Leaders: The Genius Of Simple


When I saw this Richard Branson quote I immediately sent it to several CEO’s that I have been working with over the past week. The reality of business today is that it is complex, fast paced and full on. The change, technology, innovation and changing global market place adds to complexity. The role of a leader is to constantly make the complex simple. To break things down into bite size chunks, to clearly identify the issues in amongst the “fog of war” so they can then be addressed.

One recent example. This week I was working with a leading NZ company, one that is very successful, growing fast, a Senior Leadership Team at the top of its game, working in the technical space. These guys can do amazing things in their field, professionally and are academically at the top of their game. As part of their strategy it became important to measure “users”. The conversation and debate around what a user is, how the various users could be measured, their usage weighted, the definition etc could have raged for hours. A real life example of a simple concept i.e. a user is someone who uses their product or service whether they pay for it or not, being made into a complex matter that could have stopped them doing something very simple and important.

The role of any leader is to quickly take the conversation the other way. To cut through the complexity and ensure the team understands the real issue. To quickly bring things to a logical and executable decision point. Time and time again businesses feel they are different or special so therefore the principles of research based best practice won’t apply to them.

Recently I was speaking to a group representing 15 Law firms. A mix of senior partners and their General Managers. I was discussing Target Markets and how any business needs to be able to identify their Target Market and design their products and services specifically for that market (not that they don’t do business with those outside that target market, they just don’t actively target them).

One said to me “Kendall you have to realise that we do things a little differently”, meaning that this stuff is all very well and good but it doesn’t apply to them because their work is different/complex/multifaceted/high trust with clients/very important etc. When I openly challenged this point we went on to have a great discussion and in actual fact this thinking not only absolutely applied to their industry it was badly lacking. To the point whereby most Law firms cannot even differentiate their point of difference. Most simply are “Great service, trusted, client focussed”. I’m not saying it is easy to have a defendable point of difference, but when you get one clearly defined it is of high value. It allows you to stand out and demonstrate to your market that you add a massive return on investment to them. Otherwise you compete on price…….and that sucks. Sadly most Companies and Industries think they are little bit different and therefore don’t apply some of the simple principles.

Leaders at the top of their game keep things simple, force clarity and help their people to make the complex simple. Ironically some of these skills are the least talked about, trained for and invested in.

Other Things You Might Find of Interest;

Listening Very Hard: The Voice of Your Customer (Link here)

Making Your Business Better (Link Here)

Leadership Lessons from 200 CEO’s (Link Here)

Leading Leaders


I love this quote from Tom Peters.

Personally I think it is the ultimate challenge to develop good, robust ethical leaders who live the values of the organisation and who have the confidence to make good clear decisions and to communicate powerfully. Much of this comes down to creating an environment that encourages people to try new things, to fail fast and to constantly reflect and learn.

Leading in todays business environment requires many and diverse skills. In the main these skills are the interpersonal skills i.e. relating to people, communicating, empathy, judgement, coaching, mentoring and setting clear expectations. If you can achieve this then you can truely hold people accountable and be tough on them.

It staggers me that the most important Leadership skills are the ones most left to chance, the least discussed and the least trained for in business today. The military does not leave this to chance….why is this? What does the Army know that Corporate leaders don’t?

Makes you think.

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