The Wisdom Gap

Oct 24, 2019

If you’re the lead leader in your organization, you’re likely familiar with something called the wisdom gap. Even if you don’t call it by that name, the wisdom gap plays an integral role in your daily responsibilities.

What is it? This gap is the space between your leadership level and the leadership of the person directly underneath you: your second-in-command. It’s the discrepancy between your potential and theirs; your experience and theirs; your capacity and the abilities they bring to the table. The wisdom gap is born because of two key truths at play:

  1. You, as the lead leader, can’t help but grow.

After all, each day you wake up, you’re being stretched. You’re encountering new challenges, opportunities, and connections. You’re reading books, listening to podcasts, and pioneering new territory. As the lead leader, everything you do is growing your capacity and potential. It’s just the territory of your role.

  1. Those you lead don’t have time to grow.

Think about it: you’re in charge of vision, direction, and steering the ship. Those underneath you are, more often than not, task-oriented. They’re the ones making it happen. They’re sending emails; setting up programs; running HR; managing employees; carrying out the vision that you set. How many hours do they have in a day where they’re not performing tasks? Maybe one, if they’re lucky.

Hence, the wisdom gap appears, and grows. How can you minimize it? The truth is, it will never go away completely. But there is a way to shrink it. Simply put, you need to create space for the leaders under you to grow.

This could be as simple as recommending a helpful leadership resource to them, or as in-depth as scheduling weekly or monthly leadership development trainings. When those under you sense that you want to invest in them and grow them, they’ll quickly rise to the challenge. Most of the time, rising leaders’ desire is to be developed and to take on new ground; they simply don’t have the time.

But you’re the one with the authority to give them that time—to make sure that the wisdom gap becomes smaller and smaller. After all, what happens after you in your organization is directly dependent on the leaders who are coming after you: those you’re raising up right now!

So, make a list this week of practical ways you can close the wisdom gap. What podcasts, books, and resources can you pass along? What encouragement and developmental help can you offer? How can you invest in your leader #2 (and #3, and #4…)?


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