We could say that wisdom is the ability to understand how people, events, and situations affect our position and vice versa, combined with a willingness to apply actions in order to deliver the correct outcome.
Wisdom is the result of a simple two variable equation: Wisdom = Intelligence + Action. (W = I + A)
The Four Cardinal Virtues
In the classical antiquity, the greeks considered wisdom one of the four cardinal virtues, alongside justice, temperance, and courage.
This list derived from Plato´s manuscripts although Aristotle and even Cicero in Rome, also limited the list of human qualities to the same four man faculties originally defined by Plato.
Plato identified the four essential virtues, and also connected them to the ruling classes in the Greek society. Plato determined that for the good governance of any human society, the character of the leaders must combine the four cardinal virtues.
Plato´s theories also influenced the fundamentals of the vast majority of religions in the world, so one would expect that in most societies – given the strong influence of religion in the way our world has evolved – these four virtues should still remain very present.
One would expect that given the close relationship between most politicians, corporate leaders, and the highest religious authorities, Plato´s cardinal virtues should be strongly present in most leader´s personalities and behaviors.
But the truth is that over the past few decades our world has changed quite dramatically, to a point where all previously known governing forms, such as politics and religion, have succumbed to a new ruling power, a new dominant religion with millions of devotees around the world. The Money Religion. The Money Power.
If we look at the way the world operates today, we will quickly realize that our society is almost exclusively influenced by economic factors. Most of the important political decisions affecting millions of citizens in the world, are driven by the interest of investment funds, and large corporations. Economic interests drive most military interventions and bellicose conflicts too.
So the question becomes, are wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage considered essential human qualities anymore?
Let´s look at our current society and how things work, to see whether our current political and business leaders, possess any of the cardinal virtues described by Plato.
Four Types Of Leaders
Based on the simplified wisdom formula (W = I + A), combined with the other three cardinal virtues, we could say that in our current society we can find four types of leaders:
# 1. Wise Leaders: Politicians and Corporate Executives who are fully aware of the key issues affecting their civil societies and organizations respectively; and who put problems affecting the people they lead, before the economic interest of small minorities. Wise leaders combine a profound understanding of issues affecting the society or group they lead, with the courage to take action against unfair decisions. W = I + A.
Wise Leaders know what is wrong, and what needs to be done in order to deliver the correct results.
# 2. Observant Leaders: Politicians and Corporate Executives, who are somewhat aware of the key issues affecting their civil societies and organizations respectively, but because of their lack of intelligence, or their inability to resolve the problems, they feel more comfortable doing nothing, or waiting to see whether the problems self-resolve at some point.
Observant Leaders know what is wrong, but they either do not know how to fix it, or do not have the courage to do what needs to be done.
The problem with this type of leadership is that it ends up causing indignation and frustration, particularly when unfairness is tolerated and nothing is done to stop it.
# 3. Ignorant Leaders: Politicians and Corporate Executives, who do not understand or have no idea about the key issues affecting their civil societies and organizations respectively, so they believe that stand still is the best way to rule. These guys tend to think that their mere presence is sufficient to keep their societies and organizations where they got. Do not see the need for change.
Ignorant Leaders do not have any idea of what is wrong or what needs to change for the betterment of their societies or companies.
The problem with being lead by ignorants is that it creates a strong feeling of powerlessness. People do not follow or respect ignorants. Knowledge is an essential part of good leadership.
# 4. Egoistic Leaders: Politicians and Corporate Executives, who do not care about the key issues affecting their civil societies and organizations respectively. Thus, they act egoistically, taking actions that will only benefit small minorities and themselves. Do not have the intelligence to understand what good leadership means.
Egocentric leaders do not care about what is wrong or the pain the may infringe in others as a result of their selfish decisions.
The key issue with this type of leaders is that they lead their people to rebelion and insurrection, which may even end up in terrible bloodsheds, as we have unfortunately seen in too many occasions in our recent history.
What is the predominant type of leader in our current world?
Are you in a leadership role? If so, what type of leader are you?
Plato, Aristotles, Confucious, and many other wise thinkers of the ancient times, were all very clear about what living in a good society meant, and what were the cardinal virtues that all good leaders must possess.
Where are the Plato´s, Aristotles´s and Confucious´s of our days?
It should be compulsory for everyone holding highly influencial positions, either in the field of politics, or in the corporate world, to read the classics more often – or at least once in their lives.
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I will love it if you take a minute to comment on this article. That´s the best encouragement to continue to write and share knowledge.
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Jordi is the Managing Principal Consultant at Key Strategic Chain Solutions, a management consulting firm specializing in Executive Coaching, Organizational Strategy and Portfolio Management.