top of page

Literature of Leadership - Leading Wisely

LEADING WISELY: Becoming a Reflective Leader in Turbulent Times. Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries (2022, Kindle Edition)

As a leader, what words of wisdom would you offer others? Book author, Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, asked this very question of his business students in a program for C-suite executives that he designed and delivered over many years at INSEAD. Kets de Vries is a management scholar and psychoanalyst, consultant, executive coach and professor (Emeritus) of leadership development and organizational change. Leading Wisely is the distillation of 8 lessons on wisdom in the context of leadership and other life challenges that he garnered from the answers offered by his students over the years, in conjunction with his own personal reflections on the “wisdom equation”.

In essence, Leading Wisely is a guide for self-reflection and professional growth that can be of value to leaders at any level. Kets de Vries sets the stage in the first three chapters by sharing his personal reflections on wisdom, and why he believes that “wise leaders are rare and far between”. He contends that wisdom goes beyond book knowledge, and comes with a sense of humility, judgement, compassion, empathy and action. He clarifies his viewpoints through the use of stories and anecdotes—many originating from renown philosophers and ethicists such as Confucious, Aristotle and Mahatma Gandhi—and makes a plea for more wisdom in leadership to be exercised in today’s confusing world, often characterized as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

Following the three introductory chapters, the remaining book chapters address each of the 8 thematic leadership lessons that pertain to wisdom, which include:

  1. The Golden Rule: which explores the importance of being kind.

  2. Forgiveness: which explores the importance of building bridges and how forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.

  3. Envy: which explores the darker side of envy relative to the benefits of compassion and empathy.

  4. Greed: which explores the downside of greed relative to personal well-being.

  5. Listening: which explores the art of deep listening.

  6. Choose your battles wisely: which explores the importance of being strategic in where one’s time and exergy is spent.

  7. Courage: which explores the criticality of standing up for one’s beliefs and doing what is right.

  8. Happiness: which explores the pursuit of happiness as a journey in knowing thyself, and acting with integrity and authenticity.

Each chapter includes reflective questions for the reader to ponder about leadership and their personal leadership style. Definitely, a thought-provoking and value-adding read!

Image source: Amazon


bottom of page