Whatever Happened To Wisdom?

I compiled a list of top leadership traits according to business periodicals, educational institutions, and leadership organizations, and “top 10 lists” (with a few social media pundits for good measure).

Here are the top 10 leadership traits from my compilation.

  • Communication
  • Decisiveness
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Confidence
  • Passion
  • Vision
  • Courage
  • Focus
  • Humility

What I discovered caused me to pause. Not because the top list was surprising – but because of what was not there. In fact, something key only showed up a couple of times in the more than 100 sources I referenced.

Whatever happened to wisdom?


Maybe wisdom’s not as important as I think. Or maybe I misunderstand what wisdom actually is.

So I looked up the definition.

According to Dictionary.com:

Wisdom means “having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion”.

Double hmmmmm.

Then I found an article in Medical News Today that was published in 2010. The article describes how two professors in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego attempted “to identify the central, underlying elements that define wisdom.” The researchers concurred that:

  • Wisdom is uniquely human.
  • Wisdom is a form of advanced cognitive and emotional development that is experience-driven.
  • Wisdom is a personal quality, albeit rare.
  • Wisdom can be learned, increases with age and can be measured.
  • Wisdom is probably not enhanced by taking medication.

Triple hmmmmm.

Isn’t wisdom the same thing as knowledge or spirituality? According to the same article in Medical News Today the answer is no. “Intelligence and spirituality share features with wisdom, but they are not the same thing. One can be intelligent, yet lack practical knowledge. Spirituality is often associated with age, like wisdom, but most researchers tend to define wisdom in secular terms, not spiritual.”

This conclusion came as a result of a survey with 30 international expert respondents related to the concepts of wisdom, intelligence and spirituality. Wisdom differed from intelligence on 46 of 49 items, and from spirituality on 31 items.

If wisdom is so important, then why isn’t wisdom topping the list of leadership traits?

Do we just presume wisdom? That’s pretty dangerous.

As columnist Wil Williams said “To display courage without wisdom is like firing a rifle blindfolded”. This is also true of the other leadership traits.

Where is the wisdom on your team?



He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is safe.”

Proverbs 28: 26


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