“Common Sense in an Uncommon Degree” – Samuel Coleridge

Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi have been studying leadership across a range of organizations; and have taught and interviewed business leaders around the world.  Harvard Business Review recently published their call for leaders who must strive for a higher purpose.  Their goal has been to find what kind of knowledge leaders can attain to systematically achieve that higher purpose.

To ideally move from knowledge to wisdom, a leader must achieve what Aristotle defined as “a true and reasoned state of capacity to act with regard to the things that are good or bad for man.”  Coleridge put it more simply, “common sense in an uncommon degree.”  This practical wisdom is experiential knowledge that compels a leader to act with regard for mankind and society. To act with this high regard, a leader must put society above profit margins.

Gasp! Reader’s face crinkles in disbelief at the naïveté of the writer.  That isn’t capitalism, that’s socialism.  Never would work in America.  What a crock.

But wait, Japanese companies are still respected despite the challenges they have recently faced.  While occasionally criticized for not being sufficiently capitalist – low returns, not maximizing shareholder value in the short term, not reducing costs with layoffs, not incentivizing top management; they are still respected as organizations.  There is still a strong perception that Japanese companies serve a higher social purpose and pursue the common good; therefore they hold consumer’s trust and respect – valuable commodities in the cutthroat marketplace. They exhibit a communitarian approach to capitalism we would do well to adopt.

How do we in America achieve this wise leadership to guide our capitalistic society towards a greater good and so gain consumer trust and respect?  Nonaka and Hirotaka have identified 6 abilities of practically wise, phronetic leaders.  We’ll define phronetic, and break those abilities down for you in this continuing series.


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