Where Foolish Leaders Become Wise

The pain foolish leaders inflict on teams and organizations is tragic. (The damage foolish leaders cause warrants the uncomfortable term.) But there’s exciting news.

Anyone with average intelligence can develop wisdom.


Wisdom is the ability to achieve noble ends ethically. Wisdom is more about skill than IQ.

Those who attain wisdom gain the ability to get things done and flourish while they do it.

In some cases, talent and intelligence block the pursuit of wisdom.

How foolish leaders develop wisdom

You tip toward wisdom when you:

  1. Seek wisdom. The first indication of wisdom is the aggressive pursuit of wisdom. Tip: Hang with learners. Avoid know-it-alls.
  2. Align yourself with authority. Speaking truth to power only works when leaders believe you seek their highest good.
  3. Don’t take offense. Taking offense points to thin skinned self-importance.
  4. Clarify before you answer. Fools answer the wrong questions and solve the wrong problems.
  5. Speak as if your words would appear in the Wall Street Journal.
  6. Surround yourself with people who have more wisdom than you. If you’re more skillful than everyone at the table, you’re at the wrong table. (Yes, one synonym of wisdom is skill. )
  7. Maintain enough confidence to make decisions, while questioning yourself as you go. Foolish leaders have closed minds.
  8. Actively affirm others and share irritations carefully. The only reason to open your mouth is to make something better.
  9. Consider the impact of your behaviors on others. Wise leaders accept that something as small as facial expressions matters.
  10. Persistently invite feedback. Wise leaders engage the community in their journey. Fools isolate themselves.
  11. Explore correction and criticism before defending and justifying yourself. 
  12. Bring joy and energy to others. Foolish leaders drain people. Wise leaders help others flourish.

What are the marks of foolish leaders? Wise?

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