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“Leaders Ought to Know,” by Phillip Van Hooser

Leaders Ought to Know, Van Hooser, coverAccording to the textbook, Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience, 7th Ed. (2014), it is a myth that good leadership is all common sense, because that statement implies that all knowledge related to leadership comes from “a common body of practical knowledge about life that virtually any reasonable person with moderate experience has acquired” (p 11). However, there are leadership principles and ideas that require study to understand and learn, and there are also “common sense” ideas that are contradictory to each other (like, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “out of sight, out of mind”). Therefore, there is complexity – and both science and art – involved in leadership, and so challenges of leadership include knowing when common sense applies and when it does not, and knowing how common sense should be applied.

Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership (2013), by Phillip Van Hooser, attempts to identify eleven common sense ideas of effective leadership, and to provide an explanation of how they apply. This is where the challenge of common sense leadership happens: understanding where and how these ideas apply. He shares simple ideas – leadership is a choice, it requires the willingness to take action, it requires willing and able followers, it works to earn respect, it requires honesty and integrity, and several others. The ideas are basic and fairly easy to understand, and he generally provides good examples to illustrate those ideas, which is helpful. But the reality is that leadership is often much more complex, and therefore requires a deeper understanding of principles to be effective, therefore, although I did find the simplicity of the ideas he shared to be good reminders (and quite necessary for aspiring leaders who have not seemed to recognize the importance of some of these basic ideas), it was for me little more than a nice reminder of some good leadership practices. His “11 Ground Rules” were by and large common sense in that they should be basic, practical actions that every leader should recognize easily; but then, you have probably known leaders who lacked common sense.

With that in mind, if you are early in your leadership development process, this book can provide some basic, foundational, and practical ideas to help you in your leadership practice. If you are an experienced and effective leader, it may be worth a quick read for the reminders (partly because effective leaders are always willing to reflect and learn). But keep in mind, it is a simple read, and it personally came across to me like an attempt at inspiration from an expert speaker, rather than a study in leadership from an expert leader.

Van Hooser, P. (2013). Leaders Ought to Know: 11 Ground Rules for Common Sense Leadership. John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, NJ.