Something every leader will struggle with is promoting the right kind of simplicity when crafting their strategy.

When a company is small, it can afford complexity since teams can hash things out quickly. Larger groups depend on simpler ideas to move forward. Leaders at this point will have to use tools to simplify communication, using metaphors, frameworks, and mental models to reduce complexity.

But how do you know if they are not adding more complexity (and confusion)?

Based on my conversations, the consensus is that the success of communicating strategy is down to repetition. That’s partially correct, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Two questions are necessary to promote the right kind of simplicity:

Is this concept concealing complexity under simple words?

As a leader, if you’re trying to simplify things, you have to mean it. My favorite example is Steve Jobs’ return to Apple. On the brink of bankruptcy, the company had dozens of product lines. His first act as interim CEO? Cut them all and focus on a few essential products. His way of explaining was with a 2x2 matrix of what you could get from Apple: You can get a laptop or a desktop for different personas, consumer or pro. That was it. The simplicity of the actions matched the words.

It’s tempting to add a pinch of complexity or big words here and there. Some might think simple means lack of thinking. But true simplicity requires tons of work. Unfortunately, work is filled with big words that conceal complexity. They are tempting, but the results of true simplicity go much further.

Is the level of simplicity appropriate for this audience?

More straightforward concepts would be more effective when groups are diverse, like an entire company with multiple functions. But it can be a disservice when the audience is specific. Stay at the broad level, and you risk not being taken seriously. As a leader, you must allow complexity to seep back in sometimes and find the correct dosage for a specific situation. That’s where the art of leadership comes in. It requires intuition to find the proper ratio of complexity/simplicity. But the indications are apparent. It gets people excited and biased towards action.

Answering those two questions has been helpful to me. When crafting a mission, strategy, or plan, it’s tempting to use the big words in vogue, the popular frameworks. But what is more effective is to take an approach that respects the target audience and means simplicity as much as possible.