Leaders Don’t Know Everything

Applying the knowledge you have to get results shows how hard you have worked to know the subject.

When I started my career, terms like management and leadership were thrown about and a lot of people thought and still think that it’s all just common sense. When it comes to human beings, we all should be naturally born with the skills to be able to manage or lead a team of human beings.

But that is far from the truth, if you’re a parent and you are reading this, I bet you agree that it is difficult to lead your children. No matter what age they are.

1. Leadership Is A Skill

Leadership is definitely a skill that must be learned and practiced if you want to improve your life and have a successful career, especially when involving others. We all know that to improve our lives, we need to change something, which seems like common sense.

That could be to add something to our lives, or to remove something from our lives. It’s common sense, but the problem is we don’t do it and we need to find out the reason why.

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Don’t get me wrong, we do need common sense as part of our leadership and on the pathway to a successful life and career. However, we need to take action on our knowledge and common sense to get results. For example, I know that I need to lose weight.

I also know how to lose weight, which is eat a balanced diet, don’t consume too much alcohol and get plenty of exercise. But, at the minute I am not doing those things and I need to find out why.

Like me, you probably think what I’ve just discussed is common sense and everyone knows it.

No matter how much you know, you don’t know it all. No matter how much you understand, you don’t understand it all.

2. Leadership Needs Common Sense

But, even though it is common sense to do things like ”lose weight”, it is not common that everyone does what is common sense. Why is that? We need to find out.

In order for us to find out why we don’t commonly practice what we know as common sense, we need to think differently. We need to improve on how and what we think, basically we need to change our mindset.

Whenever I was in a leadership role throughout my career, and I used or discussed a certain leadership principle (for example, servanthood), the team knew I was portraying common sense. However, servanthood is not a common leadership principle carried out in the workplace.

It is common for “leaders” to think that they are the ones who should be served, but that is another matter.

We need to understand why what we know to be common sense it not what is commonly acted upon or carried out.

3. What Is Common Sense?

The meaning of common sense:

“The basic level of practical knowledge and judgement that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way”

The statement above is taken from the Cambridge dictionary, and what we’re reading is a noun which doesn’t lead us to take action on it. People get mistaken that when we say something is common sense, they expect a certain action from a person.

When all common sense is, an understanding of something, not a direction or an action to do something.

This is why we need to change our mindset when it comes to understanding something and taking action on something.

When you think something is common sense, take a minute and think about what your next action should be, now that you understand what common sense is. Don’t just leave it as an understanding, take the next step by taking action on that understanding.

It is common to know and understand something. It is uncommon to apply what you know and understand to get great results.

Let me give you an example of what I mean:

If you want to improve your career and become more in life, then we have to work on ourselves and spend time and money on our own personal development and personal growth.

We all know that to be common sense, don’t we? Of course we do. We know that to be better at anything in life, then we need to get better. This is also known to be common sense.

4. What Is Leadership?

How often do you work on your own personal development and personal growth? While you are reading this article, you are actually working on your development and leadership. How many leadership books have you read?

What is leadership? To have leadership, you have influence. The more people you influence at work or at home, the more options you have.

If you want to improve your chances at a promotion in work, then increase your influence. If you want to improve your work environment for yourself and your teammates, then increase your influence.

How much do you invest in yourself to increase your influence and your personal growth?

It’s all well and good saying to improve our circumstances then we must increase our influence. We must TAKE ACTION on what we say. If we work on ourselves and our personal development deliberately then we will see positive changes in ourselves. We just have to DO IT.

What is it you spend most of your money on at present? Holidays? Partying? Shopping? Hanging out with friends? These things are not bad to spend our money on. However, if we want to work on our personal growth then we do have to make sacrifices and invest our time and money into our growth.

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We know this as common sense, so we understand that investing our time and money into ourselves is the only way we can grow. However, to take action and do it requires more than just understanding it as common sense. By now, I’m sure you know what I am talking about.

The reason I seem to be forcing the common sense issue is so you realise, that to apply what you learn will require a lot more than just understanding what you have read, in other words common sense.

If you want to achieve great results in your leadership and your life then you must TAKE ACTION on what you learn and understand. Don’t read and then move on. Read, make notes and plan how you will implement what you have learned.

