5 Reasons Why Simple Leadership Rocks, a reader called me out in the comment section. And, to be honest, I deserved to be called out.

While my post explained why leading simply rocked, I forgot to explain and show how you can lead simply. Thanks to Caleb, you’ll get that in this post.

Leaders have been taught again and again that leadership is difficult. Your processes should be understood only by you and only you should be in control.

This has made leadership much more difficult than it should be. Instead, you should be leading simply.

What Is Simple Leadership?

Now, I don’t want to get overcomplicated in this post. It is, after all, about leading simply and effectively. There shouldn’t be much confusion to this after the post is done.

My personal opinion is our leadership should be simple. We need to get rid of the complicated processes and the red tape we put up as barriers between us and our team. It’s creating walls and not relationships.

Instead, we need to break down the processes. We need to make the processes easy enough that a 3 year old or our mothers could understand them. We’ve got to get away from long lists and wordy manuals. The more complicated the processes, the more chance there is for mistakes. Break the habit of difficult processes now!

Simple leadership also calls for Clear Communication. For most of us, we don’t need to use large and confusing words. When we do, it’s often to show off our knowledge and to make the other people around us feel small. Look for ways to clearly explain the mission, vision, and end goal of your organization. Don’t leave room for confusion.

You must be willing to create goals and objectives that are easy to understand. Creating goals and objectives that read like they came from an MBA or English major sounds like a wise decision. But it can kill the enthusiasm of your team when they can’t understand or relate to the goals of the company. Skip the fancy wording and give it to the team plainly. They’ll thank you for it.

Hand over tasks to competent team members. You’re only one person. Don’t hold onto every task that comes your way. Know your strength areas and your weaknesses. And be willing to hand over the tasks to those you know can perform better than you in those areas. Stop trying to be Superman and instead simplify your leadership by delegating the tasks you struggle with to those who shine in that area.

When we learn that leadership doesn’t have to be complicated, our companies can begin to shine. The load is lifted off of team members and the leaders. You’ve just got to be willing to get rid of the extra baggage you’ve been carrying. Are you willing?

Question: How do you create simple leadership within your company? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Joseph, thanks for the clarification! I believe some of the best leaders I know are simple leaders. In my opinion leaders who lead simply are easily approachable because they haven’t hedged themselves in with bureaucracy.

    As I was reading this post I began asking myself the same question you asked at the bottom of the post, “How can you create simple leadership?” I think this is a vital question because we might all agree that simple leadership is great but many of us work in environments that we didn’t create and don’t control. As a result we may have certain expectations or rules given to us that hold us back from simple leadership.

    Here’s a quick example, when I became team leader for our group of missionaries in Ukraine I inherited a reporting system that required those under me to fill out a lot of paperwork and answer a lot of questions. No one like these forms, including me! It was a waste of time because it really didn’t add any value to our team but rather just complicated life for everyone.

    I investigated the options and found out that we didn’t have to report using these forms so I got rid of them. Everyone was super happy! Instead of long written report forms I now just personally connect with each team member once a month. This is much simpler and more enjoyable.

    • My pleasure Caleb! Getting rid of those reports sounds like you’re getting the premise behind Simple Leadership. Keep at it!

  • One of the largest and most universal complaint from employees is lack of clarity.

    “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – Colin Powell

    • Jon, I feel that one. And, most often, this lack of clarity comes from complex systems and complex communication.

  • These are great ideas, Joe! One thing I struggle with is handing off leadership. I have a killer team, but sometimes the reins really need to be pried from my hands. If we’re not willing to work as a team, we’ll wake up without one. I can also only use the 8-10 hours per day that I’m productive. If I could let go of the reins a bit, our team could be using 8-10 hours per day…times 6! Can you imagine how exponentially more powerful that could be?

    This year I’m concentrating on transitioning responsibility (and authority) to an experienced leader on my team so we can elevate the programs for greater influence. Put more simply, I’m committed to working as a team.

    • Letting go and giving into delegation can be quite difficult. We feel we’re the only ones who can do it to our standards. It’s tough! But, as you’re learning, it’s vital to make things go and leadership more simple.

  • Bill | LeadershipHeartCoaching

    Hi Joseph,
    One thing to add about handing tasks over to those you know can perform better than you in certain areas and that is as a leader, you are allowing others the opportunity to use their strengths. All good stuff to keep our employees engaged :->

    • That’s good Bill! Helping our team work in their strengths helps boost the impact of the organization!

  • Pingback: What Is Simple Leadership? – Joseph Lalonde | kwalitisme()

  • Great advice.

    Delegating is so important for growth, both for the team and the leader. But a leader can’t effectively delegate if they are worried about who gets the credit.

    • Thanks TC. You’re right, for delegation to work, we’ve got to cast aside our own desire for recognition and just do the work.

      • “just do the work”…amen to that Joe!

        • It’s simple words but much harder than it appears!

  • Hi Joseph,

    Wonderful topic and suggestions. I think leaders should initiate the task and then let followers complete it. As per Jesus Christ Leadership is servant hood. (Mark 8:35, Matthew 20:25)

    • Hi Coach! That’s so true. We should be doing what we’re asking our team to do. Sometimes that’s hard though, huh?

  • I try to keep us focused on one or two key metrics – the ones that we HAVE to get right…then everything else will fall into place.

    • That’s a sure-fire way for simple leadership. When we give focus to a minimal amount of metrics, we know what’s important and what needs to be done.

  • You mentioned handing off responsibility…I find that most of my team members enjoy the autonomy I give them when I do. Only those who are truly not engaged balk at not taking their fair share of the responsibility. This is the only way they are going to grow into being the leader one day.

    • It’s great when we’ve built a team that’s willing to take on more responsibility. It shows a willingness to pitch in and add value.

  • Simple leadership starts with open and transparent leadership. As leaders, we must be accessible to those we lead.

    • Yes it does Jon. What’s one step leaders can take to become open and transparent?

      • Keep an open door policy and intentionally seek out your team – connect with them at least once every day. And whenever possible, make this connection face-to-face.