Leadership Book Review: Common Sense Strategies

Welcome to the series of reviews of leadership books! Time is money that is why I start with a summary and give you details later.

Creating Magic with Common Sense Strategies

Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell

The Essence

The book was written in 2008 and at first sight seems to be targeted at typical managers of big corporations. Turns out Lee’s common sense strategies are very close to Agile Manifesto and IT servant leadership ideas. The book works partly as a checklist, partly as lessons learned story collection.

Diving Into Leadership Strategies 

Story how Lee became a manager is very colourful. He does not hide behind successes, but also shares details of his failures, like the beer bottle incident. The book is written as a typical from rags to riches style: Lee was a poor farm boy who learned to climb the ladders and became Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World® Resort. 

EVERYONE is important

Strategies are very easy to read and understand. Strategy #1 “Remember, everyone is important” gives several examples that each single person is important and highlights that it is your job as a leader to make sure that they know that they are important. Common sense right? But then try to remember how many people on your team you really know? First name, last name, experience, short term goals and long term, what motivates them? If you are responsible for more than 20 people you may feel that it would be too much to remember everyone. But exactly this is leadership: to value and to care about everyone on your team, and no one said it does not require special skills.

Make your people your brand

Strategy #3 “make your people your brand” covers topics around recruiting, onboarding and letting people go. I found that it has good ideas on how to find good candidates. Look for good people in unlikely places and select by talent, not by resume are just a few of them. I also liked the part of letting people go. “If someone is not performing well, you owe it to everyone on the team, as well the company as a whole, to change the lineup as quickly and efficiently as possible.” In my experience too many times toxic high achievers were kept on team just because they had some value or a CEO owes emotional credit. But in all those cases it poisoned team spirit and individual motivation on everyone else on the team. 

Appreciation, Recognition & Encouragement

My favourite strategy is #7 “Burn the free fuel” which comes with ARE: appreciation, recognition and encouragement. It is cost free and has a huge impact on people. Have you ever heard someone saying: “I’m getting way too much appreciation, recognition, and encouragement”. You can give only what you have is one of my mottos. If your employee does not feel appreciated and respected, they will not respect your customers.  


It was a relief to read this book – leadership can be so easy! Just use common sense! Of course common sense is everything but not easy. I used to have a saying: common sense is not so common… but that is a different story. Back to the topic. Even if you truly believe that everyone is important you still may not live it out daily. For example when you are under pressure to deliver specific numbers. That is why I see this book as a reminder that leadership can be as easy as common sense, but we have to manage ourselves to deliver our values in good times and in bad times. I see that as the ultimate challenge and I would like one day to read a book on how to do that. 

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