Pop quiz here:

  • Do you sometimes second-guess yourself about decisions until opportunities pass?
  • Do colleagues and clients frequently seek your opinion on their big decisions?
  • Do you often get feedback on the quality of your contributions in meetings?
  • Do those meeting ideas produce the results you intend?

Like artists, wise leaders analyze and focus on a situation or problem. Then they decide and act. And even then, as theologian and author Oswald Chambers put it: “It’s never wise to be cocksure.”

Consider the following tell-tale mindsets and habits that help you know if you’ve moved beyond being a smart manager to becoming a wise leader:

Smart managers have facts, skills, or information. They may even have mastered a job or subject.

Wise leaders have superior mental capacity. They know how to apply information, facts, or their skills to a specific problem or situation in the right way, at the right time, for the best outcome for all concerned.


Smart managers often try to lead people from the simple to the complex so that everyone understands the complexities of decisions and implications of those decisions.

Wise leaders most often try to break the complex down to the simple so that everyone understands the core idea.


Smart managers take things apart to analyze.

Wise leaders put things together to draw conclusions and apply.


Smart managers like to do things their way. They tend to place great trust in their own expertise.

Wise leaders like to get input from several trusted sources. They listen with an open mind and weigh facts and ideas before rushing to reject or accept them as valid.


Smart managers know when to be vague—to avoid offense, questions, or blame.

Wise leaders know when an ounce of specificity is worth a ton of abstraction.


Smart managers communicate frequently and directly.

Wise leaders communicate frequently, directly, consistently, compassionately, and tactfully.


Smart managers practice self-discipline and expect their staff to do the same.

Wise leaders understand why they practice self-discipline and inspire their staff to do the same.


Smart managers always know how to do things.

Wise leaders always know why to do things.


How did you score on the pop quiz? Remember that there’s no final exam in leadership. Your team is not looking for perfection—but rather progress.


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