Leadership is such a broad, vague topic, isn’t it?
If you open ten leadership books, you’ll find ten different strategies, methods, or styles, all claiming to be “the way.” It’s overwhelming.
Much of what is written feels complicated and confusing. It’s full of MBA-speak and comes across as cold. Most of it isn’t helpful.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find something simpler and focused? Something we could actually apply?
Minimalism provides some of these answers.
In case you’re not familiar with minimalism, here are two partial definitions:
a way of eschewing the non-essential in order to focus on what’s truly important… ~ Zen Habits / mnmlist
a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important… ~ The Minimalists
Notice both emphasize focusing on what’s important. This is the heart of minimalism and is often the thing that makes leading people so difficult.
I’m not proposing we need to become minimalists to be leaders, but here are six reasons why understanding minimalism can help us become better leaders:
1. Minimalists focus on fewer, more important things
Most leaders generate more ideas than they could ever complete. The best leaders pick and choose what to work on. Which project to tackle. Which project will lead to the best results. And they ignore the rest.
Work and life are full of so much clutter. We can’t let the clutter control us or get in the way. Sometimes the best answer is to get rid of it.
2. Minimalists are driven by something bigger than themselves
People are screaming for inspiration at work and at home. Everyday they’re asking “why am I doing this?” Whether or not you believe in God (and I do), it’s clear people are inspired by big, impossible visions.
The best leaders understand this human desire and are obsessed with inspiring their team to chase a big dream. A dream of such proportions it can’t possibly be achieved without the help of a team and some higher power.
They lead their teams to take daily steps toward a compelling vision. They understand growth happens as a result of the pursuit, and can’t always be measured.
3. Minimalists know things will be ok
Leaders need the ability to roll with the punches. Their work can’t become too precious. Mistakes or setbacks should be viewed as bumps in the road, not as destructive earthquakes requiring everything be rebuilt from scratch.
These leaders don’t over hire and then fire in a panic. They don’t dwell on a bad year and view it as failure. They wait out storms. They stay the course.
4. Minimalists pursue passion
The best leaders lead in areas in which they are passionate. Passionate leaders make sure they are informed, and generate bigger, better ideas.
These leaders also place people on their team where they will have the most impact. They create an environment where creativity flourishes because skill, talent, and passions are aligned.
5. Minimalists are free
The best leaders aren’t slaves to their jobs. They aren’t defined by them. They use their jobs to help others, including customers, employees and shareholders. The give gifts.
The best leaders aren’t slaves to fear. Fears don’t prevent progress. They lean into any fears and learn from them.
The best leaders aren’t slaves to financial obsessions and profit goals. All leaders want “success,” but the best ones don’t measure success solely on profits.
6. Minimalists know there are limits to everything
The best leaders have a clear understanding of their limits and the limits of others. Knowing these limits allows them to push and lay off when appropriate.
They know people can’t work 80 hours a week indefinitely. They also know people can do amazing things when inspired with a compelling vision.
They know that just because you can pile debt on a company in pursuit of exponential growth, you shouldn’t. They understand every year can’t be a record year.
Minimalists understand life is a journey. So do the best leaders.