Minimalist Leadership

Minimalist Leadership: Less is more

By KyoungHee Choi

As leaders, have you ever felt that you are carrying too many heavy bags on your shoulders? Felt overwhelmed by circumstances around you? Often, leaders are trying to fill in their busy life with more than they can carry or don’t feel comfortable to be in a “Comfort Zone” position. While the concept of “Minimalist Leadership” is relatively new, the word and principles of “Minimalism” has been around for quite a while.

We have all heard the saying “Less is more” popularized by minimalist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. I personally love his architectural style and this principle.

In Asian art, “Space and Line” has historically been considered to represent beauty. Space means that the design of empty space is part of the essence of a piece art.  Space completes the beauty of art and space shouldn’t be filled.

Zen artists in Japan were already applying concepts of minimalism in Zen arts, most widely known in a form of Zen garden. Although the motivation behind them seem different, there is a common enlightenment they share: there emerges something – a surprisingly large and profound something – in the void created when things are subtracted from “more” to become “less” or “empty.”1

Minimalist leadership is not about taking everything off your plate or creating full days of white space. Rather it’s about knowing exactly what a leader needs to focus on and what they can give up. Simple example for safety leaders to shift to a minimalist leadership approach is going back to your “Safety Why”. Reflecting on why you want to make a difference in your workplace. Perhaps you care deeply about your team going back home to their loved ones. And then, reflect on what needs to occur through that lens. There is no more critical time to adopt a Minimalist leadership approach to maximize impact. 

Here are 3 suggestions to help leaders develop a “Minimalist Leadership” mindset.

  1. Pause and Think: The busier you are, the more you need to take some time to reflect and think. Before you move to the next agenda item, sometimes it helps to pause and look at the bigger picture. Often leaders are dogmatic about their responsibilities and try keep too much on their shoulders. Remember! Sometimes less is more.
  2. Be Clear: Find a clear goal and vision you wanted to achieve. One of my favorite speeches is Steve Jobs’ Stanford University graduation address. He talks about his passion and work, life & death and connecting the critical dots in your life. If you cannot clearly define your goals and vision, try to pause and reflect on what really matters to you.
  3. Focus, but learn to let it go: Leadership minimalism is about practice. Minimalist leaders spend time on key themes. Learn to focus on what adds the most value and learn to have the courage to let go of the rest. It’s easier said than done but this is the basic philosophy of minimalist leadership. When you clear the things that don’t really matter, you will see the bigger picture and be able to have more impact.  

Minimalist leadership is not something you need to think of every day. It is about practice. Having a minimalist leadership is a choice to pursue happiness & wellbeing. Take a moment, pause and think about what things really matter to you and make changes to increase the impact you have. Another way to think about this is through the expression “Work on the business, not in the business”.

At Propulo Consulting, we understand that leadership is core to your business success. We understand how to increase your team’s discretionary effort to maximize impact.




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