In the uncertain and fast-changing world in which we live, business executives are especially challenged. They need to keep up with new technology, demographic changes, and rapidly changing economic conditions.
Another area presenting a big challenge to leaders is in that of values and ethics. With short-term thinking dominating the business climate, looking at the big picture and being a good corporate citizen have been pushed into the background. The mantra has become “get it and get it now.”
Leaders are increasingly looking for more data and information that will help them in their decision making. They create models and theories to apply to their problems. But this technocratic mode of operating often overlooks a key factor – the particular context these models are made for, and the values and goals and personalities of the individuals that carry out these plans. Moreover, businesses need to see themselves as part of the larger society, because if they don’t create social as well as economic value, they may not survive.
In order to be a responsible corporate citizen, and operate in a context-driven world, leaders need to develop what philosophers have called practical wisdom, the kind of knowledge that comes from experience and enables a person to make careful decisions that take into account the unique conditions confronting him or her and to be guided by morals and values. Practical wisdom has as its guiding principle the common good and morality.
Practical wisdom is guided by a person’s values and morals, in order to decide what is good or bad. It’s about making the right decisions not just for the good of the company, but for the good of society as well. It’s using those values gained through experience to decide what goals should be set, and to strive for excellence in meeting those goals.
Practical wisdom also is the ability to grasp the essential elements of a situation, to establish a vision of how to do things, and decide on what needs to be done to achieve that vision. It involves paying attention to the little things and having tenacity, keeping after something relentlessly. It means not overlooking the fundamentals, and going back to the fundamentals again and again. If you don’t do that, you cannot make progress.
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