Knowledge is what is gathered over time. Wisdom, in turn, enables us to act properly upon that knowledge.
As leaders, one of our primary responsibilities is to maximize the potential of the people we serve and allow them to discover their own wisdom. We mustn’t encourage them to always follow and be guided by the wisdom of others.
Becoming wiser means allowing others to become wiser too. If you don’t fuel wisdom in others, it makes it difficult for an organization to sustain competitive advantage over time. This is what happens when we get caught in the trap of an executive-mindset – expecting employees to do (execute) what they are told, rather than encouraging independent thinking from each team member and the diversity of thought that allows us to seize opportunities previously unseen.
Are you creating distinction for your leadership by enabling your employees to share their own thoughts and perspectives and be original too? Everyone sees the world and their place at work differently. Do you expect others to mimic your way of thinking or are you courageous enough to let them create their own distinction?
Why is cultivating wisdom in the workplace so important? During a time when businesses and brands are attempting to break free from the status quo and reinvent themselves, two factors are different today than at any other time in modern history:
1. The speed of change is telling us that what may be relevant today, may be extinct sooner than you think; and
2. The Cultural Demographic Shift™ is telling us that it’s becoming less about the business defining the individual, and much more about the individual defining the business.
These two factors, especially in tandem, require us as leaders to cultivate more wisdom in the workplace. Just when we think we have all the answers, the marketplace tells us otherwise. Diversity of thought fuels wisdom. If you are courageous and wise enough to accept this fact, you will not be afraid to be more vulnerable, take ownership of this mindset, and lead the new normal.
In fact, being vulnerable is the first step to cultivating wisdom in the workplace. There is strength in vulnerability, something that many leaders fail to recognize. More typical is what a Fortune 10 executive recently asked me: “Why do I need to be vulnerable? Doesn’t that make me look weak? Doesn’t it minimize my clout?”
Historically, being vulnerable as a leader was viewed as a sign of weakness, because of the traditional workplace that put too much of a premium on job titles. Leaders that are too proud restrict their employees and colleagues from cultivating wisdom.
But in today’s business climate, the speed of change forces us as leaders to bring others into the fold, much quicker. The speed of change in the marketplace requires us to share challenges we wouldn’t have in the past and to be more transparent so that others don’t get blindsided and momentum is not disrupted. As such, being vulnerable is a sign of strength in the 21st century leader.
Beyond finding strength in vulnerability, leaders must continuously think courageously to push beyond our limits. As individuals, we have the endless capacity to extend our thinking, especially in the areas we are most passionate about. The key is to know what fuels your employees’ thinking and what inspires them to achieve.
In our quest to maximize the potential of those we lead, thinking courageously is essential if we are to equally push others to think courageously. Leadership is about teaching others how to be courageous themselves. Your leadership is measured not only by your own courage, but by the wisdom and experience you share so that others might be courageous too.