The 5 Commonalities of Life

The dynamics and relationship between leader and follower is changing, world over.

During a conversation with Gill Marcus, Governor of the Reserve Bank, she observed: “Nobody trusts any more, and yet this is crucial to solve the current global economic dilemma.

We are experiencing a situation where citizens, particularly in the advanced economies, don’t have confidence and trust in their leadership at any level, particularly political. Until trust and confidence is rebuilt, it will be very difficult to stabilize the global economy.”

Mark Cutifani, CEO AngloGold Ashanti also commented: “At the end of the day there are more people with a better standard of living in the world today than there has ever been. Yet one would say that we are seeing millions of people feeling disenfranchised, treated unfairly; leaders of major companies with their hands in the till; politicians we don’t trust; and people are more unhappy than they were ten, twenty or more years ago. I think we are on the cusp of a change, and the change is around the sense that people in leadership positions are not listening; they are not responding to the social needs that people feel.”

Based on many leadership interviews and our own experience in various organisations, we concur with Marcus and Cutifani. The leader-follower relationship is changing dramatically. Why is there a lack of trust and confidence when the world is flooded with leadership courses and literature containing advice on how to earn the trust of followers, and how to be a confident leader? Why do leaders struggle to get that one simple and important principle right: Win the trust of their people? Do followers sense incongruent motives, in other words, are leaders perceived as unauthentic? Are leaders not trained well enough? Are followers expecting too much? What is going on?

We believe that for leaders to get their heads around these dynamics, in order to lead effectively in today’s complex world they have to learn to think like seamless leaders – simple and universal; seeing the big picture, which often necessitates returning to basics, some unshakable foundation blocks. In short, to LEAD the world out of the current mess it finds itself in, to a better place, with able leaders, is a huge and audacious goal and to achieve this we will have to get leaders to see a much larger, universal, seamless picture and context.

The big picture of life

For a brief moment, let’s view life from a simple, logical and big picture angle; a way that hopefully makes sense to most, across differing beliefs. Embracing this picture could significantly influence your current view of life and leadership. We find that leaders who link their leadership approach to this picture that I am about to draw for you, cope better in today’s challenging leadership environment.

There are seven billion human beings on this planet. Every one of us is unique, different and complex – an amazing fact to contemplate! Perhaps even more astounding is that every one of these individuals has certain things in common, notwithstanding the infinite diversity by way of physical features, colour, geography, language, beliefs and culture. Every person on this planet experiences or will experience at least the following five fundamentals, without exception:

  1. Experience SITUATIONS: From birth to death, from the minute we wake up every day until we go to bed, we are bombarded by never ending situations, through which we gain knowledge and mostly understanding. Some situations are unforeseen or outside of our control and some happen through our own doing. These situations come either in perceived negative or positive shapes and forms.
  2. Experience PEOPLE (relationships): The moment we are born we are surrounded by people. It seems life cannot happen without other people, and situations mostly involve other human beings, directly or indirectly. Some of our greatest and worst physical and emotional situations happen with other people. In short, we are here together and not alone.
  3. Experience freedom of CHOICE (decisions): Especially as we grow older, we all have the freedom to choose how we react to innumerable situations. Then we also have a choice of how to utilise in our lives the knowledge and understanding gained. We have to choose how we respond to human beings around us, to different relationships. And, we choose what our attitude is from situation to situation. All this happens within certain boundaries.  The boundaries within which we exercise our freedom of choice are put there in several ways – society in general, by way of government and other institutions that create laws and rules within which we operate. When our choices take us outside these boundaries we usually experience a response that leads to some sort of reprimand, intended to bring us back within the boundaries. Our personal belief and value system can also place boundaries in our lives. Then boundaries are created in our own minds via personal perceptions about ourselves, what we can and cannot achieve. These personal perception boundaries in our own minds may be the most difficult boundaries to overcome.
  4. Experience OBSTACLES, challenges along the way: We encounter, directly or indirectly (through others), challenges, trials, and obstacles along the way, of various degrees. It seems that these obstacles are deliberately placed here to help us grow character; to test us to the limit; to discover how we will choose, with the knowledge and understanding gained.
  5. Experience MOVEMENT: Throughout all the situations, associations with people and obstacles that confront us, we make decisions so that we can move forward in life and in relationships. If we don’t make decisions we will mostly stand still. When something or someone stands still, it or they stagnate, or even die, literally in some cases. Other words for movement are often growth, development or change. Life on this earth is about movement. Movement is life.

Leadership Platform calls these five commonalities the SiPCOM Experience. All of us on this planet called Earth, have, do and will experience – Situations (experiences); People (relationships); Choices (decisions); Obstacles (or challenges); and Movement (growth, development). We cannot escape the SiPCOM Experience! And the ‘COM’ in SiPCOM reminds us that all people have these experiences in COMMON.

Why these relentless situations? Why are we so intimately linked to other people? Why the freedom to choose? Why all these obstacles and challenges? Why must we move forward? Answers to these questions explain in part why seven billion people are on this planet and come very close to the core purpose of life.

We are finding more and more that leaders who consciously or subconsciously incorporate these universal commonalities into their leadership approach cope much better in today’s complex, ever changing environment. This is the world of a seamless leader.

This article appeared in the:

The Workplace


Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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