You can be smart and brainy but it doesn't mean you're wise. The dictionary defines wisdom as "the soundness (or quality) of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment."

I would agree that most wisdom comes through experience and application. I am much wiser as a result of my failures, successes, and the school of hard knocks.

But there is a type of wisdom that one acquires from a way of being, not doing. It's wisdom that starts and ends with character and integrity, not IQ, or through the acquisition of more knowledge, competency or expertise.

Such people are prudent (and even unorthodox as you will see) in their approach to personal and professional development. But it's always by choice....I say it again, choice....that the wise ones elevate themselves.

How does one choose to be a wise leader? They consciously place these strategies in their playbook.

1. They Acquire Knowledge

Sure, books help, but they stretch their knowledge beyond intellectual pursuits. A wise and prudent leader soaks up the wisdom of others, acknowledging that they don't know it all. Remember this quote?

If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room.

Being wise means you'll go searching for a room, enter it, have conversations, and come out of the room wiser than when you went in.

Metaphorically, a wise leader will view herself as a small fish in the great big pond of life. She will seek out connections and appointments to learn to do great new things.

2. They Find a Reverse Mentor

For years, we have thought of mentors as older and more experienced sages. And that's entirely appropriate, and there will always be a role for that type of mentorship.

But in this social era, wise leaders are catching on to the advantage of learning from reverse mentors. They can be younger and less experienced, or same age-range peers who hold expertise in unfamiliar terrain.

What's the purpose of a reverse mentoring relationship? That's really up to you. In one survey, 41 percent selected "to gain technical expertise" and 25 percent selected "to gain a younger perspective."

If the latter, wise leaders see Millennials as viewing the world differently, beings savvy with technology, and having a skillset that can help all of us survive.

Wise leaders are open to new ideas, and they leverage reverse-mentor relationships as an employee engagement strategy. When bosses seek out and listen to their Millennial mentors to get fresh perspective, they will love and respect you. 

3. They Are Star Struck, Not the Star

Wise leaders don't want the perception that they are "rock stars." Why? Rock stars always have the spotlight shining on them. Wise leaders will instead show interest in the other person by shining the spotlight on them.

This is what initiates the best conversations -- learning about what they do, how they do it, why they do it. People love to talk about themselves, and wise leaders let them!

Don't get me wrong, wise leaders have plenty of chances to shine as well, but they don't meet someone for the first time like they're on center stage for a performance.

They are instead the person that shows up with the humble gesture of "I want to learn from you." They are star struck.

4. They Are Persuasive

In case anyone got an allergic reaction from reading the last two points, as if wise leaders aspire to drain the life forces of the younger and more savvy, or are intellectually-incapacitated drones, know that they are actually looked-up to for their persuasiveness.

Persuasiveness is really about how you communicate and influence someone through how you communicate. It may be to change someone's mind about something, perhaps pointing the person in the right direction or to make a tough decision.

If you can't influence thinking and change another person's mind, you're not persuading.

A wise leader will persuade by developing trust, never manipulating. She will be "understanding", and have keen insight (or discernment) into an issue that nobody else is able to see. She is ten steps ahead of the game, therefore, persuasive.

5. They Watch Their Words When They Speak

There's an old saying from a wise leader that goes like this:

Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest.

So much conflict, confusion and misunderstanding comes from our words and what we communicate.

Wise leaders are careful about what they speak, give good and sound advice, don't talk out of both sides of your mouth, and have the other person's best interest in mind. When they do, they get a lot more in return.

What's your experience with wisdom? How has it helped in your own leadership journey?

Published on: Jun 30, 2016
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