Our original inspiration for this book was an insight from renowned management thinker Charles Handy. 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. This posed some interesting questions for us.
Firstly, is finding sense before it becomes common sense something all leaders should think about? And if so, how can they do this and perhaps more importantly, put it into action? We thought the answer to the first question was almost self-evident – of course they should. But responding to the others wasn’t quite so easy.
So we began addressing these questions in our consultancy work with managers and leaders. We designed and delivered workshops which were based on uncommon ideas and insights, rather than just theories and models. These encouraged delegates to think differently about leadership, and challenged them to take action based on what they found. The workshops struck a real chord with those attending, and we found the whole idea of uncommon insights into leadership gathered momentum.
We were pleased by the feedback we received from the delegates, who felt the content was “of real substance which made you think and act!” Others thought our approach led them to “think differently,” finding it “thought provoking … very encouraging and motivating.” They particularly commented on our use of stories and “loved all the analogies” finding them “enlightening and helpful.”
So this evidence convinced us that there was something significant about our approach. After all, how often do delegates at such workshops comment that they found them inspiring, thought-provoking, encouraging and motivating? We were discovering that using uncommon ideas about leadership both prompted “radical thinking” and crucially, left delegates “keen to put into practice” some of the insights they had found.
Receiving such an enthusiastic response made us keen to help more leaders and managers benefit from our approach. Which is why we decided to write Uncommon Leadership, a book based on our practical work, but which includes a much wider collection of ideas and insights about good leadership.
The overall aim of this book is to explore the things that good leaders have in common, and to suggest ways to make these more common in organizations. The key to this is encouraging leaders to think differently but this alone is not enough. Business leaders need to develop competitive advantage, by challenging conventional wisdom, by asking different questions, and by connecting the “new” common sense to opportunities.
We hope Uncommon Leadership can help you to do all of these things. It was written to stimulate your thinking, sharpen your practice, and act as a springboard for better leadership and better organizations. It is packed with anecdotes, quotes, stories and challenging research all brought to life with an emphasis on the uncommon insights which can help leaders to think and act differently.
So we’d like to introduce the book, with a 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 by their encouraging feedback. We wrote this with you in mind!