Do You Know the Principle of a Little or a Lot?

Recently, I was having a discussion with my daughter and she was telling me about one of her college professors.

She made the observation that the prof only teaches a limited amount of subject matter, compared to her other professors who teach multiple subjects within their chosen field.

The professor, when asked why he only teaches his subject at the micro level, recently told the class: “You can know a little about a lot or a lot about a little, but not both.”

Wow!  What a great statement.

The truth of that principle goes way beyond the classroom. In fact, it applies to every area of life, especially leadership.

The question is, which is better? That depends on your context.

The point is not to prove that one is better than the other. The point is to make sure you are aware of the principle so you can apply it to your situation.

For some of you, it is vital that you have a big picture broad perspective. For others, you need to be more focused and take a narrow approach.

Sprinters are very fast, but not for long. Distance runners can go a long way, but not very fast. The principle applies.

When it comes to relationships, you can have a few at a deeper level, or dozens that are very shallow. Again the principle applies.

If you want to maximize your influence, you better learn the principle of a little or a lot.

“You can know a little about a lot or a lot about a little, but not both.”

Leadership Begins at Home,


Which is more important in your leadership context, a little about a lot or a lot about a little?

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Have You Made the Choice to Simplify?

This week I have been writing about the power that is unleashed when a leader makes the choice to stay simple.

In case you missed my previous posts, check out, “Can You Explain it to a Six Year Old, & “Where Has all the Simplicity Gone?”

Today I want to take a different direction on the idea of simple. My friend Mark Miller has agreed to write a guest post entitled, “Simplify.” Mark is Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, a best selling author, and a great friend.


by Mark Miller
As I’ve written about before, leaders are called upon to do many things for their organizations – we’re called on to articulate a vision for a better tomorrow, mobilize people, constantly drive improved outcomes, and on and on. However, there’s one thing I constantly see the best leaders do that I’ve never seen anything written about – they are masterful at simplifying things.


Here are some examples of how this happens in real life…

Leaders simplify the mission. Exactly what are we trying to accomplish? If your answer takes more than a sentence or two, you may not have simplified the mission enough. Drucker is quoted as saying, “If you can’t put it (the mission) on a t-shirt, you don’t have it yet.

Leaders simplify the values. What are the beliefs that you want to drive the behavior in your organization? The longer the list of values, the less the impact they’ll have on your organization. So, how many should you have? I don’t believe there’s a RIGHT answer, but I do think it’s closer to 5 than 10 – Which values are CORE?

Leaders simplify the scorecard. What are the key metrics you use to drive your team and organization? Again, the watchword is simplify. I’ve seen organizations with 20+ KEY metrics. You guessed it, it didn’t work. Everyone picked the 3 – 4 they wanted to pursue. The result: no organizational focus, no traction, no improvement.

Leaders simplify problems. Admittedly, many of the problems we face as leaders are very complex. Don’t let that stop you from breaking the problem down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Leaders simplify processes. The best leaders I know don’t like bureaucracy. These men and women are always interested in streamlining the process. The questions they ask include: how can we make it easier, make it faster, reduce the number of steps? How can we simplify the process?

Leaders simplify the strategy. Can you write your core business strategy or strategies on the back of a napkin? Better yet, can you do it in a picture a 10-year-old could draw? If you want everyone implementing the strategy, they need to get it.

Leaders simplify communications. The next time you’re tempted to present a 40-slide PowerPoint deck, try to reduce it to FOUR slides. Here’s a sobering test: After you speak to a group, would the audience agree on your core message? They should.

Leaders simplify next steps. Leaders ensure clarity on who will do what by when. If next steps are not clear, next steps may not happen. I had a business leader tell me, this single practice revolutionized his organization. Clear and simple next steps help.

Just recently, I was confronted with a statement that actually prompted this post. Someone said to me, “Smart people make things complicated.” My response, “The smartest ones can make things simple.”

If you’re looking for a way to add instant value in your organization, look for something to simplify. (TWEET)


You can connect with Mark on Twitter @leadersserve or read his blogs at

Leadership Begins at Home,


As you read Mark’s list, is there an area of leadership where you need to simplify?

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Where Has All the Simplicity Gone?

Attempting to embrace simplicity is like trying to dodge rain drops … hard to do.

Sadly, we make life harder than it has to be because we fail to value the power of focusing on a few things … the power of simplicity.

Yesterday, I shared the Einstein quote, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” 6 Year Olds

Where has all the simplicity gone?

Over the past decade, complexity has grown at an exponential rate. Choices abound. Options are in vogue. Alternatives are expected.

The result? A world of complexity littered with arrogant leaders. Leaders who are smarter than ever, yet lacking wisdom.

Perhaps we all need a six year old to explain to us that simplicity isn’t such a bad thing. When I was six only a few things mattered. Really, only values and people.

The values were uncomplicated. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Do your chores if you expect to go out and play. Respect authority. Love God. Honor women. Be grateful, and give generously. I was told if I would do those things, things would be a lot easier for me.

The people fell into three groups. My family, those who sat around the dinner table every night. My friends, those who showed up in the backyard every afternoon for our version of the World Series or the Super Bowl, depending on the time of year. And our neighbors, everyone else in our community (or around the world) who we were to love and serve no differently than we would our family and friends.

Somehow we have lost our way. The focus has shifted away from values and people. We are now told to decide for ourselves what the values should be, and people are merely seen as opportunities to help us get what we want. Shame on us!

Reexamine what, and more importantly who, really matters. Values and people. If you will turn your attention to those two you will position yourself to be more effective and to have more fun.

You shouldn’t need a six year old to tell you that.

Leadership Begins at Home,


Do you agree that a leader needs to focus on values and people more than products and profits?

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Can You Explain it to a Six Year Old?

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” (tweet)

As you look at what you are attempting to lead, does it feel simple or complex? Do you have margin to love and laugh, or do you find yourself drained and disillusioned? Can you explain it to a six year old?

6 Year OldsNow that football season is in full force, pay attention to the teams who do the simple things with excellence. It is not the highest payroll or the most complex scheme that guarantees victory. No, success shows up on the doorstep of those who block and tackle, whose penalties and turnovers are few, and who play hard and work together. The formula for winning is really very simple.

Perhaps now would be a good time for you to go back to your playbook and redefine what it will take for you to be, not impressive, but effective. BTW – effective is always more impressive than trying to be impressive.

Once you determine what constitutes simplicity in your leadership world, I challenge you to find yourself some six year olds and explain it to them. If you can’t do it, you probably don’t understand it yourself.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What is one area of your life where you need to “simplify” over the upcoming week?

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The Biggest Decision of the Day

A friend of mine joined me for lunch yesterday. As we headed to the car, we were faced with a big decision. The same big decision we are faced with each time we go to lunch. “Where do we want to eat?”

While the lunchtime location is a hard one to decide, it is not the biggest decision of the day.

(tweet) The biggest decision of the day is the first one you make … It is the decision to bring energy and engagement to your work as opposed to holding back and living half-hearted.

(tweet) Leaders who fail to engage at the beginning of the day end up missing out on opportunities to influence others.

Why not make it a practice to ignore your circumstances and focus on the facts?

The truth is, your attitude is a lot more important than you might think.

Focus your mind and heart on being positive in everything you do, and you will be well on your way to a life of greater impact.

Leadership Begins at Home,


What other big decisions determine the success of a leader’s day?

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