Wise leaders gain strength from peace of mind, self-control, and the joy of learning. They have an inner serenity that defies adversity and enables them to marshal and direct their energies wisely. They are given wholly to being in dominion over themselves. They are unwavering in who they are, what they believe, and how they live. They have a deep and abiding inner rejoicing and exuberance for life.
Wisdom is more than the sum of experience, curiosity, and judgement. The leader as thinker draws upon the power of insight to see patterns and the big picture. With the benefit of institutional memory, thought leaders simplify the equation by displacing extraneous data with value-added knowledge.
Accomplished public leaders take an outside-in view. They connect the dots – between theory and practice; across regions of the world; between developed and developing countries; across public, private, and civil sectors; among national, sub-national, and local spheres of government; and in citizen-stakeholder, political-administrative, ministry-central agency, and management-staff relations.
Every leader is a reader, but not every reader is a leader. Thought leaders stay ahead of the people they lead. Eighteenth century evangelist John Wesley kept fresh by having a book continually while on horseback riding from event to event. Great leaders read:
• To find inspiration and motivation. William Long wrote, “Reading on wise and virtuous subjects … enlightens us, calms us, collects us, collects our thoughts, prompts us to better efforts.”
• To sharpen skills. Aldous Huxley said, “Every man who knows how to read has in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the way in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting.”
• To learn from others. Socrates urged, “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s documents, so you shall come easily by what others have laboured hard for.”
• To stay current in a changing world. While obsolescence comes upon us quickly, creativity takes existing ideas and makes them work in new ways.
Many truths learned in government are elegant in their simplicity. Former Parliamentarian and Ontario Premier Bob Rae bemoans leaders who have a vision but do not communicate it. He asserts that, if the vision is important, it needs to be communicated to engage others in achieving it. Why is it that politicians seem to become smarter after leaving public life?
A cautionary note to conclude: ‘One who hesitates is lost.’ A leader who spends too much time contemplating what to do may miss acting upon a valuable but fleeting opportunity. Carpe diem.