The Wisdom of Leadership
Nearly 10 years ago, Peter Senge suggested, in a series of pieces intended for the United Nations, that technology was getting out of human control, and that we had (at the time) become subject to technology, rather than it being the other way around. He challenged us that that humanity’s ability to use “wisdom” to discern, control and direct our use of technology had fallen well behind the constant application of new technology. He concluded that the gap between wisdom and technology was his greatest fear for the human race.
As a leadership coach, I face a somewhat parallel and connected challenge. The forces of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity), which constantly pound away at our organisations – their structure, their history, their resilience – are rarely dented or controlled. The idea of harnessing volatility, uncertainly and complexity has not gained traction at senior leadership levels. Even less exciting to senior leadership seems to be the opportunities prodded by the growing challenge of ambiguity. I constantly see organisations, through their Executives, attempting to embrace, defeat or redirect these forces, using little more than technical responses or well worn historic strategies.
Leadership today and tomorrow can no longer be just about creating an urge or movement towards a common purpose, it is not just about inspiring innovation and disruption, and it is not just about one-on-one leadership. Certainly, common purpose, innovation, disruption as leadership instincts get a leader to “the table”.
Leadership is about an unconstrained, all-consuming desire and obligation to discover wisdom. It requires those who accept the responsibility of real leadership to find, and raise for debate, the broad breadth of galvanizing thoughts and inspiration that inform wisdom, such as judgement, insight, perception, discernment, common sense, scholarship, and philosophy. Wisdom that arises quietly through all those elements, stirred and challenged by moments of deep thought.
It was Gandhi who energized his leadership with wisdom, Lincoln and Shackleton turned to their history, their advisors and their instincts to base each decision on wisdom.
Good leadership is about the ignition of ideas that occurs when we apply a diversity of wisdom to a the complex problems we face.
The leadership of the challenges of tomorrow, propelled by the assimilation of wisdom is ultimately the foundation of what we desperately and urgently need from our leaders. Nothing Less.