12 Most Obvious Signs of a Wise Leader

12 Most Obvious Signs of a Wise Leader

We live in an era of haste-based folly.  These are the days of rapid rewards, speed dating, quick trim and slim fast.  As impatience increases, decisions grow more and more short-sighted.  The faster we move, the more likely we are to speak and act without thinking of long-term consequences.

Folly, the opposite of wisdom, can be defined as “a tragic lack of forethought.” I assert that today’s leaders, in all walks of life, are increasingly acting, speaking and making decisions with a short-term focus. This must change or the consequences will be painful.

The surest way to reverse this trend is by applying age-old wisdom to modern times. In all types of organizations, we must swiftly empower those are willing to choose renewable leadership.  In short, it’s high time we find wise leaders.

To assist with this, I offer twelve suggestions on how to identify wise leaders around you:


1. They align their actions with their ideals

Wise leaders let internal values rule their calendars, not external influences.   They determine what matters most to them and then live each day accordingly. Wise leaders ask if each choice moves them “closer to” or “farther from” their objectives.  This allows their daily decisions to drive them toward their noblest goals.

2. They take care, not advantage

Wise leaders don’t extract value from others, they exchange value with them. They understand that the key to long term success in an era of empowerment is to intentionally facilitate the success of others. Much like a race track pit-crew chief, a wise leader’s aim is to make others great.

3. They hunt down hope and hand it out

A hopeful voice is a flashlight in the fog. As a result, wise leaders proactively work to protect their team from despair.  They find acorns and describe oak trees. The wise leader whispers possibility into willing ears and then smiles as it blossoms.

4. They model the kindness they hope to see in others

If leaders a’re kind to their team members, they’ll need fewer new ones.  In an age of incivility, workers thirst for courtesy.  Wise leaders know that kindness can transform chaos into collaboration and deliberate kindness from either side of a chasm can build a bridge between two sides.

5. They study their words before setting them free

Wise leaders know when to push their own mute button.  They know the prudent often outlast the indignant.  When tempers flare, they choose introspection.  As a result, the wise leader neither insults when irritated nor pounces when provoked.

6. They prioritize what they “want most” over what they “want now”

Character is built by repeatedly choosing the best option over the easiest one.  They have the foresight to exchange short-term buzz for long-term joy. Though they may show mercy to new mistakes, they always show recurring mistakes the door.

7. They defend principles, not territory

Wise leaders never discard friendship to save face.  Instead, they patiently wait for battles that matter.  The wise leader values the “strength to finish” more than the “minutes between mile markers.”

8. They know when to reason and when to empathize

Sometimes a team needs a logical explanation and other times it needs emotional motivation.  Wise leaders take time to read the room and then they respond in the most helpful manner.

9. They brave each issue before it escalates into an impasse

Victory often requires gracious honesty at pivotal moments.  They understand that truthfulness and kindness are not antonyms, but that truth, when spoken with kindness…is a kindness.

10. They welcome any input that increases their effectiveness

Wise leaders study and avoid the errors of others. They are humble enough to listen and change. The wise leader would rather “Watch and Learn” than “Live and Learn.”

11. They know that vocal appreciation bolsters motivation

In matters of motivation, wise leaders know that meaning is a new form of currency.  Selfish leaders use intimidation, but they choose inspiration instead. The wise leader takes great care to recognize the deserving.

12. They nurture a culture of genuine customer concern

Wise leaders value current customers much more than prospective ones.  They recognize that customer connection is an investment, not a cost. The wise leader knows that every customer comment carries meaning.  As a result, wise leaders proactively capture concerns and use them to drive experience improvements.


I hope these attitudes clearly delineate the line between the foolish and the wise.  It is time to find, anoint and appoint those who’ll lead with an eye toward tomorrow.


Photo courtesy of Anderson Mancini, used under creative commons. Some rights reserved.

Tristan Bishop


Tristan Bishop is a serious customer advocate and a super silly daddy. He also drives digital strategy at the world’s top security company, using social media monitoring and Social CRM to capture customer commentary. Specifically, he loves to listen to people and then help them. He aims to leave others inspired, encouraged and moved toward positive action.

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