Smart or Wise Leadership: Why It Matters

This past week I was visiting with a comrade regarding smart people who aspire to be leaders. This led us to discussing the difference between having wisdom and having knowledge.

Most leaders love to have smart, knowledgeable people on their team. After all, that’s less pressure on the leader to have all the answers, right? The challenge for smart leaders is to avoid using their intelligence as a competitive advantage in a race to be the smartest person in the room. Though brains may impress, they alone don’t inspire a loyal following from peers. And if your peers aren’t willing to follow you, your future as a great leader is at risk.

Competing Versus Teaming

Self-proclaimed smart leaders create a culture of competing versus teaming. Now, hear me out. I’m not saying we don’t need smart leaders, or that leaders shouldn’t strive to be smarter. Obviously we need leaders capable of thinking!

What I want to point out is that knowledge doesn’t make a leader. Wisdom is what we should be seeking in our leaders. So, what does wisdom look like in a leader, and how can you acquire it?

  • Experiences – We gain wisdom through different circumstances, adversity, projects, responsibilities, etc.
  • Maturity – Maturity is not measured in age. I’ve seen a lot of young mature leaders.
  • Listening – Wise leaders listen well, comprehend, and understand. They spend more time using their ears than their mouth.
  • Learning – We should all learn through our experiences, but wise leaders have the ability to also learn through what others are going through.
  • Quietness – Again, wisdom requires listening. Quiet, unnoticed, and sometimes overlooked leaders end up possessing the wisdom we should seek.
  • Debate – Wise leaders encourage healthy debate. Wise leaders aren’t threatened by healthy debate. They understand that debate threatens the status quo (and that’s a good thing).
  • Process – Wise leaders understand that leading is a process, not an event. It’s also about what we create, not who we are.

Wise leaders know that, though they must be knowledgeable and competent, they’re strength lies not in their own knowledge, but in their ability to lead, guide, direct, rely on and grow their team.

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  • Ron Krause (@krausera) says:

    One point I’d add. Wisdom has a way of inspiring people forward reigniting a flickering flame…

    • Linda Sasser says:

      That’s a great point, Ron. Smarts don’t really inspire, but we definitely admire and aspire to emulate wisdom we see in others, don’t we? That does create excitement. Thanks for reading and commenting.