Minimalist leaders are the next generation of leaders.
- Removing leadership clutter is essential.
- Delivering on clarity of purpose is rewarding.
- Freeing the spirit and minds of the organizational citizens is activating.
Minimalist leaders are a new kind, a necessary one in a cluttered world.
To recap, I defined leadership minimalism as:
“A practice that helps leaders focus on what adds the most value to the people within their community of influence. By acting and speaking with clarity on what matters most, leaders create space for others to contribute creatively and productively to the health and growth of the organization.”
Leadership minimalism is a practice.
A practice is a continuous effort to get better in a defined area. To achieve this state, minimalist leaders use their time in a conscious way. By doing so, their practice of being a minimalist leader improves. The corresponding impact is the people around them also get better in their pursuit of the organizational purpose and mission.
Where should minimalist leaders spend their time?
Minimalist leaders spend their time improving their practice in five key areas. The exploration begins.
Wellness is the act of being healthy. Healthy is being mindful of:
- What you eat and how much
- How you care for your body and the frequency (daily, weekly)
- How you tend to your mind
- How you refresh your soul
Wellness takes time. However, getting the most from your lifetime requires a schedule of personal care.
Minimalist leaders clear the path for healthy exercise, food, breaks, and practices to keep them centered, focused, and refreshed.
Meaningful relationships take effort to forge and sustain. A vast network with little relationship depth leave us with an empty feeling. Minimalist leaders take the time to go deep with certain relationships.
Relationships matter. Essential relationships include:
Family relationships may ebb and flow based on our age and their age. If we are consistent in our mutual care, family relationships provide a solid foundation. However, our partner in life should not ebb and flow. Soul partners should always be present, exploring new ways to renew each other in our conversations, pursuits, and love.
Community relationships take our impact beyond our comfortable homes. Minimalist leaders cause a positive ripple from where they live. We need to leave our families better, and we need to leave our communities better. After all, legacy is about leaving our places with a positive memory and string to pull forward.
Organizational relationships activate our work. Without good organizational relationships, work is a drag, and we drag many down with us. Within organizations, minimalist leaders focus on the higher purpose and keep people focused on what matters. Minimalist leaders are not pushovers. They stand up for what is right and what they believe, but they collaborate with strength around purpose.
Organizational relationships extend to our stakeholder community. Customers, partners, shareholders, suppliers, and others make our organizations work. Minimalist leaders spend the time to extend their ear and actions to the expanded organizational community.
Do what matters
The most challenging time is doing what matters most. Doing the right things each day is a continuous test. Whether a leader passes or not can be tracked by the state of family life, community engagement, and organizational culture.
Doing what matters means clearing the clutter of activity. What a lot of activity produces is dust, and dust clouds vision and purpose. When a leader takes a cluttered activity approach, team members feel confused, uninspired, and distracted. The culture matches the leader. The result: team members who refuse to work this way will check out or leave. Both are bad outcomes.
In many ways, the same result happens in family and community life. Being scattered and not present takes away from family and community members.
Minimalist leaders block their calendars to do what matters most.
An added block on a minimalist leader’s calendar is think time. Brainstorming is a waste of time. What brainstorming has become is a way to satisfy a self-centered leader’s ego, confirming what they already want done. Instead, a minimalist leader knows the value of think time.
Think time includes being unplugged, staring out the window, going for a walk, or reading in-depth articles. Through robust think time, creativity blooms. Innovation happens. A thinking practice is a wonderful example to set
Ask – Give – Understand
Time is like a springtime barren field. Too often, we just want to plow through it quickly. However, a good farmer knows it takes planning on what to plant, how to plant it, and what will produce the best harvest. How we use our time says a lot about us. A minimalist leader knows this fact.
Minimalist leaders do not plow through time; they carve it out in thoughtful, productive ways. Each week, time exists to ask, give, and understand. Here is what I mean:
- Time to ask people to apply their talents
- Time to give people an opportunity to use their talents
- Time to understand what is working and what is not
Minimalist leaders spend time with key individuals and ask them to use their talents in new ways to serve the purpose of the organization and its mission. Minimalist leaders call on others to serve.
Equally important, minimalist leaders clear the field so others can use their talents without being constrained by the clutter of politics, self-centered posturing, or constant shifting of priorities.
Finally, minimalist leaders take the time to ask good questions. The questions do not doubt another’s authority. What the questions do is seek to understand what is working and what is not working. Given the information, minimalist leaders support, challenge, and encourage. Metrics are important, and getting to meaning of them is critical.
Minimalist leaders ask, give, and understand, giving others time to discover, pursue, and achieve. All this is wrapped in one important element: Clarity of purpose.
The mantra of minimalist leaders is simple.
The first mantra is “clear the clutter.” Remove what does not matter in the scheme of purpose.
The second mantra is “be clear.” Clarity of purpose enlivens a vision and goal.
Using time in a wise, thoughtful way enables a minimalist leader to hone their practice while activating others around them.
Where else should minimalist leaders spend their time?
Join the Conversation
Minimalist Leaders: 5 Enlightened Ways They Clock Time
I was too busy for too long to make the time and be a minimalist leader. I was under the false assumption that I’d find the time for what mattered – Not the case. I’ve regained control of my schedule for what matters and creates flow in my life and leadership. That started with wellness and has opened up new paths into many other areas that were once closed because time passed whether I had things I wanted to be/do/know or not. Thanks for another great piece, Jon!
Alli, Thank you for sharing your experience and insights. Your statement of finding what “creates flow in my life and leadership” highlights the essence of being a minimalist leader. Life and leadership are intertwined yet we ensure we are spending the right time in the right places to capture the right flow. Thank you! Jon