What’s the difference between cleverness and wisdom? I believe that effective leaders must distinguish between the two and learn to cultivate the conditions in which wisdom can prevail.

Cleverness has a place. However, we’re capable of something more, something greater. Leaders are under pressure as never before to make fast decisions; but if only their clever self governs them, their decisions may simply unravel later on. Letting our wise self take part requires a little more time.

Our wise self already knows that if we’re forced to give immediate answers to complex questions, there’s a high probability that we’re going to get it wrong – if not immediately, then a little further down the road. As Roffey Park consultant Tom Kenward put it in a recent blog: “I see too many instances of frenetic, clever ‘doing’ sending organisations down blind alleys.”

Yielding to the intense pressure to act before understanding enough about what needs to be addressed may seem irresistible. Your wise leadership self needs to hear one inner commandment under such circumstances: “Stop and think.”

Kenward again: “Whenever I get that flighty feeling in my chest or a knotting up in my stomach these days, I take it as a message that wisdom wants a moment and is saying to me ‘you just carry right on, but I can’t help if you don’t let me in.’”

A few simple acts can open up this invaluable moment that mobilises the wise self: a quick walk around the office, breathing more deeply and slowly, and simply asking for a few hours to think about the issue raised. You start to notice that the quality of your thought under the stewardship of your wise self is very different from that thrown out by your clever self in the heat of the moment.

You can “do” clever in an instant; you need time to “be” wise.

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