Knowledge is passe - here’s what great leaders focus on today

It’s no surprise that large numbers of newly christened leaders fail miserably. Although groomed by their successors, they are ill-prepared for the jobs they are destined for. What’s missing? In most cases, it’s simply wisdom – and age isn’t the only thing that gets you there.

We define wisdom as the following: the effective application and use of knowledge acquired over time.

Information is everywhere. You can find out how to do pretty much anything from Siri or by banging away on Google or YouTube. Knowledge isn’t power – it’s potential power. How we use that knowledge is far more important than having it.

The problem is, most emerging leaders have worked themselves into a frenetic pace and don’t carve out intentional time to exercise wisdom, deliver a consistent and effective brand into their environment, and reap the benefits of their daily experience.

Here’s how you can start accelerating your wisdom today:

1. Create reflection time

Most people would agree that experience is our greatest teacher, but we rarely carve out the time to absorb the critical daily lessons that can accelerate our wisdom. Stop complaining about lack of time. Everyone has the same amount of time. It’s how you choose to use it that matters most. Rather than be caught in a perpetual chase for more, be intentional around the things that matter. The first step to solving any problem, is accepting that you have one. 🙂

2. Be honest with yourself

Your wisdom won’t grow if you are more committed to preserving your ego and placing blame than asking yourself, “In what way am I responsible for this (whether good or bad)?” Keep it real and really explore with yourself, a peer or a coach how you might navigate a similar situation differently next time.

3. Practice makes…

Practice makes myelin, which is the physiological indicator of expertise. The more we practice, the better we get. Plus, you can refine your process for reflection the more you invest in it and alter it to fit your style. We work with leaders who have created very different styles and practices of reflection. The important thing is to build a practice of consistency so you deliver a more consistent leader brand into your culture.

Do this, and the next time your number is called to play a higher stakes game, you’ll be ready.

You will obtain wisdom as you gain different experiences over your career. But you accelerate the depth of your wisdom and impact of your leadership when you make reflection a key part of your practice.

These questions might help you in your reflection time:

  • What did I learn this week? Check back through your notebook. Remember the important emails of the week. The big conversations you had.
  • What’s the single most important thing I learned this week? It may be that hastily-scribbled note in the margin of your notebook, or that snippet of feedback that a colleague gave you and you forgot to write down.
  • How will I use that learning next week? You see why it’s important to get to a single thing, so that you don’t have too many things to overthink in the week ahead. How might I use that new learning at least once every day? How will I remind myself?
  • Who’s the world expert in that skill? Maybe there’s someone in your circle at work that does it really well. What can I learn from them next week?
  • What went really badly last week? Those experiences are opportunities to course-correct in the week ahead. It’s tempting to write those bad experiences into the story of you. You’re a growing leader that makes mistakes, that’s all.  
  • Pick one of last week’s falling-downs and check in with yourself whether there are any bridge repairs required. Great leaders are humble, and repair relationship or task damage they cause. Just pick one.
  • What triggered that one mistake? How will you recognize the trigger next week before it hits? How will you choose to react?
  • What can I celebrate from the week that’s just finished? Maybe it’s a task win – you finally got that project completed, or landed the next client. And maybe it’s an attitude win – you gave some good feedback, or didn’t get triggered by that difficult employee. Congratulations!

Reflection turns chaotic learning into layers of wisdom. This wisdom will set you apart as a leader.