Smart Blog had a post yesterday,"What is the most important trait a leader must cultivate?". The article had a list of ideas from successful tech CEOs under the age of 40. The list included passion, perseverance and other frequently mentioned qualities. After I read the list I was bothered. What was missing from the list was any mention of the importance of wisdom in a leader. In fact, wisdom may be all a leader needs to be successful, but that idea requires further thought in a later post.
Google (with no attribution) defines wisdom as:
"The quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise."
This is not a bad definition, but I think it focuses more on how to become wise rather than how to be wise. The relatively small number of people who are wise have three characteristics:
Focus means that one is always considering the overall mission of the organization. Every decision is considered in the context of what it does to further or achieve the mission or sustain the organization so that it can achieve its mission. Essentially, focus means that the wise leader always frames the question properly so that it is considered in terms of the mission. Identifying the problem or question properly is the hard part. Solutions are comparatively easy. By framing the question properly the leader demonstrates good judgment, a type of perseverance and communication skills sufficient for an organization to move forward effectively.
While focused on the mission, the leader is always fair to all stakeholders--shareholders, employees, suppliers, community, etc. Good decisions are always beneficial to all stakeholders. To demonstrate fairness, a wise leader is always moral and legal in their behavior. The wise leader is not political because the concept of fairness, by definition, has no need for politics. Some might argue that a leader needs to be compassionate, but I think that fairness is sufficient. Transparency and open communications are part of fairness.
In times of crisis, the leader needs to be the unemotional, deliberate one who insures that everyone remain focused. By being deliberate the organization has time to properly frame the question and increase the likelihood that the organization survives. At other times even wise leaders may show certain emotions that are not constructive, but as long as they are fair to stakeholders they can still be effective leaders.
"Not all smart men are wise, but all wise men are smart"
I will refrain from using the current mess in Washington to further illustrate the points in this post. Suffice it to say, read the quote immediately above.