It is easy to understand what is in my articles, but not so easy to implement and take action. It requires a lot more effort and deep thought. Think of the impact that taking action will have on yours, your team and your family and friends lives.

I think you can do this, you know you can do this, but the question is “Will you do it?”

It is up to you!

As a leader, you don’t have to know it all. What you do need to know is who in the team has the knowledge you need, and how best to leverage that knowledge for the good of the team.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

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All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

39 thoughts on “Leaders Don’t Know Everything

  1. Another good read Tom. I’ve actually taken a sabbatical from my corporate insurance role which in part was to really focus on myself for a while so your comments above certainly resonate. I love the reference to commonsense. Sadly its simply not that ‘common’. Taking on board information, learning from it and then applying it seems simple on the surface but in my view its a learned skill so certainly takes effort and focus.

    Thanks for again sharing your thoughts.

    1. Hi Jason,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found this article another good read, it means a lot to me.

      It’s great to hear that the sabbatical you have taken is so you can work on yourself. I hope it is going well.

      You are right, common sense isn’t as common as it should be. I hope a lot more people get that message and I hope a lot more people work their hardest in using a bit more common sense (me included).

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

    2. Hello Jason. Who I thought of instantly when I read that you have taken a sabbatical from your corporate insurance role to focus on yourself was a man by the name of Wayne Cotton. He has had a very successful career in the insurance industry and is a member of the ‘Millionaire’s Round Table’ or ‘Club’—I am not sure what the actual name of it is. I became aware of his story for the first time reading a great book gifted to me, titled, “Stress Strategists”. This is a fantastic book and you may receive a lot out of it like I did. The book is made up of many different short memoirs, each memoir taking up one chapter. I am not sure if your circumstances are closely related to Cotton’s or not. But I want to reach out just in case. Cotton battled a lot of health issues due to the stress he was experiencing and putting on himself with the pursuit of desired success in his career. His story really details how he balanced out his life: first, by taking a step back and away from his business, and then entering the picture of his career again once he was set and ready to build his career with a more balanced focus and peaceful state of mind, body, and soul. He was able to heal from his health issues—they were severe—and continue building his career the healthy way by not putting too much pressure on himself. The book is sold on Amazon, and the link is below.

      Take care,

      Tyler

      https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/0934344191/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=15121&creative=330641&creativeASIN=0934344191&linkCode=as2&tag=bbr032-20&linkId=ceace568c9df253e5e5818cb5a10c5dc

  2. I love your articles Tom and this is another example of a true gem. Your words of advice are so inspiring.

    The only leadership role I have at the moment is that of the family matriarch. Yet even that seemingly insignificant role carries great weight.

    What do I mean? Well, our five children are all grown and following their own paths in life. Whenever one of those children wants to announce something to the family, the first thing they do is call me and say “Mom, I need a family meeting.”

    It takes me less than five minutes to have a date and time set and everyone will be there regardless of how busy they are. No one else seems to have that clout with the crowd.

    There is nothing special I do. I just ensure they each understand that their lives matter and if they need help from the family they will get it.

    I guess what I’m saying is I agree that leaders must possess common sense but they also must know how to motivate others to get the desired results while making that person feel valued.

    When people feel valued and understood, they will do anything asked of them and they will often go above and beyond what was expected.

    True leadership exists everywhere, even within families.

    Great article, take care.

    1. Hi Deb,

      Thank you for your comment. It means so much to me that you love my articles and I am so pleased that you found this one valuable.

      There is absolutely no difference between leading a team and being a parent. The responsibilities and the principles are exactly the same. It is our responsibility to help grow and develop our teams and our children. It is our responsibility to build strong relationships, build trust, lead by example and increase our influence with our teams and out children.

      You are a true leader so keep leading and doing what you are doing.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Leadership can also mean becoming an authority in any particular area. To become an expert as in an authority on marketing and teaching others to do it… showing the world what is possible.

    A leader differs from a manager. Good luck trying to manage people in today’s world. There are so many rules to protect those that don’t want to do their part.

    A leader should only work with those that are teachable. Don’t waste your time and theirs trying to mold them into something they are not ready or capable of.

    Understanding how the human psyche works is paramount for anyone who wants to lead. Learn to understand what drives someone to do what they do.

