Printer Friendly

Common sense leadership.

Common Sense Leadership

Common sense may be defined as the most effective and efficient way to handle a problem. People whom we credit as "common sense thinkers" are those who seem to find simple solutions to often difficult problems.

Leadership has been defined as the ability to inspire, influence, and provide direction for people. [1] Leadership is alos a system of approaches to solving the problems of an organization in such a manner that the inspiration, influence, and direction come about in an effective and efficient manner.

High-performance leaders take their organizations and people from a current position to a better place. Beyond mere management (handling and controlling human and material resources), a leader generates in people self-desire to reach the vision he or she has shared with them. It is this shared vision that becomes the objective of the team. In the end, the leader empowers others to become the best they can be.

It becomes clear, then, that an effective leader uses common sense approaches to solve problems. But any common sense leader can occasionally get hung up on a problem. Problems are difficult to solve because the solver has made an incorrect assumption that precludes the answer. The key for common sense leadership solution of problems is to look at the assumptions. Assumed limitations, whether they are real or not, will prevent the right solution from emerging. [2] A problem has several parts:

* Controllable variables.

* Uncontrollable variables.

* Decision maker.

* Constraints.

* Possible outcomes.

The determination of what is uncontrollable and the "assumptions about the constraints" are potentially alterable in allowing a solution to appear. [2] What a leader sees as controllable and uncontrollable and as constraints will eventually affect his or her ability to provide inspiration, direction, and influence toward the desired vision.

Much of current leadership philosophy is based on the observation that employees respond much better to rewards than they do to punishment. Rewards of the right type are positive motivators. No matter what levels of constraints or uncontrollability a leader may place on the positive motivators, they are almost totally controllable.

The first controllable factor is influence. Every action or inaction of a leader will influence others. People see what a leader does or does not do and read into that action certain meanings. Leaders may influence or motivate positively or negatively. They can never not influence others by their actions. They can never not lead others. [3]

If a leader shows people they are valued and offers them challenge and personal growth, they will be influenced positively. Influence can be wielded by personal example, by sharing values and virtues, and by paying positive attention to the people on the "front lines." The major questions for the common sense leader are, "How am I influencing people? What am I doing or not doing that affects the reaching of desired goals?" If you can't find the answer to this yourself, ask others for their input. [3]

This all boils down to personal responsibility. The leader has absolute personal responsibility (and capability) to do or not do what influences others to reach a desired end. By having specific goals, and paying attention to people as well as productivity, the leader achieves the desired influence. [3]

Employees may be influenced to have either satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the way the leader "runs" the business. The opposite of job satisfaction is not job dissatisfaction. It's no job satisfaction. The opposite of job dissatisfaction is not job satisfaction. It's no job dissatisfaction. [4]

Wages are not a primary motivator, but poor wages can certainly be a demotivator. True motivators are achievement (personal satisfaction), recognition for achievement (from the leader), the work itself, responsibility, growth, and advancement. [4] The common sense leader uses these primary motivators to influence production.

The second controllable factor is inspiration. Autocratic leaders don't inspire people; they aim only for results, with little attention to the psychological reward needs of the people doing the work. The common sense, high performance leader inspires through both people skills and productivity goals. Superb leaders solve the problem of how to inspire by recognizing strengths and weaknesses in the organization and in themselves. With the knowledge of these weaknesses and strengths, the good leader is able to evaluate options and make common sense decisions. [1]

Leaders know when to take control and when to delegate authority and responsibility. Being able to inspire requires good listening skills. Sizing up situations cannot be done with mere technical ability or management emphasis. The leadership skill required is being able to "feel" the entire system. If the people doing the work are allowed the freedom and authority to manage a portion of their own job development, they will "own" the decision made. If they own decisions, they will be inspired to do a good job. The common sense leader empowers his people with the authority to direct their work and to assume the responsibility to get it done. [1,5]

Common sense leaders inspire vision in their people. Effective vision is both clear and challenging. The vision that will be effective in the marketplace emphasizes the creation of enduring capabilities that will allow the organization to reach its goals. Effective, inspiring visions are aimed at empowering employees first and customers second. [5] When employees and customers help set the goals, set their own systems to reach them, and have the authority to carry out the tasks, they will be self-inspired.

The third controllable factor is direction. No organization can hope to get anywhere if it doesn't have a direction toward its goals. Direction is the productivity part of the solution to the common sense problem. Inspiration and influence value people; direction values results. It does little good to be valued as a person if there is no direction to pursue. Failing to supply direction may produce happy employees, but poor productivity may result.

As for the first two controllable factors, direction is the common sense responsibility of the leader. He or she must educate people as to what they are expected to achieve, how to do it, when it is supposed to be done, and why it's important. Some of this goes back to vision. Also, the leader must ensure that employees are provided with the education and the resources to reach the goal through the desired direction. Along the way, the common sense leader must make sure that people stay aimed in the right direction and correct them when they stray off course. [1]


[1.] Warrick, D., and Zawacki, R. High Performance

Management. Colorado Springs,

Colo.: University of Colorado/Eagle

Publishing Co., 1987.

[2.] Ackoff, R. The Art of Problem Solving.

New York City, N.Y.: John Wiley & Sons,

Inc., 1978.

[3.] Schatz, K., and Schatz, L. Managing by

Influence. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice

Hall, 1986.

[4.] Herzberg, F. "One More Time: How Do

You Motivate Employees?" Harvard

Business Review. 65(5):109-20, Sept.-Oct.


[5.] Peters T. Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for

a Management Revolution. New York City,

N.Y.: Knopf, 1987.


Richard M. Burton, MD, is Director, Communications, Pikes Peak Emergency Specialists, Colorado Springs, Colo.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American College of Physician Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:problem-solving techniques
Author:Burton, Richard M.
Publication:Physician Executive
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:Management of conflict in organizations.
Next Article:Americans with Disabilities Act: overview of the employment provisions.

Related Articles
Fostering leadership for the new millennium.
Balancing PARADOX.
Using general semantics to enhance organizational leadership.
Leadership preparation in dangerous times.
Leadership and systems thinking.
Teaching leadership as creative problem-solving.
Putting an ethical frame on problem solving.
A constructivist pathway to teacher leadership.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters