Leading with Wisdom

By sethmsparks

The Book
Leading with Wisdom isn’t your typical leadership book. Namely because it’s centered on a different kind of leader than you’re used to reading about. The wisdom shared (through the author’s Sages) crafts a long-term leader, by exposing the traits and habits that cultivate an organic following built around purpose and emotion.

Relationship with Freed
To be fair, I should disclose my relationship with the author. Jann Freed was one of my undergratuate professors at Central College in Pella, IA. I remember struggling in her Org. Behavior classes… not because she was an overly tough professor, but because I had little experience in (and thus understanding of) workplace dynamics. The same things that are still belittled by big-ego data-centric leaders in business today as the “fru-fru stuff”, I just needed to experience before I could grasp and appreciate them. Nearly a decade out of undergrad coursework, I get it. And I can appreciate my old professor more for it.

Who the Book is For
People who are ready to accept the challenge of being a real leader, and take the action that will foster their leadership skills, whether it be for home, work, or elsewhere.

The Kind of Leader It Develops
The mindful-reflective-authentic-servant leader. I know, buzzword bingo right? But really, all of those concepts are woven into the fabric of the text. I’m a believer that no one is ever really just one thing, but an amalgamation of many things. Leading with Wisdom defines the Amalgamated Leader.

What’s in the Book
Each Chapter of the book is dedicated to one of eight practices, consistently demonstrated and referenced through Freed’s years of research:
– Leaders Know Who They Are
– Leaders Don’t Let Ego Win
– Leaders Connect with Empathy and Compassion
– Leaders Admit Mistakes Fearlessly
– Leaders Embrace Community
– Leaders Model Resilience
– Leaders Create Healthy Work Environments
– Leaders Live Their Legacy

Each practice is discussed, with insight and examples from research, references to other texts, and brought together with actionable steps to help make these practices just that; practices. The chapters exemplify that this isn’t your typical leadership book: managing ego, being compassionate, admitting mistakes, thinking about legacy… sounds like some of the leaders we admire from afar, but rarely get to encounter in the doldrums of our daily lives.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What Were You Thinking
For me, the book opened a significant level of self reflection. I don’t have employees. But I do have co-workers. I don’t know if they see me as a leader, but they see me as something, and if I’m not managing that impression, I’m doing Tom Peters a disservice. I also brought the book home with me (literally and figuratively). Being a father, I examined how each of the practices applied to parenthood and how to become a figure that my children respect in a more profound way than “rule maker”.

I know a book is good if it gets my mind wandering and making connections with other things I’ve experienced. My brain was on overdrive while reading Leading with Wisdom.

Many of the cited books are great, and I’ve added some of them to my list to read. I was almost immediately reminded of Patrick Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of a Team“, and the beginning of Ray Anderson’s “Confessions of a Radical Industrialist“.

When I think about legacy Mitch Joel comes to mind, as he often talks to guests on his podcast about longevity and the fundamental understand that we all have ability to leave legacy.

The chapter around embracing community reminds me of so many of the voices in the social media space, but I reflected the most on Seth Godin and his book Tribes (and also the means by which Tribes came to be).

Have I Changed Anything
Trying to be honest to the book, I’ve made a few small changes to my routine that help keep me thinking about the practices described in the book. I hope to expand to more practices once these two become my nature.

Most notably, I’ve begun taking Tuesday nights to type out a couple paragraph email to thank someone who has impacted me in some way. It could be a close friend, it could be a past teacher, family, or someone on the internet that I’ve never actually met. Does this does two things for me;

1) It makes me reflect on what has really impacted me in my life, which isn’t easy, but I’ve found extremely valuable in defining who I am, and why I am.
2) It forces me to be vulnerable, and enter a space where I may look or feel silly. Each time, my bodies fight-or-flight response is increasingly less flight, and I’m hoping that will permeate other areas of my self.

As I mentioned, I took the book home with me too. One of the sections focuses on desired outcomes vs rewarded outcomes. Things like hoping for teamwork, but rewarding individual contributors. I’ve spent time thinking about my “hopes” for my children, and examined how my wife and I reward them. I’m slowly making changes to our practices that reward on my hopes. I don’t know that I’ll divulge those things publicly, but it definitely forces me practice my presencing (see Chapter 2 of the book).

Put Simply
The world needs more leaders like this. Leadership is as hot of topic as anything else anymore, and I can only hope that this book, and what it teaches catch on to a broader audience. In a business world where the climate has changed so much, employees are looking to fit passion and purpose into their work/life blend. Leaders like the ones Leading with Wisdom promotes can make a big change in helping people move closer to their own Kaushik Nirvana, either by leading others or by becoming this kind of leader.

It’s time to wake up and be here, now.