Wisdom and Leadership: An Exploratory Study on Accelerating the Cultivation of Wisdom

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Wisdom and leadership should go hand in hand. Both are concerned with human flourishing. Leadership is about making the right things happen the right way for the good of the collective.Discerning and doing the right things ultimately requires wisdom. While wisdom is esteemed as the highest intellectual and moral virtue, few studies explore the relationship between wisdom and leadership, especially how leaders understand and acquire wisdom. The three guiding questions for this study were: 1. Would higher education leaders who participate in a wisdom educational intervention experience an increase in their self-reported wisdom scores? 2. Do years of leadership experience moderate leaders’ self-reported wisdom scores? and 3. Do faith, gender, years of leadership experience, and specialty/career field affect self-reported wisdom scores? A pretest-posttest control-group design was utilized using Ardelt’s abbreviated Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale (3D-WS-12). This study explored the nature of wisdom, whether leaders could accelerate their acquisition of wisdom by reading a synthesis of wisdom, and leaders’ reading habits. Leaders in four-year universities across the United States were randomly assigned to two groups. They completed the abbreviated 3D-WS-12 before and after the experimental group read a primer on wisdom. The study did not find statistical significance for its three hypotheses. However, participants’ answers to the open-ended questions revealed they found the intervention helpful in acquiring and practicing wisdom; most acknowledged that they did not engage in much outside reading. Results indicate additional research is needed to explore the relationship between wisdom and leadership and how leaders can cultivate wisdom.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership Studies
Educational Leadership, Philosophy