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  • Writer's pictureDr. Patrick E. Crawford

Clarify, Align, and Act

Leadership Thoughts | Issue #123

Have you ever experienced a recurring thought that sticks in your mind, like a catchy tune that pops up spontaneously (an earworm)? One of my earworm tunes is that jingle I hear on the car radio, "Kars for Kids." Sometimes I have the same experience with catchphrases, logos, and slogans.

A catchphrase that has monopolized my thoughts is "clarify, align, and act." During a discussion with Tom Butler about leaders and leadership, the action steps of clarifying, aligning, and acting emerge from the conversation. Then at the National Mass Customized Learning Summit, presenter Jessica Enderson shared a slide that included clarify, align, and act. I turned and looked at Tom as if to say, did you just see that? In this issue of Leadership Thoughts, I will share why I believe these three words are significant for leaders and their leadership.

The phrase "clarify, align, and act" can be of utmost importance to all leadership roles. This phrase contrasts the old saying "fire, ready, aim," which implies leaders must find solutions quickly without considering the bigger picture. The Navy Seals are also credited with saying, "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast." The Seals know that taking time to be thorough with work processes leads to more productivity. Thinking about how catchphrases can apply to leadership activities can be an enjoyable thought process. Looking through the lens of both a leader and the organization, let's explore further the concepts of clarifying, aligning, and acting.


  • The Leader: Leaders unknowingly will interject their personal biases and perspectives when making decisions and leading change. Although this is not bad – who you are is how you lead - you must always consider the organization's purpose, values, and beliefs to clarify your thinking. You cannot effectively communicate with others if you do not have clarity yourself.

  • The Organization: While talking with Jay Scott about the concept of leadership clarification, he said it is C2, both clarify and communicate. I agree; without clarity of thought, clear communication is not possible. Successful leaders recognize the significance of clarity and communication. They strive to ensure that the objectives, requests, and insights are well-defined for everyone involved. Crystal-clear communication reduces confusion, encourages teamwork, and promotes a culture of transparency.


  • The Leader: Aligning one's thoughts is an essential quality of a good leader. It allows consistency and clarity when making decisions, ensuring alignment with the organization's values and goals. Clear thinking also fosters effective communication, where ideas can be expressed more easily, resulting in better comprehension from others. Furthermore, aligning thoughts increases credibility and trust, as followers perceive their leader as reliable and sincere. In short, aligning one's thoughts gives a leader the tools to make wise decisions, communicate, inspire trust, and promote personal growth—all factors contributing to leadership success.

  • The Organization: Alignment involves coordinating individuals, teams, and resources towards a unified intention. Leaders must organize the efforts and behavior of their team members to ensure they all strive for the same goals. This process includes spreading an understanding of values and vision within the organization, creating distinct duties and functions, and motivating collaboration between team members. By realigning objectives, leaders can tap into their group's collective power and capacities that will contribute to efficiency and success.


  • The Leader: Leaders must make informed decisions and take decisive steps to move the organization forward. They need to choose the best strategies and follow through on them. When leaders have a bias for action, they gain the trust of their team members and foster an environment focused on results and progress. The leader's actions demonstrate to others how they are devoted to achieving the mission and vision of the organization.

  • The Organization: When an organization embraces a bias for action, it creates a culture of proactivity, agility, and innovation. Instead of getting trapped in analysis paralysis or excessive deliberation, teams are encouraged to take the initiative, make decisions, and execute plans swiftly. Moreover, a bias for action fosters a sense of ownership and accountability. When individuals are empowered to act and make decisions, they feel more engaged and invested in their work, leading to higher productivity and motivation. Action cultivates a culture of experimentation and innovation. Organizations create an environment that fosters creativity, learning, and breakthrough ideas by encouraging people to take calculated risks and try new approaches. Action is critical for organizational success as it promotes agility, responsiveness, ownership, and innovation.

Clarifying and aligning ensures all the actions are intended to move the organization toward continuous improvement. Aligning individuals and resources toward a common purpose fosters collaboration and synergy. Taking action and leading by example drives progress and inspires others to achieve their best. By incorporating these principles into their thinking, leaders can create an environment that promotes productivity, engagement, and success. I hope the catchphrase - clarify, align, and act resonates with you as they have with me.


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