Are there any other ways you can help to encourage uncommon leadership in organizations?

The last question we were asked by Kogan Page was: ‘are there any other ways we want to help encourage uncommon leadership in organizations?’

Yes, we believe so! For starters, this companion website contains some great tools designed to support managers and leaders to develop their own skills, and to lead, manage and develop teams.

We are in the process of developing other resources for educators and students, especially those on MBA programmes. And of course this blog, where hope to further explore uncommon leadership, and where we’d love to hear your views and respond to your questions.

Keynote sessionsFinally, we’d welcome requests for keynote speaking engagements and workshops, like those we have already begun to deliver at several venues. So if you think we can help your organisation, just get in touch!

We hope that if you’ve read this far you’ll go on to read the book and share our passion for uncommon leadership. In it, we pay special thanks to all those managers and leaders who have shared their experiences, helped us hone our ideas, and spurred us on to write the book with their feedback.

We wrote Uncommon Leadership with them – and you – in mind!


The book is full of interesting stories, but do these really help managers and leaders in their everyday work?

Another good question Kogan Page asked us related to the way we brought the book to life with stories.  “The book is full of interesting stories, but do these really help managers and leaders in their everyday work?”

There is a wealth of evidence to illustrate the effectiveness of story-telling in leadership and management development.  But the importance we place on stories is perhaps justified by the feedback we’ve received from both our clients and from the leading professionals who have helped inform the book.

dads picIn fact their comments support our view that the case studies and examples really help reinforce and bring the 5-S Framework alive.  One went so far as to say they helped her see how different ways of thinking can have a “massive impact on results” with people, customers and performance

This last point is something else we feel strongly about, and is a key focus of the book.  Often it’s only by looking at something differently that we gain the fresh perspectives and renewed energy to make a real impact in our organizations.

Here’s how we do it.  At the beginning of each chapter we introduce what we call a signature story, designed to illustrate ready-made practical approaches to adapt and apply.

“Finding the sense before it becomes common sense” sounds good, but how can leaders actually do that?

Another good question from our Kogan Page interview reflected the practical nature of the book. “Finding the sense before it becomes common sense” sounds good, but how can leaders actually do that?

Yes, our thought exactly!  This is the question on our lips when we first came across Charles Handy’s quote.  And in asking it, we found ourselves looking for examples of what leaders did to achieve it.

These weren’t immediately obvious but as we began to find some, key themes began to emerge.  Three particular stories (which you’ll find in chapter one) offered some surprising insights:

  • Save the Children workers Jerry and Monique Sternin were short of time, short of money and faced with an intractable problem, yet achieved a remarkable turnaround in helping malnourised children in Vietnam.
  • Bill Bratton, whilst head of New York’s Transit Police, turned a poor performing organization around with some unconventional wisdom
  • Well known Steve Jobs, on his successful return to an ailing Apple Corporation, was faced with just two months to save an iconic business from bankruptcy.

In the book, we explored the lessons to be learned from these stories, offering some tips on how they might be used by all leaders, to help them find the sense before it becomes common sense.

Isn’t much of what you say in the book just common sense?

Isn’t much of what you say in the book just common sense?  This was another pointed question from our interview with Kogan Page, and one we were more than happy to answer!

Well, it’s often said that the trouble with common sense is that it’s not that common!  Whether or not that’s true, we believe it’s certainly not commonly practiced.  And if so, then ‘just’ applying common sense could give you an advantage. As the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once reflected:

‘Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.’

But in actual fact, the book is about much more than common sense.  A key message is that leaders find the sense before it becomes common sense.

This means not just the ability to see the uncommon sense, which is hard enough, but to see it before it becomes common sense.

How is our 5-S Framework different from any other leadership theory or model?

Another question Kogan Page asked us in our interview with them was: how is our 5-S Framework different from any other leadership theory or model?

5-S Leadership Framework

Whilst techniques, tools and theories can be useful in leadership development, if we lean on them too much they can end up being counter-productive.

What organizations really need are leaders who can help them gain advantage by thinking differently.

So the 5-S Framework is designed to support this with 5 key leadership themes: seeing; showing; shaping; serving; and sharing.

But this book is not just about leadership, it’s about uncommon leadership.  So each theme also relates to an uncommon insight:

What makes this book different from the many other books on leadership?

What makes this book different from the many other books on leadership?  This second question in our recent interview with Kogan Page made us think about both the obvious and the uncommon aspects of the book.

The most obvious answer is that the book is structured around our own framework which addresses 5 relatively common leadership themes.  But what’s really distinctive is that each of these explores an uncommon insight, designed to help leaders think differently, and to help them build a competitive advantage.

Although perhaps the real question should be:  did managers and leaders find the book different and if so, how?  Well, in time-honoured fashion we’ve tested it on a few managers before committing it to print, and here’s a summary of some of their feedback:

  • The cases and examples were singled out as especially helpful.
  • The balance of scholarship and a practical toolkit has worked for readers so far.
  • A Harvard academic described the book as ‘a tour de force of the experiences and lessons learned from seasoned, successful leaders all integrated into a fascinating intellectual package’. (We’re proud of this one!)
  • One manager even said she couldn’t put it down … (we’re even prouder of this!)

So we think the book has much about it that is different from other books.  Although we’d love to hear what our other readers thnk!

What first prompted us to write Uncommon Leadership?

What first prompted us to write Uncommon Leadership?  This is the first question we were asked in a recent interview with our publishers Kogan Page.

Two things – firstly, an insight from Charles Handy that made us change the way we ran our workshop sessions. We were both very taken by his distinction of what separated thought-leaders from the rest. Thought-leaders, according to Handy, are special because they find the sense before it becomes common sense.

Then secondly, as we ran these workshops differently, we found they really struck a chord. Which prompted us to think that such an approach might be helpful for a wider audience. We discovered that using uncommon ideas about leadership prompted what our delegates called ‘radical thinking’.  It also left them feeling ‘keen to put into practice’ what they’d found through this thinking.

But in listening to how they coped, adapted and succeeded, often in very difficult situations, one thing stood out. Leadership may be important and rewarding, but it’s also hard work.

We were impressed with the way delegates responded to our approach, which prompted us to ask ourselves a question. How could we use our approach, encouraging uncommon ideas about leadership, to help other managers and leaders? And the result is this book!

Uncommon Leadership

Leaders are expected to show the way forward, especially in unpredictable circumstances or when resources are constrained. Yet frustratingly, what is common to good leadership is not often widely practised.

Uncommon Leadership will help you explore the uncommon insights that can make a significant difference to your leadership. It will lead you to fresh strategic thinking by challenging conventional wisdom and asking you to reflect on some thought-provoking questions.