Common Sense, Rationality, and Business Leadership

In his book, “Lincoln: the biography of a writer,” Fred Kaplan described him by writing that Lincoln felt “common sense, as the distillation of rationality, is the best guide to thought and action.” Rather than getting caught up in our emotions, Lincoln felt the key was to allow rationality to guide our thoughts and actions.

In 1998 at the University of Washington, Warren Buffett said, “I always look at IQ and talent as representing the horsepower of the motor, but that the output–the efficiency with which that motor works–depends on rationality. A lot of people start out with
400-horsepower motors but only get a hundred horsepower of output. It’s
way better to have a 200-horsepower motor and get it all into output.”

Most negative drama in organizations occurs when people tie up their decisions and behaviors with their emotional rope of being angry, anxious, stressed, frustrated, embarrassed, worried, etc. The key when you are making a decision on what to do or say is to remove your personal emotions from the situation, particularly ones where you are starting to get very negatively emotional about it, and look at it rationally.

How do you do that?

Take yourself out of the scenario. Think it’s really about someone else. Then ask yourself what you think this other person should logically do or say in that situation that would make the best contribution toward improving the situation or project. What do you think makes the most sense for that person to say or do? Write down your answer.

Then take your own advice and apply it without any negative emotions attached to it.

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