In large organizations, the nature of the work creates a natural tendency toward complexity. And as a leader, it can be very tempting to advance those who seem to have the intelligence to manage it. But complexity is not a symptom to be managed while you work–it is often the work itself. Its symptoms are a lack of a clear purpose, inconsistent strategy, slow execution, low morale, and missed opportunities. It takes wisdom to see the deeper issues in these situations.
The difference between intelligence and wisdom
Intelligence is the ability to adapt to and solve new mental challenges. Whether it is a crossword puzzle or a 5-year strategic plan is irrelevant–intelligence focuses on solving the problem. Wisdom focuses on meeting the highest need in a given situation, which sometimes means doing the simpler, less complex, more effective thing. Wisdom is about asking the right questions; intelligence is about having the right answers.
Why focusing on wisdom is hard
Hiring smart people requires a leader to sharpen her focus on the wisdom of the team’s actions, which takes humility. Organizations are made up of smart people who are struggling with the unconscious tension between the right answer for the organization and the answer that serves their career. That’s what makes external perspective so valuable.
Consultants aren’t necessarily smarter than your VPs and SVPs–they’re simply less invested in the status quo. It goes against human nature to recommend steps that cause us harm–physical, emotional, reputational. As a result, employees sometimes (often unconsciously) use their intelligence to craft a solution that minimizes personal losses while inching the organization forward instead of maximizing organizational progress. Smart people who are rewarded and compensated by the system have one more constraint than those who are not.
Consider the possibilities
What if your hiring processes focused on finding wise people instead of “top talent” or industry knowledge and experience? These are the people that will truly maximize your organization’s potential. They will ask the right questions and can be trusted to implement the best solution the right way.
How can you start to shift the focus of your people processes toward wisdom today?