Searching for the Simple Path


We’ve all been lured in by the compelling titles . . . XYZ in Five Easy Steps . . . Three Must-Do Strategies . . . Seven Skills You Need to Succeed . . . Especially on days when you feel like you are drowning in the complexity, the push and pull, the sheer weight of leading a project or organization, how nice would it be to have someone clearly identify a simpler path that perhaps you missed amid the chaos? I hate to break it to you, but if it’s simplicity you want, there is a fairly good chance you are looking in the wrong place.

Consider the perspective of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who noted, “I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”  Most of us are looking in the wrong place! We are looking for simple leadership solutions that will allow us to avoid the complexity that threatens to overwhelm us. Unfortunately, the only way to do that is to stay right where you are . . . and even then the cloud of complexity is going to continue to hang over you, taunting you into continued inaction.

Truly, the only solution if you would hope to be an effective leader is to walk through the complexity and emerge on the other side — that is where enduring simplicity lies. The journey is not for the faint of heart. Far too many leaders get so caught up in the whirlwind that they find themselves spinning endlessly, reluctant to take a step for fear of it being the wrong one. If that sounds familiar, there are a number of tools you can use to turn down the volume of distractions swirling around you and identify the best path forward.

Perhaps a business model canvas would help provide clarity, or scenario planning, or developing a focused yet flexible strategic framework. What do all of these tools have in common? They push you to make decisions. To choose a path among the myriad of options, put it on paper so everyone can be on the same page, and then start moving forward one decision at a time.

Once you have taken the time to clearly identify your values, mission and distinctive competencies (which is harder than it sounds!) you just might be surprised at how a path forward begins to emerge. Often it seems so clear, so simple, you wonder how you couldn’t see it earlier. Maybe you were simply looking in the wrong place.

See you on the other side!

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