In my last blog I talked about walking toward wisdom as one of the four major areas of growth for leaders and aspiring leaders, along with gaining knowledge, reaching out to others, and opening your world. During your lifelong pursuit of wisdom, it is necessary to do a thorough self evaluation and also to be continually open to honest feedback from others. In addition, you must seek out the counsel of those with more wisdom and experience than yourself.
I love the concept that feedback is about the past and counsel is about the future. My friend Marshall Goldsmith, who is a great author, says that even when some people aren’t too excited about feedback, they are excited about what he calls “feedforward.” He has a great exercise where he has people get up and walk around the room and think about something they would like to accomplish this year. He has them go one on one with each other and ask, “Do you have any advice for me?” They move around and meet ten or twelve people and get advice and counsel from everyone.
Receiving counsel from others is about what lies ahead and is a tremendous opportunity to benefit from someone else’s wisdom. We can gain the most if we are open minded and guard our heart against pride and arrogance. Over time, what we learn from the counsel of others will add to our own store of wisdom.
Work with a mentor or mentors—particularly those who are further down the road than you are. Borrow from their wisdom and experience. A mentor is someone who has “been there and done that.” One of the best ways to learn from a mentor’s experience and wisdom is to ask profound questions. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn. For instance, ask an open-ended question such as, “What decisions in your life have made the greatest contribution to your success?” “What books have had the greatest impact in your life?” “What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far in your career?” Start making a list of profound questions such as these, and then look for opportunities to ask those questions. When you ask a profound question and listen—really listen—to the answer, that’s when the learning really soaks in. In my seminars I try to encourage more interaction by asking participants questions and then having them interact with others around them. That’s when learning really seems to come alive for everyone involved.
A commitment to pursuing wisdom will enhance your leadership—but don’t expect to become wise overnight! Walking toward wisdom is a lifelong journey. Every step you take will enhance your growth and bring you closer to your final destiny. So decide today: I will Walk Toward Wisdom.
As are many of my books, Great Leaders Grow is an easy-to-read parable with an enduring message. If you read The Secret – What Great Leaders Know and Do, my first book with Mark Miller, you will be familiar with the characters in Great Leaders Grow. If you enjoy it, pass it around to other folks who may be able to benefit from it, and then leave a comment here to let me know what you think. Remember, everyone is a leader and everyone needs to keep growing. Mark and I hope that Great Leaders Grow will fuel your passion to grow for the rest of your life.