Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


The Common Sense of Leadership

Volume: March 2010

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com 


I fly a lot. Like most of you who travel, I recognize that TSA (aka: airport travel Nazis) is a joke. Since I enjoy observing people and am a student of human behavior, I am not annoyed by the airport security experience. Rather, I am entertained by the Keystone Cops manner in which TSA folks adhere to their rules and bureaucracy while attempting to herd completely competent people through a “safety system.” Marvelous! Based on my observations, if someone wanted to fly with a weapon or several ounces of toxic materials, they would find a way (okay, easily) to circumvent TSA’s gauntlet. This is despite our government spending millions of dollars on high-tech equipment that we travelers funnel through. In my view, it would make better sense to have a few, highly intelligent, observant people who are rich on common sense wandering around our airports and empowering them to use their wits in order to stop, question, and search suspicious characters. I would feel a lot safer if our airports were armed with more common sense and less x-ray equipment. You know, just by being observant of others and having a reasonably good head on your shoulders you can make it pretty far in life. And maybe even catch a few bad guys along the way.


So what does this have to do with leadership? The answer: A lot really.


Too often, I observe leaders who are caught up in the bureaucracy and rules of their companies. They blindly follow the written rules, sometimes to the detriment of individuals and even their organization. Now, make no mistake – I am not naïve. I realize that as soon as a group has more than two people you have bureaucracy. Also, rules are the bedrock of corporate structure. So I am not recommending the abandonment of order in favor of chaos. I merely believe that many leaders need to use their noodle more and act like, well, people. Here are three, common sense thoughts that come to my mind:  


  1. Common sense usually leads to common good. It is rare that I see someone exact good judgment and it turns out badly (for anyone). Some leaders break the rules or rail against bureaucracy in order to pursue actions they believe make sense. Bravo! Most of the time if a rule stinks, and you do not know its origin, the rule was probably some pet peeve of a dinosaur long extinct from the organization. In sum, keep bucking the system when you perceive that the system needs changing. This of course brings us to the next item, change.    


  1. Change is your friend. That’s right leaders, do not fret every time change rears its morphing head. Instead, look for things you can change. Positively change, that is.

This is the best time ever to be in business. You read that right. We have broader markets (i.e., the globe), with more prospects, and more means to communicate. Note: social media is merely a collage of new communication methods for your message. Wow – we are lucky. We have a host of opportunities veiled in a swirl of change. Realize this leaders: opportunity is the companion of change. And who doesn’t desire more opportunities these days. As such, lead change; lead your team to opportunities; do it now.


  1. Growing (i.e., developing) team members is the best way to grow your business. Never before has collaboration been so important in business. This means that leaders must have seamless collaboration with their teams. In addition, there needs to be meaningful collaboration with customers, vendors, and the array of means that your products and services are delivered these days. How do leaders enable this? Answer: communication and workplace teambuilding. I will focus here on the latter. Leaders, workplace teambuilding rocks. Whether your team goes to lunch together, or a ballgame together, or volunteers for a cause together, or pursues a facilitated event, recognize that frequent team activities make common sense and should be pursued. We are social animals. We don’t even have to like each other, but we do have to function together. Knowing that someone you don’t like admires the same ballplayers as you, or is really fun during a teambuilding exercise can take the edge off an otherwise prickly work relationship. Teambuilding activities rarely have the opposite effect.   


Bottom Line: Use your common sense. While you are at it, scout out the people on your team with good heads on their shoulders, and cultivate them as leaders. The results will elevate the level of common good, and that ain’t a bad thing.

Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and communication consultant, executive coach, and business planner. His mom often complemented him for having a “darn good head on his shoulders.” Doug is also the author of Leadership Simplified – THE Field Guide for Savvy Leaders.  Doug’s audios and videos are also available at www.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug speak at your next event, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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