A Critical Growth Path for Leaders: Wisdom

Wisdom is often associated with old age.  If this is true, it means you will only be able to lead wisely when you are old…

This is not entirely true.

Although life experience does play a role in gaining wisdom, its also something you can develop and actively pursue.  The pathway presented here is one way to pursue greater wisdom in you leadership role.


A Key Skill for Sustainable Leaders

Wisdom is a key skill for sustainable leaders.  It assists with making the correct decisions in tough situations.  It helps you make the right choice when there is more than one good option to consider. It helps you understand and deal with difficult people often forming part of a team.  It is an indispensable skill if you want to have long-term success as a leader.

Sustainable Leaders Identify Foolishness

Foolishness is not the absence of intelligence or diminished intelligence.  Highly intelligent people can be very foolish in their decision-making and actions.  Foolishness can be defined as being devoid of a sense of good judgment.  Lacking a sense of good judgment is firstly characterized by selfish ambition where the person’s own gain is the driver of the decision or action.  Secondly, it’s making decisions or taking action in the absence of all possible cause and effect information.

A Foolish Leader will therefore make decisions based on assumptions without gaining all possible information and having a clear understanding of the situation or behavior a person may display.  The path away from Foolishness starts with acknowledging there may be times when you make decisions based on selfish ambition or without having all the relevant facts.

Sustainable Leaders Cultivate Inquisitiveness

“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question, remains a fool forever.”  Chinese Proverb.

There are two ways to grow in Wisdom:

  • Make mistakes and learn from them
  • Learn to ask the right questions.

The easier of the two is to learn how to ask the right questions.  Leaders should be inquisitive people.  Leaders ask questions.  They do not merely take everything at face value.  Questioning is the best way to gain understanding of the situation or behavior.  Asking good questions provide Leaders with information to make better decisions.  Asking clarifying questions makes it possible to gain insight into the cause and effect relationships.

How do you know when you are asking the right questions?  The right questions are questions will:

  • Clarify uncertainty
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Test conclusions
  • Probe motivation
  • Highlight Risk

Sustainable Leaders Grow in Wisdom

Just as foolishness in not the absence of intelligence, wisdom is not the sum of your knowledge, intelligence and experience.  Wisdom is gained through deep understanding, keen discernment, and sound judgment.   It is based on self-insight and insight into the situation, as well as the people you are leading.  The only way to gain deep understanding is to hone the skill of asking the right questions.

Wisdom is the ability to understand the cause and effect relationships in situations, to anticipate potential risk and to make the right decision to mitigate risk and empower people.

Care to share with us the last time you made a foolish decision and what you learn from it?

About Joseph Hawking

I have a passion for people & leadership development and since I discovered my mom’s old typewriter as a boy, I have written in some form or another.
I started blogging in 2017 and in August 2018, I started The Leadership Connexion with the aim to make the connection between Business, Leadership and Life. My professional experience span across various business disciplines, including Training, Project Management, Human Resource Management and Finance. I have a MBA degree and I am co-founder and director of a Project Management Company.
I am part of the Leadership for The International Mentoring Network (IMN), South African Chapter, where I am a regular Idea Studio Facilitator and Annual IMN Conference Speaker. I believe that the highest form of living is using what you are blessed with to add value to other people’s lives.