Simple Isn’t Simple


Any fool can create complex.

Complexity leads to confusion.

Confusion leads to uncertainty.

Uncertainty produces cowardice.

Cowards never take meaningful action.


Longfellow said, “… in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”

John Maxwell said, “The leaders job is reducing rather than adding to complexity.” (Chick-fil-A Leadercast 2013)

Lousy leaders confuse – exceptional leaders clarify.

All successful leaders clarify by creating simplicity.


The challenge with finding simplicity is it sounds simple and easy. But, John Maxwell rightly indicates the path to simplicity always encounters complexity. Cloudy and confused always precedes clear and simple. Expect it.

If you haven’t felt confusion, you haven’t found simplicity.

Out of the fog:

Courageously create confusion by pressing for clarity. It’s the only path to simplicity.

“I’m not sure,” always precedes, “That’s it!”

Andy Stanley said, “If you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you’re going to have a hard time doing it.” (Chick-fil-A Leadercast 2013)

Make simplicity your day-to-day strategy. Complexity and it’s partner confusion are inevitable, apart from intervention.

Make simplicity your operational priority. Ask:

  1. Can we explain this in common, understandable language?
  2. What’s confusing?
  3. How are we more clear? (Great after conversations) Don’t ask, “Are we more clear?” If you can’t explain it, you haven’t found it.
  4. Have we included those closest to the action in this decision?
  5. Where are we fearful? (Complexity and fear are bedfellows)
  6. After meetings ask, “Where are the points of highest clarity?”
  7. How are we creating strategic confusion – confusion that occurs on the path to simplicity?

Bonus: Ask obvious, simple questions like, “What are we doing?”

Simple project:

Andy Stanley said the best thing he did, when he was a young leader, was create one sentence job descriptions for himself and his team.

Write a simple – one sentence – job description that captures the essences of your job. Live that sentence everyday.

Note: Special thanks to the Chick-fil-A Leadercast team for inviting me to this years event.

How can you make simplicity your mantra?

What are the essential steps on the path to simplicity?

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