empathy at work

Leadership Powered by Common Sense

This is a tagline I like to use. However, it seems that common sense is truly an uncommon commodity. Common sense is a bit like beauty, as “in the eye of the beholder”. What seems like common sense decision making to some may be totally foreign to others.

common sense

Have you ever met someone who is so incredibly smart, but has little if any common sense? They could quote you facts and stats, explain very complex interworkings of molecular structure or other things, yet they cannot decide what they want for lunch.

It can be frustrating living with or knowing someone who operates this way. When you get a manager or boss like this, watch out!

A good friend once shared the thought that good leadership is equal parts of art and science. The science is the technical knowledge and understanding of details, subject matter, and process/procedure. The art is where the so-called people skills come in; being able to flex your leadership style based upon the person or group with whom you may be dealing.

I have to agree. The best leaders balance art and science in their approach. The bridge between the two spheres is common sense. It is a proven idea when you think about common sense being the switch that toggles between the art and science of leadership in a delicately orchestrated flow as circumstances dictate.

A good leader can gracefully shift when they sense the need to do so. The person lacking common sense tends to get stuck in one gear. If the question at hand is a technical one, the leader lacking common sense will tend to press hard on the merits of the technical debate, completely ignoring the people side of the matter.

The Conundrum

Common sense is not absolute. That is why it can be so hard to realize. What might be common sense to some is a bad idea to others. Therefore, what I believe works best is to keep things simple. When the matter at hand is starting to get increasingly complex whether, by technical merit or deep subject matter expertise, it is valuable as the leader to take a step back.

Stop the detailed discussion and ask more objective questions like how does this feel? Is my gut sense right? What has my experience told me?

If you’ve ever had the privilege of working for a good storyteller leader, they have a gift of taking the deep science of a situation and boiling it down into an easy to understand story. The story often has nothing to do with the terms or vocabulary being batted about. Rather it has to do with the principles that are driving the choices under consideration.

That is an art. That is common sense.

The Uncommon Commodity

When I sat down to pen my first book, I was focused on what I thought I could share with new, first time managers to help them be more and do more in their new leadership roles. As the manuscript came together, it was time to decide on a title. I really felt drawn to this notion of common sense being such an uncommon commodity. I was sharing this whole idea with my wife. She said well, why don’t you just call it that. BOOM!

“The Uncommon Commodity: The Common Sense Guide for New Managers” was born. As it turns out, my more seasoned business leaders have found the book helpful to them too. The content addresses major areas of leadership and management using short, to the point stories and principles that get presented in a common sense way.

In my coaching business, I still see clients who struggle with being able to apply common sense thinking to problem-solving. On one hand, it seems they feel it is too easy to just make a common sense decision. They feel obligated to over-engineer the solution. It’s as if they were afraid of being found out for their simplicity.

On the other hand, over-thinking because of some sense of intellectual superiority never works very well either. The best scenario is one of balance. Let the facts come together and make a decision, whether by simple common sense or some other more elaborate thought process.

It takes a leader who has a capacity to do both; someone who can nimbly swap between the two as the situation dictates. But hey, that seems like common sense!

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. ~Leonardo da Vinci

About the Author Doug Thorpe

Hi, I am Doug Thorpe. Author, speaker, entrepreneur, and business coach.

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: