Wise leaders create guiding values for themselves and the organizations they lead. These values form the foundation for the organization’s culture and function as a guiding light for coworkers, helping them make correct decisions and work toward common goals.
These values are best reflected in time-tested principles, which are deep, fundamental truths with universal application. These truths address laws that are as firm in “human physics” as the law of gravitation is in natural physics. For example, the law of gravity says that if you drop an object from the roof of a building it will fall to the ground. We know, with absolute certainty that this will happen every time we do it and we don’t question it. This law is true. It is real. In the same way, these human truths are equally reliable. They are not only a set of values, but they are the foundations of human effectiveness and interaction.
When leaders align with universal principles such as trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, honesty, compassion, excellence and perseverance they create the conditions for long-lasting success, fulfillment, happiness, a meaningful life, a life of contribution.
King Solomon, a leader synonymous with wisdom, says: “A good man is guided by his honesty.”
Leaders have to be clever and competent, but they must also have sound values and a powerful sense of integrity. In good times as well as bad the most effective leaders stay true to their unique set of values. They do what is right and tell the truth in all areas of life. That doesn’t say they are perfect or that the struggle to be true to themselves and their values isn’t a life-long journey. And it’s not just in the major decisions that this quality is needed; integrity in little things is equally important. There are no degrees of integrity. You either have it or you don’t.
We value honesty more than any other virtue and we appreciate people who represent a strong value system. If we are to follow someone, whether it is in business, school, or politics, we want to feel faith and confidence in that person.
Solomon says: “It is far better not to say you’ll do something than to say you will and then not do it.”
We expect our leaders to set a good example and act in an exemplary and positive way. Effective leaders live as they learn through acting in accordance with vision and values. As the saying goes: Our actions speak louder than words. That our words and deeds are aligned constitutes the basis for credibility of leadership.
Wise leaders set a good example by acting in accordance with higher values. Those values permeate their behavior and promote confidence. They range from creating good relations to fully completing tasks. Quality and creativity are keywords.
What the leader spends time on and pays attention to counts. Wise leaders deliberately devote time to the group’s viability and development. Supporting both the group and the individual becomes the norm. When people in the group see that words and deeds are consistent, this creates credibility. And it is through being credible that a leader can encourage a long-term commitment from the group.
Solomon says: “Without wise leadership, a nation is in trouble; but with good counselors there is safety.”
Wise leaders understand their role of creating the arena for their employee’s success. Such an arena makes it possible for the employees to feel inspired, challenged and that they are working towards an exciting future. It makes it possible to interact in a winning way in relation to their surroundings.
We as individuals are unique and at the same time complementary. To develop fully, we need supportive leadership. Some leaders create “leadership by enthusiasm” when facing a task with themselves at the center. Others lead by providing a clear picture of the situation and opportunities available in it. Still, others have a more methodical, step by step manner of leading the group. A wise leader provides a sense of continuity for the group and defines limits that all have to comply with – especially the leader him/herself – regardless of their leadership style.
Solomon says: “Whatever you do, do well.”
We all possess a greater potential within us. The question is where do we find the situation and the people that can bring out this greater good. “How can I create my future” and “How can I lift those around me” will be the key questions for enhanced leadership.
Wise leaders realize that there is only one way to go. It is to deepen one’s own awareness of and confidence in the future. The responsibility that lies before us as leaders are to always operate for the good, for a better future, and a better world. This is a deep understanding of and commitment to the values that possess a weight and validity beyond one’s own self, and which gives life greater quality and larger dimensions.
To become a wiser leader:
• Empower your co-workers to participate in the development of the group’s common guiding principles. Ask a question and discuss: What do we want to stand for? What do we consider as truly important? How do we want to interact with each other and others in order to provide value?
• Set aside time for your own reflection on what you value and what you want to stand for in your life and leadership.
• Deal with those in your environment with dignity and respect.
• Devote time to the group’s viability and development.
• Know and honor your commitments and promises to the entire group.
• Serve as a good example when it comes to relationships, attitudes, and work habits.
• Know that what you, as the leader, spend time on and pay attention to counts.
• Create an arena for your employee’s success.
• Always operate for the good, a better future, and a better world.
McAfee Institute Leadership