Bob Johansen, author of “Leaders Make the Future”, states that clarity is one of ten leadership skills that leaders will need in the upcoming times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.
Here’s a brief recap on clarity:
- Clarity requires inner strength and discipline: leaders, even when immersed in a world of ambiguity and confusion, emerge with forward momentum.
- Clarity requires great self-knowledge: leaders must first understand who they are becoming, and how to get there, before leading others.
- Clarity requires external engagement: leaders communicate with inspiration and a call to action that attracts others to follow.
- Clarity requires flexibility: leaders are clear about their destination, but flexible about the journey.
Leaders understand why people crave simple and easy answers, but should provide clarity without introducing false hope. Navigating the maze between hope and hopelessness, leaders with clarity will find a way out.
How are you relentlessly pursuing clarity in your leadership role?
Jim Collins, teacher to companies around the world and best-selling author (Good to Great, Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall, and Great by Choice) speaks and writes about it frequently.
Tom Peters, consummate speaker and game-changing author (The Search for Excellence, Re-imagine, The Pursuit of WOW!, and The Little Big Things) doesn’t just speak on the subject – he rants about it.
Steven Covey, business consultant, professor, and author (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, and Principle-Centered Leadership) made it the foundation of his time management principles.
Richard Swenson, physician-futurist, award-winning educator, and best-selling author (Margin, The Overload Syndrome, and In Search of Balance) thinks it is one of the keys to restoring balance in our lives.
Maybe you’re getting the idea it’s a big deal. It is…
…especially for such an innocuous thing.
Here it is:
“To-Don’ts” are more important than “To-Dos”
A little elaboration:
- What you decide not to do is probably more important than what you decide to do
- You probably can’t work on “to-don’t” alone – you need a sounding board/mentor/advisor/nag that you trust to act as a drill sergeant who will march you to the wood-shed when you stray and start doing those time-draining “to-don’ts.”
With only a little tongue-in-cheek:
The top of your “to-do” list for today is to immediately begin working on your “to-don’t” list!
While doing some research recently, I came across a back issue of “Fast Company” magazine and a great article on Apple entitled “Apple Nation.” It’s one observer’s version of what “the Apple playbook” might look like. It may be dated, but it’s fascinating – and it has some implications for your organization.
- Go into your cave – Apple is fanatic about secrecy when it comes to their development process. Behind it’s often closed doors, Apple can ignore the clamor of the world and create its own unique brand of “magic.”
- It’s okay to be king – Apple’s engineers spend 100% of their time making products planned by a small club of senior managers – and while he was CEO, sometimes entirely by the late Steve Jobs himself. It may seem dictatorial, but it works. The hyper focus lets everyone know exactly what is needed.
- Transcend orthodoxy – despite all the noise about Apple’s closed ideology, the company adopts positions based on whether they make for good products and good business. Results are the driving philosophy.
- Just say no – CEO Steve Job’s primary role at Apple was to turn things down. “I’m as proud of the products that we have not done as the ones we have done,” Jobs once told an interviewer.
- Serve your customer. No, really – however great your product or service, something will go wrong – and only then will the customer/client take the true measure of your organization.
- Everything is marketing – Apple understands the lasting power of sensory cues, and goes out its way to infuse everything it make with memorable ideas that scream its brand.
- Kill the past – no other company re imagines the fundamental parts of its business as frequently, and with as much gusto, as Apple does. Nothing holds it back, so it can always stay on the edge of what’s technologically possible.
- Turn feedback into inspiration – Apple doesn’t exactly ignore the many customer requests for improvements in its products. They simply use their ideas as inspiration, not direction; as a means, not an end.
- Don’t invent, reinvent – revolutionary is one of Jobs’ favorite words. It curates the best ideas bubbling up around the tech world and makes them its own.
- Play by your own clock – Apple doesn’t get caught up in the competitive frenzy of the industry; it plays by its own clock. Apple’s product release schedule is designed around its own strategy and its own determination of what products will advance the company’s long-term goals.
Everyone wants to be like Steve Jobs and the powerhouse company he created and led. It’s not easy. But the lessons of Apple above may just help move your own organization forward.
Have you had your “Apple” today?
The problem with most visionaries is that they see a world that doesn’t exist.
It’s not so much of a problem until they try to explain their vision to the rest of us mere mortals. They can imagine products or services not yet invented. They can envision a way of living different to the way we live now.
Yet they can’t always get it out in a way that anyone can understand.
Simon Sinek, author of the book “Start With Why,” has a great post here on the visionary’s dilemma.
Here’s a quote that pretty much sums it up:
A vision, no matter how brilliant, will only ever see the light of day if others, those less visionary, are able to also see the potential. It is a person’s ability to paint a picture of something that doesn’t exist in words so clear that others can clearly picture it themselves without any confusion or uncertainty that matters most. It is at that point that an idea can inspire people to act. To share the idea and to help bring it to reality.
His formula for explaining the vision in words everyone can understand is pure gold:
- Words that require thinking should be avoided, words like “convergence,” for example. When someone says that in a sentence, I have to furl my brow and really pay attention.
- Explain why it matters, not what you’re doing. Who cares if you’re “developing applications for mobile devices…blah blah blah,” why should I care?
- And most importantly, always, always speak as if you’re describing an image. A picture. A scene.
And finally: And, after all, it is why you have your vision, not how you intend to create it, that inspires.
Leaders in ChurchWorld ought to be visionaries – and many are. Just make sure you are able to speak to that vision, and communicate it to others with clarity.