"There's nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can't clearly articulate why we're doing what we're doing." -James Kouzes and Barry Posner
“Moving your teams from a position of confusion, and even chaos, to a point of clarity is a vitally important function of great leadership. Creating clarity ensures that you don’t get distracted by low priority work and tasks, and that the focus remains on achieving the most important goals. As a leader, your most important task is to drive your business towards its vision, a task much easier said than done in a world that is increasingly uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The leader who engages stakeholders in developing and driving a vision will inspire and engage their people. Without this clarity of the vision, it is virtually impossible for team members to be successful. In the context of our modern workplace, creating clarity is a fundamental core need that all people seek at work,” explains Dr Albertini.
Dr Eric Albertini
What is creating clarity?
“There are two important components of creating clarity. The first is ‘visioning’ which is about shaping a vision and translating it into a clear strategy about what actions to take and what not to do. The second is ‘mobilising’ – this is about getting individuals moving and energised with passion, purpose, and commitment to work towards the vision,” says Dr Albertini.
Bob Johansen defined clarity as: “The ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others cannot yet see. Leaders must be clear about what they are making, but flexible about how it gets made.”
Research published by Harvard Business Review (The 6 Fundamental Skills Every Leader Should Practice) confirmed that effective leaders should practice these essential basics:
- Shape a vision that is exciting and challenging for your team (or division/unit/organization) – visioning<!>
- Translate that vision into a clear strategy about what actions to take, and what not to do – visioning<!>
- Recruit, develop, and reward a team of great people to carry out the strategy – mobilising<!>
- Focus on measurable results – mobilising<!>
- Foster innovation and learning to sustain your team (or organization) and grow new leaders – mobilising<!>
- Lead yourself — know yourself, improve yourself, and manage the appropriate balance in your own life – mobilising<!>
Clarity versus certainty
“While clarity is the direct opposite of ambiguity, it is not a synonym for certainty. They are not the same thing. Clarity is about having the facts that you can act upon, but this does not mean you have the certainty of the outcome. Clarity is also not an emotional state but rather a state of mind. It allows you to know the next step and make an optimal decision without having to know every aspect of the outcome. Clarity is grounded in the ‘why’. It is also about knowing what you do not in fact know,” explains Dr Albertini.
“Certainty is an emotional state in that it is informed by wanting the safety and security of having a predictable and known outcome, holding off on fears of uncertainty,” he adds.
When it comes to certainty, according to Steven Stosny (Ph.D.): “To create a feeling of certainty, the brain must filter out far more information than it processes. In other words, the more certain you feel, the more likely you are wrong.”
The benefits of creating clarity
“Clarity improves a team's ability to execute, its ability to change directions confidently, and its overall satisfaction because people have more confidence that they're doing the most important work, and they understand why it matters in the grand scheme of things. Clarity brings talent and purpose together,” he adds.
“Clarity and decisiveness are inseparable from strategic ability, and are pillars of an organisation’s longevity, not to mention personal leadership success. The consequences of failing to have clarity are immediately clear – without it there is no road map to and for the future. By creating clarity, a leader gives direction, evokes passion, gives meaning, provides synergy and defines where the focus should be for success,” says Dr Albertini.
What does creating clarity look like?
Visionary leaders who are skilled at creating clarity:
- See the big picture
- See through the clutter, chaos, and contradiction
- Have a definite and clear vision of what they want to achieve, and why
- Focus on what matters most and do not become distracted by lower priorities
- Do not become disappointed and despondent because of temporary setbacks
- Inspire and motivate others – they light up the path for others to follow
Can one develop the ability to create clarity?
Like all the 15 critical skills necessary to be relevant in the future world of work, the ability create clarity can be developed and nurtured. The starting point is to first develop personal clarity by reflecting on questions like:
- What are your highest personal values?
- What is your vision for your leadership role?
- Are you living in alignment to those?
- What is your highest priority right now?
- Do you know what steps you need to take to accomplish it?
- Does everyone working for you have a clear understanding of their role, their mission and their purpose within the organization? Do they understand their central responsibilities?
The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner – 'model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart' - remains an excellent model to consider in creating clarity. The Mobilizing Framework by Larry Solomon – 'engage, align, enable, sustain' – is a great framework for mobilising people in pursuit of a clearly articulated vision.
‘Creating clarity’ is just one of the 15 Future Fit skills that the Future Fit Academy provides a comprehensive self-assessment index that assesses how effective you are in the areas that are most important in the world of work today. Based on your comprehensive results, you can then structure a course of online study with individual Future Fit courses that teach you how to develop and stretch each of the 15 Future Fit capabilities.
The Future Fit Index is structured for both individuals and corporate environments – supporting the entrepreneur looking to improve their ability to compete more effectively and grow their business in a volatile and competitive world, the manager looking to develop and grow into a leadership role, through to the human capital specialist looking to inculcate a winning, future fit culture to drive business market leadership. For more information visit https://www.futurefitacademy.com/.
Translate, Motivate, Activate: A Leader’s Guide to Mobilizing Change. Larry Solomon. 2017
Clarity First. Karen Martin. 2018. https://www.thegrowthfaculty.com/blog/GreatIdeasClarityFirstbyKarenMartin
White Paper. The Clarity Framework: A Fresh Approach to Organizational Performance. GP Strategies
The Power of Clarity: Unleash the True Potential of Workplace Productivity, Confidence and Empowerment. Ann Latham.
The Leadership Challenge Workshop. James Kouzes and Barry Posner. 2021
The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. https://www.leadershipchallenge.com/Research/Five-Practices.aspx