On Leadership: The not-so-simple matter of translation

Recently I had the privilege to attend a graduation ceremony. It was of course wonderful to see young people rewarded for years of hard work and was a forceful reminder of the importance of the academic contribution to our knowledge base. Theory forms the base that informs, guides and on which practice – of whatever kind, is built.

Rubics cube lettersHowever, there was one, well in truth two, moments that caught my attention and drew an immediate leadership thought that is the subject of this blog. A PhD graduate had the following read out as his thesis topic: Fine structure of the Isoscalar Giant Quadrupole Resonance and 2+ level densities in spherical to deformed nuclei across the isotope chain 142, 144, 146, 148, 150 Nd using the (p,p1) reaction.

I know, I know…I felt the same way!

Then without a moment to ‘recover’ and unscramble my confused cerebellum, the following dissertation was presented: Ontogeny and cranial morphology of the basel carnivorous dinocephalian, Antheosaurus magnificus from the Tapinocephalus Assemblage zone of the South African Karoo.

There comes a point when raising the white flag of comprehension is no disgrace and constitutes the better part of valour! The poor Academic tasked with announcing the dissertations will have sleepless nights following his mangling of this particular one although there should be no shame in that as those in the audience rendered silent prayers of thanks that they weren’t in his shoes!

The point is, when it comes to leadership and communication, your message needs to be crystal clear.

Formal leadership studies and business schools have more often than not been guilty of unwarranted complexity and business leaders and learning and development people within organisations are often complicit in this complexity. I am not saying that matters such as leadership and development are simple; they are not. But, as a leader you need to find ways and means to connect, to simplify your message and provide clear direction on matters that are complex and of importance.

Watch-out for the layers of business speak babble and terminology that is as sterile as it is meaningless. Start to challenge such terminology in your own team meetings and when fed to you in the belief that it is what you want to hear.

Yes, we need the deep knowledge that allows sound business and leadership practice to follow. But, as important as that part of the equation is, it still is only half of the equation. The other half is to interpret the theory in ways and means that make people want to live it.

As a leader, that is your job!

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