Leaders Must Have Absolute Clarity

By | December 22, 2015

[December 22, 2015]  I worked for a commander in the recent past who could talk with absolute clarity about any complex subject.  His orders were clear to avoid any confusion to avoid mistakes that could be costly.   Of the many well-known senior U.S. Army officers, he was the best person that I’d ever known that could do this so well.

As a three-star general commanding a field army in South Korea with thousands of troops, their lives and those of our South Korean allies were in his hands if a war were to break out.  A mistake from a lack of clarity in his guidance could have been devastating.  The Korean War is not officially over and the two nations face each other daily knowing that a conflict will mean destruction on a scale not seen since 1953 when an armistice agreement was signed.

People like strong leaders but they also have a need for clarity from that leader.  It is interesting to see the differences among the U.S. presidential candidates in their party debates and in their speeches.  At the last Republican debate, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz had a spirited exchange on immigration and what laws they supported that would affect it.

The problem in the debate was that no one, not already familiar with laws under debate, would have had any idea what Rubio and Cruz were talking about.  Such examples of lack of clarity are easy to find in a debate but in a prepared speech that should be different.  No so.  Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders recently gave speeches full of vague and convoluted concepts.

The best leaders are those that are absolutely clear.  It is rare to find someone who can discuss a difficult and intricate subject without oversimplifying and yet communicate the key ideas to an audience.  Too many become condescending when they talk about complex issues; demonstrating a common lack of social skill to keep people’s interest.

Great leaders also are able to see the world clearly – as it is in everyday life – and communicate its intricacies and convolutedness to those who are stakeholders in the outcome.  Often our politicians and ideologies are unable to do this because their view of the world is colored by their biases.

Leaders must have absolute clarity.  Anything short of this will result in disappointment at best and the risking of lives at its extreme.  Winston Churchill had this rare ability and was the hero that helped save Britain in World War II.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.