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July 17, 2008 Vol. 1, Issue 6


What makes one leader succeed while another fails? According to one expert, it is the ability to synthesize wisdom, intelligence, and creativity in making decisions and inspiring others.

Leadership, according to Professor Robert J. Sternberg, is rooted in a set of cognitive-decision processes. The key dimensions that successful leaders synthesize in those processes are wisdom, intelligence, and creativity, a model that he has dubbed Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity, Synthesized (WICS).

Sternberg, now Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University, defines the three dimensions of WICS as follows:

  • Creativity enables the leader to generate novel ideas, including unique approaches to solving problems and making decisions.
  • Analytical intelligence helps the leader determine whether the creative ideas are sound, while practical intelligence is used to implement the ideas effectively.
  • Wisdom ensures that the ideas benefit the common good.

In addition to decision-making, a critical aspect of leadership is communicating ideas and motivating others. One of the most effective ways to do this is through storytelling. Leaders generate stories to connect with and inspire others in order to motivate them to accomplish goals that benefit the common good. WICS directly addresses the skill of storytelling: to generate a powerful story, leaders must be creative in conceiving of the idea, must use intelligence to analyze its strengths and weaknesses, and employ wisdom to determine which stories will speak to the widest audience.

The best leaders, Sternberg says, exhibit creativity, intelligence, and wisdom in both their decision making and use of stories. “One is not a born leader,” he writes. According to the WICS model, these skills can be learned.

Read Sternberg’s working paper “The WICS Model of Organizational Leadership”.

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