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Leading with Wisdom – Book Review

Jann Freed, a leadership speaker at our recent Women and Leadership Lunch, is the author of Leading with Wisdom: Sage Advice from 100 Experts. Dr. Freed interviewed over 100 leadership experts, also referred to as sages, and distilled their advice into the following eight leadership practices. She writes that leaders:wisdom

Know who they are

The bottom line is that it’s hard to be an inspiring leader and breathe life into people if you are not clear on your own purpose, vision, mission, and values.

Don’t let ego win

Leaders don’t arrive at being the perfect leader — or even person for that matter. As leaders, if we discover our strengths, are aware of our dark side (and we each have one), and consistently think about the legacy we are leaving with our decisions and behaviors, then we should be creating an environment where people want to work.

Here is a chart from this chapter that reminds us about a healthy ego, the one we typically don’t think about but worth analyzing when we strive to overcome the dark side of our ego:

Healthy Ego Neurotic Ego
Observes Denies or dissects
Assesses Judges and blames
Learns from mistakes Repeats old mistakes
Lives in the present Lives in the past or the future
Is free from compulsions Is compulsive and obsessive

Connect with empathy and compassion

While it sounds trite, it’s true, ‘the only constant is change’ — and change is accelerating daily.

Because of this nature of change, leaders find themselves in situations where people fear change or grieve what has already changed. Recognizing that communicating with those in the process of change is needed. There are exercise at the end of this chapter that help people come to terms with their own fear of death so they can truly find compassion and empathy.

Admit mistakes fearlessly-

Leaders face times when they must admit to not knowing the answers. Admitting this and seeking others’ input requires humility, and it’s an important milestone in a leaders development. In fact, I think one of the greatest strengths of a leader is to admit mistakes and ask for forgiveness if someone has been hurt unnecessarily.

Freed continues:

When I asked the sages how to best prepare leaders in these uncertain times, a strong theme in the responses was learning to forgive ourselves as a pathway to greater empathy and compassion. Without an example of forgiveness from the top, workplaces become toxic as grudges, resentment, anger, and bitterness trickle down and snuff out positive emotions in the workplace.

Embrace Community-

The word community highlights its meaning of being one in unity. Effective leaders think of those in their organization or department or team as a family or group holding onto the same rope. When someone pulls on the rope, all people holding on are affected.

This chapter includes exercises for building community such as asking questions to get people to know one another better or meeting with people one at a time.

Leaders Model Resilience-

One of the characteristics of sages is staying power. A sage has endured obstacles and recognizes the importance of coping mechanisms and ways of being resilient.

When Dr. Freed probed the sages for how to model resilience and five suggestions emerged:

  • Go on a retreat
  • Get creative
  • Keep learning
  • Celebrate small wins
  • Develop a practice

The chapter lists some specific details like books to read, a list called the “Stop-Doing List,” and seeking out a role model to keep learning.

Leaders Create Healthy Work Environments-

There are three important activities for promoting a positive climate among employees—compassion, forgiveness and gratitude. Kim Cameron, author of Positive Leadership reported research that ‘companies that scored higher on these activities were found to have performed significantly better than others in a study across 16 different industry groups.

Suggestions for healthy work environments include reviewing the way rewards are aligned with the intentions of the company. For example if the company wants to have long-term growth but rewards for quarterly earnings there is a mismatch.  Another suggestion from this chapter includes embracing the power of storytelling to build a culture of community.

Live their Legacy-

As leaders, whether you realize it or not, you are leaving a legacy with every decision or action you take.

Storytelling shows up in this chapter too as a way for leaders to connect actions to purpose.

As you can see by reading quotes from each chapter, this book is loaded with wisdom. We hope you’ll take time to read the book for yourself.

Graphic of CultivateSeeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa.  We cultivate conversations about leading (and developing emerging leaders) with civility.

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