Beyond brilliance: gaining wisdom

Many of you have achieved a certain status or position in your companies because you’re intelligent. Like others who’ve risen through the ranks by being knowledgeable, you may have discovered a big obstacle in your leadership. You’ve realized that brilliance isn’t enough for you to be the best leader you want to be. You may now see that you need to focus more on the people who support you, but you’re stuck because they’re unpredictable and not subject to any of the things you’ve learned through books and education.

It’s time to develop the wisdom it takes to work well with people; it’s something that you just don’t learn in traditional ways. The good news is that if you are awake, aware and see people as essential to your organization’s success, wisdom can follow if you are willing to learn in a different way.

Your organization, community, and our world desperately need you to go beyond brilliance. We need you to develop the wisdom to lead people well, and that requires your intention, dedication and time to:

Get to know people: I’ve heard it all too often: “I don’t have time to spend with people”. The consequences of such a strategy can be dire. When you begin to spend quality time listening to your stakeholders, you begin to understand their talent and potential. When you fully help others to utilize their strengths, then you can be wise in finding work that satisfies and motivates them without the assumptions that result in errors of judgment about who is best able to do work. Schedule and spend time with the people who are important to you and to your organizational mission. Get to know them, discover their gifts, and become aware of what matters to them.

Do right by others: Wise leaders know how to balance business needs with the right things to do for the people involved. You can learn to treat others with kindness, care, and empathy even in the toughest business situations when you listen to them deeply. Stop talking and slow down. When tough decisions need to be made that involve others, use your heart to ask what the moral choice would be; you’ll know. Business can be brutal, but you don’t have to be.

Reflect: You won’t always make the right choices about people. Learn from your mistakes by taking the time to reflect on what you’d do differently next time. This reflection can be painful, it takes time, AND it helps you to cultivate the kind of wisdom required to lead others. The next time you’re confronted with a similar (because they’re never the same) situation, you will be confident and assured that you are acting with others in mind.

Brilliance will only take you so far. The wisdom to lead others requires a different kind of learning and it’s exactly what the world needs of you now.


I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

2 comments on “Beyond brilliance: gaining wisdom

  1. Well said, my friend. I know you to be an extraordinary coach and a credit to the profession so I take your words seriously and to heart. All that you say I believe to be true. Each day I pray for many people and causes but I also pray for wisdom and discernment because I believe they are vital to who I need and want to be. Keep writing and keep sharing because your voice needs to be heard.

  2. Thank you Judy. You’ve highlighted one thing that I didn’t put into the post. Wisdom isn’t finite. Even those who are wise can use more of it (along with discernment, of course).

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