Simplicity is often regarded as the Holy Grail within design circles. Striving to ensure that form follows function is a mantra that, while stated but not always practiced. Too often, a project that begins with the simplest of intentions ends up hopelessly complex. Camels—so the joke goes—were designed by a committee.
No less challenge is the desire for simplicity in human relations. Yet, since all of us are different, and the permutations among us seem infinite, striving for simplicity may be a fool’s errand. Or not. While one size does not fit all, those in charge of getting things done can make simplicity their mantra.
How? By the way they behave. And here is where the desire for human connection makes the most sense. We all, or most of us, do want to be connected to others. We seek to be understood, appreciated, and loved even. That is where simplicity enters in three ways: head, heart and spirit.
Let’s take them one at a time.
Head is rationality. Leading with our minds leads us to consider what others want. It means we must deliver conditions for them to succeed. With such logic, leaders know they must set expectations, communicate them, support the work effort, insist on accountability, and acknowledge the results. Within these steps, accountability is essential. The leader sets the tone and follows through.
Heart is emotionality. Leading with our hearts challenges us to deliver what others want. Knowing what other want is not the same as practicing it. And that's where the heart comes it. We feel compelled to act. Not because we have to, but because we want to. We genuinely desire to see others succeed. It enriches us as much as it does them.
Spirit is transcendent. Leading with the spirit provokes us to meet another’s aspirations for something better. Purpose is the driver because it challenges individuals to find their purpose. Within an organizational construct, the leader abides by the purpose of ensuring that everyone understands it.
What has been described are the leader's responsibilities for simplicity, but there is something else. First, the leader must understand herself. She knows her purpose and how her purpose complements the whole. Such alignment between the intrinsic and extrinsic purpose may not always be possible. Organizations do not fulfill our every need. We as humans must find our purpose and act on it. Ideally, what we want to do personally can match our work, but we know it does not. Understanding that dichotomy is essential to self-knowledge.
The defining purpose for ourselves can be a journey. It is often an awakening for others, a realization that this is what I was born to do. For others, purpose is revealed in their work, acknowledging that I am doing what I should be doing. It is fulfilling.
“Life,” said Confucius, “is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Yes, it is but striving for simplicity requires time to discover and a lifetime to practice.