    Thanks for the post

    1. Hi Brian,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I just want to say, we do not manage people, we lead people. We manage things, processes, policies, numbers and products. We must lead and influence our people so we can inspire them to be their best and become leaders themselves.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. I love what you say that we should not just understand something but actually put it into action. This is something I have struggled a lot with but this year I have decided that I will always apply what I already know and the new things that I learn. Thanks for the great post on ledership.

    1. Hi Delyana,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you love this article, means so much to me.

      It’s great to hear that you will always apply what you already know and new things to learn. Keep me updated on how you are getting on with that.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Hi, Tom

    You noticed that I am a loyal reader of your blog.

    Thanks again for this great post on

    As you said, leadership is about influence. And we can’t grow our leadership if we don’t expand our circle of influence.

    And I think that can be done by taking action as you said.

    We can for example build more good relationship with our entourage, serving them properly, listened to them, etc.

    Thank you again.

    1. Hi Sebastian,

      Thank you for your comment. Thank you for being a loyal reader too my friend, it means so much to me.

      Building stronger relationships with our people is how we build trust and with trust we can lead and influence.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Hey Tom,

    If only common sense always prevailed.

    If only we all always did the things that we are supposed to.

    It just goes to prove what a powerful thing the mind is.

    I truly believe that in just about every walk of life, not just leadership, most of us know what we NEED to do, or what we SHOULD do, but more often than not we allow our own minds to alter our path.

    This is why I completely agree that much of our time should be spent on our own personal development and personal growth.

    If we’re constant learning, we’re also constantly evolving.

    I also agree that leadership is a skill, and we typically have to learn skills until they become second nature.

    Once any skill becomes a habit it’s far easier to ignore whtever negative thought patterns may emerge to steer us in the wrong direction.

    I guess the “losing weight, exercising more, eating more healthy” is also a skill, which needs to be worked on and made into a habit first.

    Thanks
    Partha

    1. Hi Partha,

      Thank you for your comment as always. It’s so pleasing to see you contribute to my articles so much.

      You’re right, if only common sense prevailed we would have a lot more highly effective leaders all over the world. You are right also that “losing weight, exercising more, eating healthy” are skills that we need to pursue just as much as our leadership skills.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. I have not read many books on leadership, but I always learn a lot from your articles. A good leader does indeed use the strengths of individuals in his team to reach the common goal. The team’s success is his/her success. It’s certainly true that although we know what we should or should not do, we often tend to be less disciplined in what we do compared to what we know we should do … I’m guilty of it as well 😉
    I have never been a leader of a team in an office, but I am a leader in my classroom, because I’m a teacher. When students have ideas or suggestions for class activities, I always listen to their opinions and when they make sense and are doable, I will work with their proposals. It will only make the learning process better and more fun, it’s a win win for both students and me 🙂 Students often complain that teachers do not listen to their ideas and I think that as a teacher you are setting the example for future work situations, such as team work, so as a leader you should be able to listen, and the best way to teach that is by showing. When students can see that this is the best way to work, I hope that they will adopt that method and take it into their adulthood.

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment as always. I love that you are learning a lot from my articles, this is so inspiring to me.

      You absolutely are a leader in the classroom as a teacher. Your students hail you as the leader too, so don’t forget that. I can tell that the way you write about being a teacher, you love it and you are so passionate about it.

      Keep leading your students and keep creating leaders of them.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi Tom,

    Great article! yes common sense is not that common these days sadly. And as you say there is not much point in having common sense unless you act on it!

    I have a motto I live by – Consistency equals discipline equals freedom! Take that common sense, work out a plan, be consistent with it, when you are consistent (as in doing it EVERY day!) you become disciplined. That discipline will lead to massive action which in turn will lead to freedom.

    Keep up the great posts. Really enjoyed this one. Keep leading the way 🙂

    Kev

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found this a great article.

      You live by a great motto and if I was you I would share that motto with a lot more people because it will be so helpful for them. You are right, consistency equals discipline equals freedom. Discipline is such an important trait of a highly effective leader.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Tom, I actually shared the below story that happened to me yesterday on another blog post too that also discussed the characteristics and principles of a great leader and I believe it to be relevant here too.

    I work in the education sector and yesterday it actually happened that my headmistress asked if she could have a private word with me and I did not know what to expect. She made the effort to actually thank me in person after reading documents I submitted stipulating the mentoring sessions I have conducted with some of my tutees during lockdown.

