Thursday, February 28, 2013

Leadership and Common Sense

Lee Iacocca writes about the 9 “C’s” of leadership in his book, Where Have all the Leaders Gone?  The ninth “C” is Common Sense.  It struck me as funny because I would like to know his definition of “common sense.”  It’s a term that any of us would struggle to define; however, we all know it when we see it, right? 

In fact, like Iacocca, other business/management/leadership authors use the same type of words to describe leadership:  character, credibility, competence, communication, charisma, conviction, courage, curiosity, etc.  These words all have the same problem as the word beauty—I can’t describe it, but I know when I see it.

The problem is that we all view the world differently and there is no single working definition of any of these words.  Even the word leadership fits into this category of words—I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it.

If Common sense is so common, why do most of us have a different idea of its definition?  Men and women differ on common sense because we have different experiences, the different generations differ because of different contexts, people who live in different States differ because of different environments, people from different countries differ because of different cultures, people of different religions differ because of different beliefs, people of different social/economic levels differ because of different lifestyles, people of different education levels differ because of different amounts of information, etc.  Actually I have really over simplified the problem as all these differences affect the common sense of everyone. Additionally , many more factors are involved in our personal common sense such as race, ethnicity, attitudes, values, abilities, past experiences, etc.

We are all different, even children growing up in the same families have different definitions of common sense because they all had different friends, interests, role models, teachers, jobs, hobbies, and experiences. 

Clearly, good common sense says the there is no such thing as common sense and I hope that is what Iacocca meant.  Like art, meanings of leadership and common sense are in the eye of the beholder.  Once we realize each person interprets words, situations, and relationships differently, we will then begin to communicate, lead, and follow better.  For leaders to be effective, the leader’s job is to clearly communicate to people her/his meanings of words including common sense.

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