Tony Bridwell is a Partner for Par, a leading management consulting firm, where he works with leaders to create greater accountability across the workforce and facilitates enterprise-wide culture change. tners In Leadership@BridwellTony
Leadership Is Easy, Right?
Here is what we know about being a leader: it's not easy. Just look at the data surrounding the concept of leadership.
A search on Amazon for leadership books reveal 219,889 options. A Google search reveals 781,000,000 results, in 0.40 seconds no less.
If leadership were easy, then we wouldn't need over 200,000 books and nearly one billion Google results on the topic. Yet, here we are adding one more idea to the vast array of ideas already in the ether--but I promise it's simple.
Let's cut to the chase. Here is what we know: being a leader is about influence. Our ability to lead is directly connected to our level of influence we have with other people. Influence can range on a continuum from positional power on one side to persuasive power on the other.
Positional power is a person's ability to influence others through the threat of power over others. The "I'm the boss; do it or else" scenario is the classic example of using positional power to lead. On the other end of the continuum is the idea of influencing others through various forms of persuasion, whether positive or negative (think inspiring followers versus deceiving followers).
Simplicity Always Wins
At the core of being a leader, there is one key principle we need to get right if we are going to find our maximum leadership influence. Leadership is about taking the complex and making it simple. That's it; you can drop the mic and leave the room-- but that's not everything.
Research confirms what people want most in their leader is honesty and integrity. However, people tend to be more easily swayed to follow a simple, clear message--even if the leader lacks honesty and integrity.
Let's reiterate this: People desire honesty and integrity but will follow simple and clear leaders, even if they lack honesty and integrity. It seems hard to believe, but just look at history for evidence.
From war to scandals to politics to corporate failures, some of the world's most destructive leaders were masters at using the simple message to influence followers, yet were completely devoid of integrity. And the results were catastrophic.
Steps to Simple and Powerful Leadership
Desirable and sustainable results don't come from simple and clear leadership shrouded in dishonesty but come from a simple and clear message built on a foundation of integrity.
To maximize your leadership influence, you need to simplify your leadership style. Here's how:
1. Take the complexity out of all your messaging.
There are some basic messages you need to focus on.
First, your purpose, which is why you exist. People want to know what they are doing is meaningful. A simple, clear message is vital.
Second, clearly communicate your vision, which is where you are going and when you want to get there. Warning, if your vision talks about "how" you are going to do something, it is not simple or clear.
And third, you need to communicate the results you need to achieve. You should only have 3-4 clear, simple results that each and every follower is connected to. Here is your filter; these key results should be memorable, measureable, and meaningful.
2. Do everything with true integrity.
There is a phenomenon taking place within the leadership community, I refer to it as "situational integrity." Situational integrity is when leaders will allow their integrity to bend ever so slightly based on the situation they are in to gain the outcome they desire.
The danger with this practice is that over time, your true integrity loses its muscle memory and, in a blink, you find yourself on a path to severe consequences. Remain adamant against this tendency, and your followers will respect you more.
Like I stated before, leadership is not easy but can (and should) be simple. For some unknown reason, leaders feel the constant urge to overcomplicate the simplest things.
Often, when we over complicate something we are well intended. Our belief is we are adding value. In reality, we are adding confusion and complexity.
Stay focused on simple, and you will strengthen your leadership influence.