    She seemed to be majorly impressed by the quality of the sessions conducted and the positive progress made.

    The point I am trying to make is that we all need recognition for the good work we deliver from time to time that is so often taken for granted. My headmistress is certainly the best head I have ever had the privilege to work for and the reason for this is that she does not neglect to praise in person when she feels that praise is due. She is firm, organised, passionate, in control, yet at the same time humble and understanding. Her characteristics demands a lot of respect and for this reason her staff delivers the goods not because they feel forced to, but because they want to.

    She certainly possesses the characteristics of what makes a very effective leader and I believe that there are many in leadership positions that can learn a lot from her in terms of motivating the workforce.

    What I will highlight from your article is that despite you being in a leadership position, servanthood, when applied in the correct context, is a very important characteristic for an effective leader that will go a long long way.

    1. Hi Schalk,

      Thank you for your very detailed comment. I’m so pleased that the article resonated with you.

      Fist of all, congratulations on the mentoring sessions you are doing with your students. I am sure that these sessions are very valuable and that the students are loving them aswell. Your headmistress does seem like a great leader and the fact that she thanked you in private goes to show what type of person she is. Not many leaders have that mentality of servanthood unfortunately, but you certainly do work with one.

      Keep up the great work and keep mentoring and leading your students.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. Hi Tom,

    I like the part when you said,

    “It is common to know and understand something. It is uncommon to apply what you know and understand to get great results.”

    Which is very true. We know the things that we should do to improve our lives, we have it all in our minds BUT– it is very seldom we take actions!

    I think the great takeaway from your post is : Changing the mindset.

    That’s should be the very first thing one should do to improve and reach the succes in life and also to be consistent on applying the things we learned and not just “thinking” about it.

    I enjoyed reading your article.

    Minah

    1. Hi Minah,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this article valuable.

      I appreciate you sharing what part of the article resonated with you. Others who have read this article feel the same way as yo do. We all know what we need to do to make things happen, but we just don’t do it. I want to find out the reasons why so I can fix it. It will never happen but I will die trying.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. “Good leaders know how to delegate” I don’t know who said that but it is true! Leadership is managing a team and you can’t do that job well if you don’t listen to the members of your team.
    Like the post as always!

    1. Hi Brianna,

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad you like this article.

      I would have to disagree a little bit with you Brianna. Leadership is leading a team, not managing a team. We manage processes, products, policies, numbers, growth. We lead people.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  12. Tom,

    It’s a humbling moment as a leader not to know an answer. The last part of your article struck me, though: you must know how to leverage your team’s knowledge and skills to achieve results. I have found myself in several situations where I didn’t know the answer, but a member of my team knew what to do. I had to swallow my pride and allow my subordinate to take over.

    I have said that common sense isn’t so common anymore. In many professions, there are overly complex solutions to simple problems. It really bogs down the system. Some of my coworkers say, “don’t overthink the problem.” There really is such thing as paralysis by analysis. I believe a good rule of thumb is to try simple solutions that do not take tons of resources and then see what works. I appreciated this part of your article.

    Overall, you have great perspectives on leadership. I’ll bookmark your site and share some articles. Thanks for the great content!

    1. Hi Robert,

      Thank you for your comment. I am so pleased that you found this a great article and valuable content, means so much to me.

      I completely agree with you that it is a humbling moment when a leader asks for help or shows vulnerability. I see this as a strength, when most people would see this as a sign of weakness on the leader’s part. Leadership is not about having all the answers, it is about knowing the people who have the answers and leveraging those people in the correct manner.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  13. Hi Tom
    Your excellent article reminds me of something I heard many years ago, that common sense isn’t as common as we like to think. Something I learned when I was leading a team is that you cannot rely on common sense for everyone to get on the same page. If you are in a leadership position then everyone else will expect you to spell out what are the assumptions.
    You are absolutely right when you note that to lead is to take action. This is often one of the key features that distinguish a leader from those who will not lead.
    Thank you for another inspiring article.
    Best regards
    Andy

    1. Hi Andy,

      Thank you for you great comment as always. It really fill me with pride when you say this is an excellent article and I am so pleased that it reminded you of a poignant moment in your past. You are right, common sense isn’t as common as we think and it is time to help change that, especially when it comes to leadership.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  14. Tom,
    Thanks for your great article about leadership! I enjoyed your idea that leadership is a learned skill, not an inherited trait. I also agree that “common sense” isn’t always so common. Nurturing leadership skills through personal development and growth is a great way to cultivate leadership in the workforce and in society in general! Someone with leadership quality naturally influences the people around them, which is very powerful, especially when you’re trying to earn a promotion in the workplace. I look forward to putting the information in this article to good use!

