Why Simplicity is Key to Success for Leaders

by Wayne Sharer

International speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Retired navy officer, former commanding officer. Over 35 years of leading, coaching, mentoring, and speaking.

August 8, 2018

Simplicity could be one of the most overlooked words in leadership. Why?

Likely because the word simple is commonly associated with lower education, lower IQ, or less capability. Good leaders don’t make the mistake of underrating simple and simplicity.

First, remember making something simple to understand does not necessarily make it easy to do or easy to accomplish. In fact, many simple procedures yield highly complex outcomes, plans, and processes.

F-14 Tomcat VF-114 escorting TU-95 Bear

F-14 Tomcat VF-114 escorting TU-95 Bear. By U.S. Navy (U.S. Defense Imagery photo VIRIN: DN-SP-04-08646) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Simplicity of Complex Plans

In my days in the U.S. Navy, I learned early on that to achieve a complex plan, it must be simple to understand to ensure the desired result could be achieved. The cold war taught me this.

In those days, us unpredictable carrier aviators created an air strategy called the outer air battle. It involved all aspects of naval engagement to be able to detect, identify, and kill the enemy at hundreds of miles from the battle group. This included aircraft, ships, and submarines. Sometimes even U.S. Air Force aircraft.

Imagine all these thousands of people and hundreds of weapons working together and trying to make a strategy and supporting tactics that were based on simplicity. Then try to imagine it being easy to execute against hundreds of enemy aircraft and missiles flying amongst 50 or 60 friendly aircraft – and not killing the friends.

In my days of cold war “battle,” I participated as both an airwing tactical planner and executer, and later as a carrier battle group strategic and tactical planner and executer. Keeping simplicity in the plans was one of our greatest challenges.

The leaders had to take a very complex plan and reduce to something simple. Something all participants can understand and fully embrace. If they couldn’t understand it, they could not apply it with maximum effectiveness – killing the enemy without killing the friends.

Making Simplicity in Leadership Successful

Simplicity is a key to the success of leaders in a business of any size. The bigger your business, the more obvious it becomes your executives and leaders must be able to create strategies with simplicity at their core. Business leaders, like the military, must have their teams able to easily understand and embrace their goals.

Simplicity enables leaders to achieve great results, involving huge teams that may be spread throughout the world. Just ask any executive at any Fortune 500 company. In the military, simplicity save lives and yields huge victories.

In business, simplicity often saves lives but more often creates huge market success. Simplicity is key to success for leaders.



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