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Why Clarity Is a Critical Leadership Trait

March 18, 2024

Why Clarity Is a Critical Leadership Trait

And how it can be developed to better lead organizations

Vaughn Troyer

By: Vaughn Troyer

Clarity Is Kindness

Has this ever happened to you? Your spouse/manager/teacher asks you to complete an assignment or project, and you dive in with urgency and motivation. Perhaps it’s to mulch your flower beds. You spend an entire morning in the hot sun edging, weeding, and mulching the beds, and by noon they look terrific! Later that day, when reviewing the finished project with your spouse, you are dismayed to be told that the mulch selection is wrong and needs to be removed and replaced. All the hours of work of which you were so proud suddenly feel pointless and wasted. I ask the question: who bears the responsibility for this miscommunication—the manager or the one doing the work?

Over the last couple of years, the word that has floated to the top of my list of crucial leadership characteristics is CLARITY. I believe that a leader must provide clarity to those they are leading to create an environment of success. I’ve heard it said, “Clarity is kindness,” and I want to be that “kind” of leader.

Successful leaders have learned to communicate clarity to those around them. This may be as elementary as explaining the importance of why a process must be completed, the order and manner of completion, along with specific written details. Or it may be as complex as the five-year strategic plan for an organization developed by the leadership team, with the details of how to share the plan with the entire organization. Each of these provides valuable clarity to those teammates that are invested in completing the work.

It is also critical that leaders provide clarity as it relates to an individual’s job performance. In 2023, Hummel Group began using an employee review process called Reverse Performance Leadership to improve role clarity.

Every employee has a list of the five to seven crucial objectives of their roles, along with the performance measurement expectations. Monthly, the employee meets with their manager, and the employee tells the leader how their performance metric compares to the objective. We are still new to the process, but we are seeing the value of clearly defined expectations and regular feedback.

In contrast to the phrase “Clarity is Kindness,” I use a quote from Larry Linne, “Where there is a lack of clarity, there is conflict.” As a leader, I want to reduce negative conflict in my teams, and one significant way I can do so is by intentionally providing clarity to everything. Think of the frustration and negative emotions that could have been avoided in the landscaping example above by simply clarifying the details and expectations of improving the flower beds.

I encourage each of you, as leaders, to review the processes or results for which you are responsible, and then to intentionally provide greater clarity to your teammates. Remember—clarity is kindness.

Read the full Autumn 2023 newsletter here.

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