What are the Elements of Wisdom—It’s Not What You Think

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What are the elements of wisdom?

We all know these people—they are highly knowledgeable and highly educated, but they don’t seem to have the common sense to really implement that knowledge. Instead of developing a new product or navigating a crisis well they get distracted by whatever is the fad or shiny object in front of them.

What is Wisdom

If we look up the meaning of wisdom it is listed as the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight.

Knowledge can exist without wisdom, but not the other way around. One can be knowledgeable without being wise. Knowledge is knowing how to use a gun; wisdom is knowing when to use it and when to keep it holstered.

In an article in Fast Company magazine, author Gwen Moran focused on the elements of wisdom by interviewing the person who is a noted expert on the subject. Author and radio host of On Being, Krista Tippett, has spent many years interviewing the world’s greatest thinkers and wrote, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living. Tippett has won a Peabody award, a Webby award and received the National Humanities Medal.

“Some people grow old and wise, and some people just grow old,” says Tippett. Her years of studying visionaries has convinced her that wisdom is not a gift bestowed on a lucky few, but is actually quite attainable. “Wisdom is not a possession you can point to as much as it is a way life has of imprinting the lives around it,” notes Tippett. “If we think about the wisest people we’ve known, it’s how they affect others, how they change others, calm others, ground others.”

The 5 Truths of Wisdom

Through her work, Tippett has developed the five major truths for leading with insight—something every entrepreneur needs to master.

  • Politeness isn’t always productive

  • We live in a time of anger and violence and that is reflected in the language we use which is increasingly hostile, sarcastic and sometimes threatening. Many people try to temper this by becoming overly polite. Tippett suggests that a better approach is to approach an issue with civility and openness to disagreement.

    In conflict situations “avoid framing discussion as debates. Do not ask “Do you believe this or that”—instead ask questions as “What do we all care about?” and “How can we find solutions that address those shared concerns?” This promotes unity and inclusiveness,” she states.

  • There’s no such thing as meaningless work

  • “Just because you have a great mission doesn’t mean that you have wise leadership or an organization that’s infused with [institutional] character. Effective managers can create a greater sense of purpose for their employees, in “the process and the culture and the ethos” that go into the end product,” says Tippett.

    She uses the example of Bill George, CEO of medical device maker Medtronic. While his company made products that saves lives, he focused beyond the products they made to the environments in which the products were made to give employees purpose.

  • You can’t separate work and life

  • “It’s important to recognize that people bring their ‘whole selves’ to work. A hallmark of wisdom is an acknowledgment of the fullness and complexity of what it means to be human,” Tippett says.

    “Speak the truth. Say, ‘We’re all a little unsettled right now,’ ” says Tippett. “Offer ways everyone can be together with their particular differences, not denying it but grappling with it. We have to come up with new forums for figuring out how to navigate this in our workplaces. It isn’t optional anymore.”

  • Warmth is not a weakness

  • According to Tippett, “Humiliation and fear are poor motivators—something good bosses keep in mind when holding employees accountable for their performance. When pointing out a mistake or need for improvement, default to a kind word, generous act, or attempt at better understanding.”

    “If your words elicit a strong response from an employee, be curious rather than reactive, and try to understand how he or she might interpret what you’re saying. Don’t “assume [their] language is loaded down with the things it carries in your imagination,” says Tippett. “It rarely is.”

    “And when someone does something well, don’t assume they know it—tell them. Feeling appreciated,” Tippett says,” is one of the most effective motivators.”

  • Everything needs time

  • “Sometimes we get wise not by learning new things, but by recovering old things we knew and then forgot,” she says—like the fact that you’re allowed to make mistakes, even when you’re in charge. The willingness to show weakness is crucial to the humanity of an organization. “Tenderness and power actually do go together,” says Tippett. “That’s the real learning curve ahead.”

We live in a time of uncertainty that we and our staff constantly experience. By following Tippett’s advice, we can make this journey a little easier for all of us.

DianeWekler-sml-for-postsDiane Weklar, the Authority on Accelerating Business Growth, is the CEO of the Weklar Business Institute. She is the author of the award winning book, Mastering the Money Maze: 10 Secrets to Winning Business Financing,which is also an Amazon #1 Best Seller. This book provides practical insight to build a successful business and the practical steps to raise capital to help your firm grow. She can be reached at Diane@Weklar.com.


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