No need to overthink about how to effectively lead. Following this timeless advice from Einstein is all you need.
Julian Hayes II, founder of, The Art of Fitness & Life, is writing here for Inc. He takes a famous saying of Einstein and applies it to managment and leadership thought. We like the thinking. There is definitely elegance in simplicity.
Creator, scientist, inventor, and unmistakable are a few terms used to describe Albert Einstein. While many people relegate Einstein’s powerful mathematician’s mind to strictly the scientific space, Einstein lived a life that has lessons applicable to a broad spectrum of areas.
At the core of Einstein’s unmistakability were curiosity and a commitment to see the possibilities of tomorrow as opposed to the limitations of today. That same trait is needed among today’s entrepreneurs and leaders.
Being a high-performing leader comes down to effective communication, and Einstein perfectly sums up how to do this in 12 words:
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Being a genius and a leader doesn’t lie in using fancy jargon, big words, or explaining things in complex terms. Being a high-performing leader requires a ruthless commitment to simplicity.
Simplicity is where true genius lies. Knowing a fact is different from understanding a concept. I can recall that the speed of light is 299,792,458 meters per second. But I can’t explain why, nor can I begin to give a breakdown of quantum mechanics.
As a leader, being able to recite facts means very little if you can’t explain it to your team and persuade others to follow your vision. To adopt this commitment to simplistic communication, here are two keys to keep top of mind.
1. See the world through the eyes of your target audience.
When I was first getting started as a consultant, I had a tendency to speak in industry jargon and roll out words that only a peer would understand. The only issue (and it was a big issue) was that my target audience wasn’t a peer. My target audience was the general public.
When I realized I wasn’t very good at my job, I reached out to some veterans who were consistently getting positive results. The difference wasn’t in the factual knowledge–it was in the communication channel.
Using precise language that your target audience understands is pivotal for achieving results. When seeing the world through the lens of your audience, you’re better able to craft a message that is more on the level of their understanding.
As you prepare to talk to your teams, prepare for a speech, or work with clients, take a moment to pause and pretend you’re them as you prepare what to say.
2. Would your parents or a fifth-grader understand your message?
Providing the best information in the world doesn’t mean a thing if it isn’t absorbable. Keep that in mind that as you prepare for a speech, interview, or client session. Make your foundational message so clear and simplistic that even your parents or a fifth-grader would understand it.
This exercise forces you to remove the fluff and reduce your ideas down to their core essence. Of course, now that you have the foundational message ready to deliver, you can go back and throw in some sizzle to expand upon it.
When you’re an expert at your particular craft, it’s tempting to demonstrate this through eloquent wording and industry-speak. However, this usually entails making the message more complicated than it needs to be, and that bleeds over into the audience not taking action nor getting value.
A big part of committing to simplistic communication and becoming a high-performing leader is the removal of the ego.