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As I write this I’m preparing to meet with someone with much more experience in leadership than me. If I had one word to describe him it would be wise. Wisdom is critical to the field of good leadership. Being wise in leadership comes with time and experience. My hope is simply to soak up some of that wisdom during our time together. 

All of us can have moments of wisdom. There are lots of “smart” leaders. Yet, for the term “wise leader” I’m referring to a unique category of leaders. These are leaders who have developed certain characteristics – wisdom learned from the personal experience of success and failure and from the insight of other leaders.

Frankly, I have known few in leadership whom I would consider truly wise. Wise leaders have moved to a new stage in life from mostly learning from others to being looked to as a trusted resource. People seek their input, because they know they can be trusted. Their experience and who they are as people makes them seen as investors in new generations of leaders.

I am listing some characteristics I have observed in leaders who have genuine wisdom. Think in your mind people you believe are truly “wise” in leadership.

7 characteristics of a wise leadership:

Wise leaders have mastered the art of timing.

The wise leader knows time is a precious commodity. Therefore, they use sound judgement in decision-making. They have patience; knowing organizations and individuals have seasons. There will be seasons of plenty and seasons of want. Wise leaders have learned there is a right time to act and and there are times to wait.

They also careful plan what they say; knowing their words are powerful. Wise leaders use their words to bless others. You would rarely if ever catch them “going off” in a meeting – unless they had planned to do so for strategic reasons.

Wise leaders have deep, tested and trusted character.

The wise leader places a high value on integrity. They know ultimately everything rises and falls on the moral fiber of an individual. They’ve seen people lose everything with one bad decision.

Wise leaders know reputation is hard-earned and quickly lost, which is why it should be treated as gold. They aren’t perfect, but they are careful to protect their reputation. Therefore, who they are in public is who they privately.

Wise leaders lead with a clear vision.

The wise leader understands the value of a big picture. They keep an eye on something worth attaining. Wise leaders continually motivate others by sharing the “Why”.

In their personal and professional life they are keenly aware of where they are attempting to go – and where they hope to end someday. They know momentum lost is hard to regain. So, they continually seek change, which will spur energy around their vision – for the good of all those around them.

Wise leaders tackle initiatives; even the hard ones.

The wise leader is risk-taking and intentionally encourages innovation. They have witnessed a stalled organization. Wise leaders know the dreadful feeling when there is no forward progress. They have personally experienced the cost of lost opportunity.

Wise leaders want to engage others by keeping the organization moving, people dreaming and the culture exciting; even when the risks are bigger than others can embrace immediately. They are willing to take the lead into the unknown.

Wise leaders continually display diligence and tenacity. 

The wise leader continues in spite of adversity. They tenaciously persevere through the hard days.

A wise leader has learned that reaching a goal is worth the struggles to get there. They’ve been through storms before and have scars to prove you can come through them whole. Wise leaders are therefore seen as pillars. They display strength under duress. People look to them for stability.

Wise leaders are strategic-thinkers.

The wise leader realizes no dream becomes reality without proper planning. They make sure plans are in place and people know what’s expected of them. Wise leaders utilize healthy systems and structures. They aren’t burdensome with rules, but are helpful in thinking through a process to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization.

Wise leaders surround themselves with people who can move things forward and work hard for progress. They know with the right vision, people and plans anything is possible.

Wise leaders genuinely love people. 

The wise leader knows people are the key to any success and therefore they work to empower people. They use their words to bless people. Others know they are valued and appreciated under their leadership.

Wise leaders are true delegators. They invest in and develop the next generation. Looking past the income statement they see the balance sheet — with people being the organization’s greatest asset.

It’s not phony admiration for a wise leader. Time and experience has allowed them to see that without people nothing happens – and ultimately nothing of real value is attained. Other people matter to those wise in leadership.

Check out my leadership podcast where we discuss issues of leadership in a practical way. Plus, check out the other Lifeway Leadership Podcasts.

Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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