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What does it mean to simply lead?

If there is a word that seems to run counter to everything we know today, it is “simple.” We complicate our lives in so many ways, running down rabbit trails…pursuing everything BUT simplicity. As leaders, at work and at home, we simply must find a way to simplify.


We simply must find a way to simplify. Hey, that has a catchy ring to it…(smile).


So how do we? Simplify, that is.


Here’s a suggestion. I call it, “Dump, Plan, Do.”




Start with a quiet moment, a piece of paper and pen (or a computer, if you prefer). Consider all the thoughts you have in your head at this given moment. Now “dump” them on the paper or computer. Get as many of them out of your head as you’re able. If you’re like me, the thoughts will be to-dos, goals and dreams, spending more time with family, reading, struggles, etc. Don’t rush it; give yourself plenty of time. Let it flow. Don’t worry about neatness or grammatical sense. Just get it out of your head so you can see it in physical form. Dump it all out. Then feel the initial relief.


Now, consider what is in front of you. The demands you place on yourself with all this “stuff” in your head. Some of it is incredibly relevant (R)…potentially life-changing. Some of it is noise (N). Consider writing an “R” next to the important stuff and “N” next to the non-important noise. HINT:  Whether we care to admit it or not, our thoughts cannot all have the same relevance. Some of them are simply more important.  It’s now up to you to decide which ones…




When I think about planning, I’m reminded of the scene from Alice in Wonderland where Alice meets the Cheshire Cat.  Paraphrased, she asks him which of the two paths she should take before her.  When asked where she wanted to go, she replied that she didn’t know.  “In that case,” he replied, “take either path.”




If it was in your head, there must be a reason.  Don’t discount the noise; however, it must be separated from the relevant.  Make plans for the relevant.


With a quick glance (not heavy consideration), ask yourself, “Which of the relevant (R) thoughts need addressing NOW?”  In other words, “Which alligators are closest to the boat?”  Now make a plan of action for the most relevant (important) items on your list. What steps do you need to take?  Whose support do you need?  What time frame is appropriate?


Having a plan puts you on the right road.




Here’s where most people take an exit ramp…never to return to the road.


Making things simple does not mean we don’t work. It doesn’t mean we take the easy road.


When we make things simple, we free our focus and concentrate on the behaviors that facilitate achievement. These behaviors (the “dos”) are enablers – they work in concert with the plan to ensure relevance takes center stage and our efforts are not in vain.


After the dumping and planning, all that’s left is the doing.


How much simpler can it be, really?


Successful leaders quickly realize the incalculable value of time – theirs and those of their followers. By simplifying, leaders give opportunities for servant-mindedness without losing traction, without losing control over their daily lives. Simplifying should, in itself, be simple.


Let’s not wait another moment to identify those thoughts that need plans…and the plans that need execution.


Simply put, it begins with simplicity.


Where can you most benefit from simplifying? On the road to simplicity, what specific challenges await you? Remember you cannot stand there with your hands behind your back forever. You must act. Simply lead.

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