Wise leadership makes a difference. While smart leaders keep things on an even keel, wise leaders know they have a window of opportunity to make a difference and are determined to seize their chance.
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The two primary forms of wisdom are Phronesis and Sophia.
Phronesis is the practical wisdom to get things done; navigating material and logistic challenges and the vagaries of realpolitik.
Sophia is the wisdom to make sound choices. You can easily find yourself dissipating your energy across many endeavors. This is neither smart nor wise: focus on one thing at a time, that really matters, and give it all your commitment.
Our word decision comes from the Latin: de cidere – to cut off from. When you make a decision, you cut yourself off from all of the alternatives.
Decisions have implications – and not all of them are what you intend. Wise leaders know this, so they play out scenarios like chess grandmasters, deploying the many pieces in different ways to gauge the impacts of their choices. You will not be able to maintain a 100% record of right decisions, but by thinking through all the possible consequences first, you can raise your hit rate.
“Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige’s wall, it is written: ‘Matters of great concern should be treated lightly.’
Master Itei commented, ‘matters of small concern should be treated seriously’ “Hagakure – In the Shadow of the Leaves
Sometimes called The Samurai Manual.
It is certainly strong on how to die well, though not dying seems preferable to me. However, it is full of wise observations. And this is one of my favorites.
Perceiving the details is of no use to you unless you can also use them to build a wider understanding. The value of detail is to avoid your understanding becoming superficial. Make it deep, rich, and textured. This will allow you to build nuance into your actions.
Smart leaders learn what they need to, to thrive in a changing world. Wise leaders learn for the sake of learning, because they know that the broadest possible understanding will give them the ability to be the first to perceive from which direction the changes will come, and how they will affect their choices.
It is easy to be self-assured and appear controlled in set piece events. The tougher quest is to remain fully in control when events spiral out your control. These are the leaders that fill us with confidence.
Wise leaders are never so controlled that they hide their true selves behind some form of shopfront. Instead, they develop their true selves to be something finer than many of the rest of us.
This doesn’t mean that everyone will be right – how could they be? Nor does it mean we have a duty to everyone. It does mean that your choices and actions affect people and that you have responsibilities that you need to balance. You cannot balance all your responsibilities without recognizing that bystanders do matter. This is true not just of the people who are here now, but those who will follow too.
Leadership is like a circle: when you truly lead, people happily follow. This gives you a responsibility towards them. Many models of leadership assert a leader has a responsibility to help others “become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous”. In describing Servant Leadership, Robert Greenleaf used those words as the test of a servant leader.
For more on wise leadership and wisdom in general, read the enlarged 2nd edition.
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I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own.
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Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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