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How Wisdom Shapes Leadership Behavior

Stephen Tang

Leadership is about more than just words. Exceptional leaders possess a core set of traits and attributes that they use to guide, direct, motivate and inspire their teams to positively impact the world. Perhaps most important is wisdom: the knowledge gained through experience, reflection and contemplation. While the importance of wisdom in leadership cannot be overstated, it is often overlooked in favor of more tangible traits like communication skills and charisma.

Wisdom guides the decisions that leaders make, helping them to steer a course between rashness and passivity. It allows them to weigh their options carefully and accurately assess risk before judgment and action. Leaders who have gained wisdom through experience can draw on it when making decisions, allowing them to take a more holistic approach and consider the potential implications of their actions.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. So says the aphorism, “Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.” The ability to learn and reflect determines whether the cycle of bad to good judgment spirals upward toward wisdom or downward toward doom.

Wisdom through keen listening also helps leaders to understand the needs of their teams, enabling them to provide support and direction that is tailored to individual situations. A wise leader knows how best to motivate each team member, leveraging strengths and addressing weaknesses in ways that maximize team performance. Furthermore, wisdom allows leaders to create an environment in which people can express their opinions and ideas openly and bravely, without fear of retribution. Only then can the leader act on the unvarnished truth.

Finally, the wisdom that leaders possess helps them create a clear vision for the future. By understanding trends while preparing for many uncertainties. Wise leaders can anticipate potential problems and chart routes and alternatives toward success. They recognize that nothing is written in stone; rather, plans must evolve as circumstances change to remain relevant and effective. Yet as the accompanying image shows, gratitude for one’s team and people must endure.

Wisdom is an essential trait for any leader who wants their team to have long-term success. It enables them to make decisions that are well-informed and tailor their approach to current situations. Furthermore, it helps leaders create a vision and plan for the future that will succeed in an ever-changing landscape. Ultimately, wise leaders inspire trust and loyalty in their teams, creating an environment that is conducive to collective success. Above all, wise leaders are humble and contrite because they don’t yet know whether their actions and decisions will hold up to the test of time.

Read more about the wisdom of “leading whole people wholeheartedly” in my book, “A Test for Our Time: Crisis Leadership in the Next Normal.” Available on Amazon and many bookstores.

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