Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

What makes a difference: Intelligence, creativity, and wisdom

Drawing on extensive research of his own and colleagues, Robert Sternberg argues that the three key components of leadership are wisdom, intelligence, and creativity.

Sternberg's research and that of others suggests that both analytical and practical intelligence -- especially tacit knowledge, that experience-based knowledge that allows one to adapt to and mold one's personal environment -- are good predictors of leadership performance. His studies also confirm that creativity -- defined as a capacity to generate ideas that are novel and appropriate to the task as hand -- is correlated with leadership effectiveness. And finally, his investigations reveal that wisdom -- a combination of reasoning, judgment, long horizons, and related capacities -- forecasts leadership success as well.

Sternberg holds that the capacities of intelligence, creativity, and wisdom can all be learned, and they are best taught by asking students and managers to make and learn from repeated decisions in which application of the capacities is required for reaching the right outcome. He also notes that an act of will is important: creative people are often so not because they were endowed that way but rather because they actively choose to be so.

Source: Robert J. Sternberg, "WICS: A Model of Leadership in Organizations," Academy of Management Learning and Education, December, 2003.