Unwise: Why Leadership Is in Crisis When We Need It the Most

Unwise: Why Leadership Is in Crisis When We Need It the Most

The complex, ambiguous challenges of our time demand wise leaders, not just knowledgeable ones. Dev Patnaik explains how leaders can attain wisdom by pursuing a new paradigm that accounts for personal growth and moral development.

What do searing global temperatures, the meltdown of Twitter and the rise of AI have in common?

Our crisis of leadership.

Wherever you look right now—from corporate boardrooms to international institutions to the political campaign trail— it seems that leaders are out of their depths, unable to cope with the growing complexity and ambiguity of our world.

Are these leaders just not smart enough? No. That’s not it. Leaders are more book-smart than ever, bristling with Ivy League degrees, MBAs and technical expertise.

Separating Knowledge From Wisdom

Clearly, knowledge alone doesn’t make a good leader. Many leaders today are missing a key element of leadership. It’s what makes the difference between a smart executive and a future-focused leader. It’s wisdom.

Exhibit A in the lack-of-wise-leadership case is the ongoing car crash at Twitter that has seen a mass culling of staff, an exodus of advertisers, mounting technical problems and now the opportunistic rise of Meta’s Threads. Rarely has a supposedly impregnable big tech firm fallen so far so fast.

No one could argue that Elon Musk isn’t smart and knowledgeable. He’s a leader who’s brilliant at solving incredibly hard but linear problems like building an electric car and putting a rocket in space. But leading Twitter role is a very different job, requiring him to manage a vast user base bigger than many nations while coming up with policies governing free speech and community. It demands wisdom. And that’s when an undoubtedly brilliant guy starts to stumble.

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Whether it’s Twitter’s unraveling, or companies stumbling into damaging culture-war controversies, or AI executives failing to consider the legal and ethical risks of the technology they create, leaders are struggling to navigate change and ambiguity. It’s taking its toll on CEOs. Turnover among chief executives hit a five-year high last year. The president of the university where I teach just resigned for reasons that make you shake your head.

Wise leaders are in short supply just when we need them most. The acceleration of climate change, the rise of AI and our growing social fragmentation all require wise—not just knowledgeable— leadership to avoid disastrous outcomes. And make no mistake. We’re at a tipping point. The next ten years will likely determine the human condition for the next thousand years.

Read full article on Forbes.

Dev Patnaik


Dev Patnaik is the CEO of Jump Associates, the leading independent strategy and innovation firm. He’s a board member of Conscious Capitalism. Dev has been a trusted advisor to CEOs at some of the world’s most admired companies, including Starbucks, Target, Nike, Universal and Virgin.