Discard bumper sticker philosophy

All of the bumper stickers on the car I was following this morning focused on boiling down a single complex topic into pure stupid. I felt myself getting dumber.

There was an upside, though. They sparked a thought. I thought about whether any of us apply bumper sticker philosophy to how we lead?

After I thought about it more, I came to the conclusion that we do, but not in an obvious way. Bumper stickers are like analog tweets: Can’t say much, so the simpler the message the better. The problem is that simple is seldom complete (or accurate).

I think many of us try to make complex things simple because simple feels better. It feels easier. So in our quest to make things simpler, we often overlook the texture and nuance of the problems before us.

When we miss the texture and nuance, we can’t arrive at that “just right” solution that so many modern problems demand. ┬áThe point is this: Our quest to get to the heart of every matter may be harming us as much as it is helping us.

What to do? Turn off the burners. Stop boiling everything. Instead, listen. Where is the color in the story of the problem? What is the texture? Where is the nuance? It used to be simple, but it will never be simple again. Open-minded, intentional listening is not passe. It’s required.

by Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan is the Head Coach at Sandcastle Company, a Seattle-based leadership training organization. His first book, Future Leader: Rebooting Leadership to Win the Millennial and Tech Future [link], is now available. Jonathan regularly writes and speaks about The New Leader Way, leadership resilience, and the future of work. He has years of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors, a master's degree from Seattle University, and professional coach training from the University of Miami.

Filed under: Leadership

Published on July 30, 2019

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