    Cheers
    Femi

    1. Hi Femi,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found this a great article.

      You’re right that leadership certainly is a learned skill and it comes easier to some people than it does to others, just like any other skill. But, we must not give up learning as leaders are learners. Leaders learn something new every day because they work on themselves every day so they can be their best for their people.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  15. Great article as normal.

    yes leadership is a skill I can attest to this because it requires daily action for people to even listen to you.
    You are also right that action is the main thing stopping people from achieving what they want.
    Sadly most people would rather read something and wish their lives will change but never take action.

    1. Hi Thabo,

      Thank you for your comment as always. I’m so pleased that you found this a great article, means a lot.

      You are right, there are far too many people around the world who do not take action on what they learn. Even when they know that the action they take will benefit themselves and others. I have made the commitment to help people take action on what they learn, especially of they learn from me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  16. Hey Tom, thanks for sharing this post. The topic of this article reminds me of the “Mastermind Group” chapter from the personal development classic “Think and Grow Rich” where the author explained the importance of choosing the right team and your ability to manage your team and their knowledge as you said for the benefit of the entire team.

    It’s actually one of the best things I’ve ever learned in my entire life.

    And you post here provides me with a few good insights and ideas that I can personally use to improve my own leadership skills. After all, as you said, leadership is a skill. I do believe that some people are born with the aptitude, but still, if you never work on your leadership skills, it will never develop fully.

    Thanks again for sharing another awesome piece of content. Keep doing a great job with your site!

    1. Hi Ivan,

      Thank you for your comment as always. I’m so happy that you think this article is awesome, really does mean so much to me.

      I read “Think and Grow Rich” year ago but I was in a different mindset then. I was thinking of just making money and nothing else. Maybe I should read it again with the mindset I have now, especially the mastermind group section and see if it resonates.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  17. We like your stance on this topic of leaders don’t know everything this is true we learn something new every well at least you can. By reading this article we noticed that common sense is the act of knowing what you’re actually saying or understanding the topic at hand or your job.

    We are in college right now and we are taking psychology and they say there is no such thing as comment sense either you know it or you don’t but that is science. In the real world, we like to say common sense isn’t so common in others.

    leadership is about influence so if you have others that follow you and look up to you and listen you just might be a follower. Thanks, Tom for the read and understanding of these articles that you keep showing us.
    We feel like a leader and we learn from you to implement it in other places in life thanks, Tom.

    Cheers,
    Mathew&Deloris

    1. Hi Mathew & Deloris,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you are learning from my articles and taking action on what you learn, keep it up.

      I love that you have shared your common sense story from your psychology class because you’re right, it isn’t very common. It’s interesting that you say there is no such thing as common sense, maybe you are right. Let’s see.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  18. Hello Tom. Thank you for the article. It was a good read. I appreciate you reaching out with this topic. It all comes down to ‘action’ on the ‘common sense’, no doubt!
    I really like that you offer some resources of yours for free. I will definitely download those pieces and have a good read.
    I will bookmark your site to reference later and take a further look around. Great site.

    Regards,

    Tyler

    1. Hi Tyler,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found the article valuable.

      Action is the key word. We can learn all the leadership skills and principles we like. If we don’t take action on those skills and principles then what is the point?

      I hope you enjoy the e-book you download and take action on what you learn.

      All the best,

      Tom

  19. Hi Tom,

    A couple years ago, I was in a leadership role at the school where I taught. Much of which I learnt on the job everyday. That is to say, using common sense. Since retiring from teaching, I haven’t done anything in that position. But your post is indeed a motivator for me. My next book will be one on leadership for sure.

    1. Hi Carol,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found it valuable.

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences in your leadership role when teaching. There will be lots of people who read this who will have been in a similar position to you and will be able to relate. Hopefully they can learn from you aswell as me.

      Let me know what your next leadership book is.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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