A Google search for “smart leadership” yields over 10,000 results. In our modern society, we highly value smartness. We adulate “smart” phones, “smart” cars, “smart” homes, and “smart” cities. As the world grapples with COVID-19 and a deep recession, we desperately seek smart business and political leaders who can use their superior intelligence to rescue us from the impending doom.
Over the past 30 years, my co-author Prasad Kaipa have studied and consulted with 200 senior executives from across sectors and regions who had to deal with major crises. All of them were highly intelligent. Yet, the leaders who successfully helped their organization navigate the crisis and come out of it stronger didn’t rely on smartness alone. They used wisdom.
Wisdom enables us to modulate our intelligence and harness it to serve a larger purpose in an ethical and appropriate manner. Wise leadership consists in leveraging smartness for the greater good by balancing action with reflection and introspection, gateways to humility and ethical clarity.
The wise leaders we worked with are not constrained by rigid perspectives, nor do they mindlessly apply the same “success formulas” that served them well in the past. Rather, when the external context changes, these leaders are willing to shift their worldview and craft unconventional strategies that best serve all stakeholders in a given situation.
In today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment, we need wise leaders who can reinvent and reposition their organizations for success in the New Normal.
How can you evolve from a smart manager to a wise leader? In our book From Smart To Wise: Acting and Leading with Wisdom, we identified six key capabilities of wise leadership that all executives can cultivate.