Putting the ‘w’ in leadership

Filed under: Opinion | Tags:

“God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.” — The Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr

Given today’s volatile economic climate, business leaders might want to consider embracing the simple truths outlined above — especially the “wisdom” part.

“Wisdom is the engine,” said Per Winblad, author of “The Wisdom of Leadership: Timeless Principles for Greater Purpose, Prosperity and Peace of Mind” and an executive coach. “Without wisdom, every other part of the leadership equation risk to go awry.”

He said that while many leaders consider wisdom to be an esoteric, subjective quality “that you have or you don’t,” it can be learned — “if you know the path.”

“We all have the potential to become wiser, but it will take time, reflection, honesty and the willingness to constantly learn and grow,” Winblad said.

So, in the interest of helping us all set forth in the right direction, here are five tips that Winblad says can get you on the path during 2010:

Make a choice — Becoming a wise and inspiring leader starts with a decision to make a difference and to lead a life that really matters. This choice gives us the courage to dare to strive for something higher and better, to live for a cause, a purpose, a vision and to be determined to carry it through.

Make your core values clear and align your life with them — One of Sweden’s great philosophers, Alf Ahlberg, said, “Our world is full of knowledge, but lacks wisdom.” Wisdom is not the same as knowledge, experience or intelligence. Rather, wisdom is how we use those qualities in an ethical and morally sound way. It’s a deep insight of what is true, right and lasting, something that every human being has to value during a lifetime. Wisdom enables us to take out knowledge, experience and intelligence and use it to make sound choices and good decisions.

Create a balance — The next key is to create a balance in life between work, family, friends and personal interests — regularly sharpening the blade of the ax. Chasing worldly fame and fortune is in demand in the world we live in. Nevertheless, they are, as King Solomon, considered by many to be the wisest leader ever, could have expressed it, good servants but poor masters. When we pursue worldly success as objectives for our lives and leadership, we will never get enough. Solomon expresses it like this: “He who loves money shall never have enough. The foolishness of thinking that wealth brings happiness! The more you have, the more you spend.”

Listen and learn — If you want to be a wiser leader, develop your willingness to listen and learn. Wise leaders learn from what others say to them. They are keen to find out what other people have to say. They ask many questions. There are two very good reasons for listening to other people. We are learning ourselves this way, and people open up to us if we listen to them. When we listen, we are showing respect for our co-workers and fellow man.

Take time for solitude — Regularly take time to be alone with yourself for receptive silence and reflection. Set aside time for personal reflection and some deeper thinking. Look back on how you have been living and leading. Look forward to what kind of leader you want to become. This will help you to see the bigger and longer perspective of your life and leadership.

Wisdom, Winblad said, comprises the foundation of leadership.

“It helps to crystallize the other qualities of vision, strategic thinking and innovation so that you can do more than visualize success,” he said. “You can achieve, sustain and enjoy success.”

Seems I might have to re-evaluate that “he who dies with the most toys wins” thing.

Mike Boyd is editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Mike.Boyd@csbj.com or 329-5206.