Wisdom and Authentic Leadership


  Wisdom and Authentic Leadership

A wise person is never too old to learn. Indeed, she knows that with every passing year her wisdom deepens. As she reflects on her life and the lessons she has learned, she grows ever more attentive to those around her and ever more compassionate in all that she does.

Leaders who wish to be authentic need not fear getting older for there is no age limit to their wisdom or how deep it can grow. Instead, they allow experience and time to broaden their perspectives by taking heed of what is happening in the world around them as well as what has happened in their own lives. They believe that teaching others from one’s own personal experiences is a necessary component of leadership greatness. Great leaders are those who strive to develop others and pass on the lessons they have learned.

Great leaders understand that the lessons they learn early in life can be just as important as those they acquire much later. For example, it is possible that a young person beginning his career as a business executive could be tempted to follow the lead of his boss, who works hard but has not demonstrated any real leadership qualities. At first, this younger executive may view his boss as a role model; however, as time goes on he may have doubts about his choices because he realizes that his boss is not everyone’s cup of tea.

As a leader, this young executive may be inclined to mimic the boss’s style. Yet there is more to leadership than likeability. It is essential that one’s own personal values and style be showcased and that one has the humility necessary to acknowledge and learn from his or her own mistakes. As an authentic leader, this young executive may come to realize that the boss’s mannerisms are not only wrong in and of themselves but are also inappropriate for a certain situation. More importantly, if he follows them he may end up making the same mistake twice – thereby losing opportunities for growth both personally and professionally. It is for this reason that great leaders always strive to be authentic.

True leaders are those who recognize the importance of what is happening around them and how it will affect their personal and professional lives. They also acknowledge their own shortcomings, striving always to be better, as they believe that leading by example is the most effective way to teach others what they have learned. These qualities are shared by all authentic leaders. They live to inspire others in a positive manner; through their actions they let those around them know that life really is a journey best taken with like-minded spirits, and all the richer for it.

When one is older, life becomes more complicated. One’s thoughts become more complex and it is harder to keep them in line. One begins to realize that the ability to adapt to new situations is not only important but also essential for success. It may be difficult for this older leader to get his or her ideas across using words alone, and sooner or later the wisdom of his words will be questioned. In order for a leader’s words to be credible, they must originate with him- or herself; otherwise they are no more than simply clever rants meant for the purpose of self-aggrandizement. As he or she matures, this older leader may well become more conservative as he or she learns to adapt to the changing times. He or she also learns that leadership is not always about doing everything right. There are times when it is important to be wrong in order for one not only to learn but also to avoid making a mistake at all. This is especially true with respect to the future and what we believe should be done in order for it to improve.

It helps to live by principles in which one believes wholeheartedly and which one has been able to live by throughout one’s life. There is no way of knowing whether these principles will work or not if they are adopted only now. Because this older leader does not know whether these values will actually make a difference to him or her, he or she will not be able to say so publicly without appearing to be naive. However, being open and honest about the principles he or she holds dear is often the best way for one’s words to take root.

Rather than relying solely on one’s own life experiences, great leaders trust the wisdom of others as well. Their belief in their hearts that they are right and that their beliefs truly reflect what is happening lends credibility to their actions, even if they cannot prove it by any objective measure of success. As they grow older, these leaders become more humble and begin to see themselves as a part of something larger than themselves. They no longer wish to stand out for the sake of being seen in a certain way; instead they wish to support every individual with whom they come into contact, because each individual is unique and each has his or her own destiny to fulfill.

As a leader ages, he or she will inevitably feel threatened by others who appear to have more energy than he or she does. When this happens, one can be tempted to compete rather than collaborate; however, as an authentic leader one knows that the world is small and that it is important to act in a manner that would make future generations proud. This is one of the reasons why older leaders often choose those who are younger than themselves to act as their advisors. They will continue to trust them and do what they ask, which means that a younger person may be able to influence their later decisions. Great leaders often rely on the integrity and wisdom of others because they understand that there is always more wisdom than the average person can dream.

As one gets older he or she will become more aware of how circumstances have shaped his or her life, including emotional responses as well as physical health. What matters at a particular moment in time may not necessarily matter six months or even years later. As an old leader, one may see that it is important to have a sense of humor about things that seem too serious throughout the course of a day. He or she also realizes that there are more important aspects of life than simply performing well according to some standard. Being happy and having peace of mind are priorities, even if this means having to be less competitive in one’s later years. The most famous great leaders will often be remembered by what they did not say as much as by what they actually did say or did in their youth – when they were still learning the ropes.

The leader’s life is difficult in many ways; however, one must not allow this difficulty to overcome him or her. As one advances in age, he or she must avoid over-indulgence and must instead be respectful of others. It is important not to take anything personally even if others are angry at you. If anyone has a problem with any particular aspect of his or her life, it is up to him or her to solve the problem; it will not be solved by sulking about it and complaining about how difficult things have been in his or her life. It is easy for leaders to feel sorry for themselves, but once they do so they lose the chance to make changes in how things should be done.


The qualities of a great leader are as varied as the characteristics of any individual. However, there are certain qualities that have been described here which are common to all authentic leaders. It is important for people to know what these traits actually mean, because if they do not understand how one can be so influential yet one is also so humble and kind, then it may seem impossible for them to be leaders in the future. I think it is better that we go over these qualities one by one, because reading them alone will not reveal much about what makes a great leader.

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