Are you a clever or a wise leader?

Since the dawn of time, clever people have used their intelligence to introduce many innovations that have improved the world for all of us.

But, while cleverness has been what’s got us to here, it’s not enough to take us to a better reality in the next five years.

The word “clever” is thought to come from a Scandinavian word meaning “skilful”. While we certainly need skilful leaders in government and business, clever people do not necessarily make the best leaders.

Over the past two decades, we’ve seen what clever leaders in politics and business have done – manipulated things for their own advantage with no concern for the good and welfare of others.

Clever leaders are skilful, articulate and influential, but they are not necessarily ethical, compassionate or selfless. Cleverness is amoral – it takes on the morality of the person in whose hands it finds itself. So, if a clever person is unethical, they will use their cleverness for unethical purposes.

Right now, there are many people in government and business who are very clever. They are however using their cleverness to make huge amounts of money for themselves, and they are driving in luxury cars, living in luxurious mansions, eating fabulous food and feeling very proud of themselves.

Wise people, on the other hand, are also intelligent. They may not have the same type of intelligence that clever people have, but they apply that intelligence only in ways that are ethical, compassionate and selfless.

The difference between clever people and wise people is that wise people consider what they can do to help others while clever people think more in terms of their own interests.

That’s why we admire and respect wise people. We know that they have the interests of others, and not themselves, at heart.

For too long we have been satisfied to allow clever people to lead us, whether in the political or business world. Look where that has got us …   

It’s now time for us to look for wise leaders who want for others what they want for themselves, who want for other children what they want for their own children.

Are you a clever or wise leader? Do you make decisions based on what you think is in the best interests of all or what you think is in your own particular interests only.

Clever people have an ability to acquire, process and apply information to achieve something. Sometimes they use those skills not only for the good of others but to their own advantage. Wise people also acquire, process and apply information, but only for the benefit of others.   

You need to decide if you want to be clever or wise. You can be clever without being wise, but you can’t be wise without being clever. If you desire to be a great leader, you have to develop and demonstrate wisdom in all you do. There can be no greatness without wisdom.

Clever leaders tend to focus on their own interests. They are slaves to their greed and egos. This causes them to lead only for personal gain. Wise leaders, however, focus only on the interests of others. They are no longer slaves to their personal interests. They have risen above such things.

Cleverness is a short term goal while wisdom is a long term one. No-one becomes wise overnight. It takes years of personal growth to conquer all your personal appetites and desires so you are no longer held ransom by your personal interests.

Once you achieve this status, however, you will be a leader of great value to your company, and country.  

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.

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