Why We Need Wiser Leaders
For senior and executive leaders wisdom is indispensable. That is the central point of our program for Inspirational Leadership and Wisdom. What are my three premises regarding wisdom?
Wisdom is a human quality
In all ancient and modern civilizations anywhere on this planet people have reflected on what wisdom is and why it is important. (footnotes 1 and 2).
Cultural and personal interpretations of this concept have always played a major role. So, what you consider wisdom to be is just as valid as any other interpretation.
Wisdom is a human quality. It means all human beings have the ability to reflect, learn, and grow wiser. Whether they make use of this ability or not is something else.
For senior and executive leaders more wisdom is indispensable. The local and global challenges are getting more complex by the day. It means conventional expertise remains important but left on its own it will be less and less effective. This reveals three of my premises.
1. Many leaders have gained a certain wisdom
My first premise is that many leaders have gained a certain wisdom. If you have any feel for self-reflection, learning, growing and self-mastery, I assume you have gained wisdom.
But wisdom is never finished. It is not a project with a beginning and an end but a lifelong process. It is more of an inner journey and all we need to realize is that this journey IS the goal. It is the traveling that makes us wiser not reaching any particular destination.
Obviously, wisdom requires leaders to develop a different mindset than any corporate strategy demands. Let’s call it an additional or second mindset much more self-reflective and focused on long-term purpose and meaning. So, it is not either/or but and/and.
Leaders need more wisdom due to the increasing complexity of challenges
This premise leads to the next question. The rising rate of change in the world and the increasing complexity of global issues to solve will require leaders to take ever tougher decisions. Therefore, they need more wisdom than ever before.
This begs the question not whether leaders have any wisdom or not - because many do - but how to gain more wisdom? Of course, I leave it up to you to decide how to answer this question. All I intend to do is to share my experience with you in our Inspirational Leader-ship and Wisdom program as one option available to you.
2. Wisdom is too important to leave undiscussed
This takes us to my second premise. Wisdom is too important to leave undiscussed. In your culture, it may be a ‘sign’ of wisdom not to talk about it reflecting modesty and humbleness. And I certainly agree with these virtues as important leadership qualities.
But today, the need for wiser leaders is growing exponentially. Hence, we need to talk about it while remaining modest at the same time. I do not see any contradiction in this approach.
Wisdom can no longer remain implicit when it comes to leadership. History is showing us time and again that people have been well-led but also seriously misled by too many political, business, religious, military and other leaders anywhere on this planet. The resulting human and environmental damage has been disastrous. This needs to change.
Leaders are entrusted with powers. If power is not at least matched with the same level of wisdom, power abuse is a great risk. Power without wisdom is a curse. Hence, we need to put wisdom high on the agenda of all leaders, leadership recruitment and selection procedures, and leadership development programs, globally.
3. Many stakeholders have gained wisdom too
My third premise is that not only many leaders have gained wisdom but stakeholders as well. Wisdom is an innate human quality and many stakeholders know how to reflect, learn and grow wiser too. Wisdom is not a prerogative of any ‘ruling elite’.
Wisdom has nothing to do with gender, age, education, rank, social status, nobility or ethnicity. Leaders need to realize that many of their stakeholders, including so-called ordinary people anywhere on this planet, can be wise too. Even very wise.
So, as a political, business, religious or any other leader always keep an open mind for the wisdom of other people. Leaders may learn a lot from their stakeholders’ wisdom if they keep an open mind.
Three of my premises are: (1) many leaders have gained wisdom but more wisdom is required to face increasingly complex challenges. (2) Wisdom is too important to leave undiscussed because power without wisdom is a curse. Too many leaders have misused their power in the past, both locally, nationally, and globally. (3) Keep an open mind as a leader for the wisdom of your stakeholders.
Notes:1 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Wisdom. Retrieved from: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ wisdom/
2 Mitchell, L. et alia (5 may, 2017). Wisdom Across The Ages And Its Modern Day Relevance. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-psychogeriatrics/article/wisdom-across-the-ages-and-its-modern-day-relevance/
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Author: Daniel Le Gras
Date: January 2023
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Please cite this article as: Le Gras, D. (2023). Why We Need Wiser Leaders. Institute for Governance & Leadership, Amersfoort, The Netherlands. www.igl.institute