The role of wisdom in organisational leadership

  • Reena Govindji

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis begins with a review of the literature on wisdom models, theories of wise leadership, and existing wisdom measures. It continues with a review of how the concept of wisdom may add value to existing leadership models, highlighting the need to empirically identify the characteristics of wise leaders and develop a wise leadership measure. A nomological framework for wise leadership is then presented. Based on a review of the wisdom and leadership paradigms, a mixed-methods research design is described for three studies to define the characteristics of wise leadership in organisations; identify specific leadership challenges that might require wise responses; and to develop the wise leadership measure comprising of vignettes. The first study involves critical incident interviews with 26 nominated wise leaders and 23 of their nominators, which led to the identification of nine wise leadership dimensions which include Strong Ethical Code, Strong Judgement, Optimising Positive Outcomes, Managing Uncertainty, Strong Legacy, Leading with Purpose, Humanity, Humility, and Self-Awareness. The second study includes critical incident interviews with 20 leaders about organisational challenges associated with the nine dimensions, to elucidate the wise leadership measure. The third study includes the design of 45 vignettes based on organisational challenges that measure the nine wise leadership dimensions. The measure is then administered to 250 organisational leaders to establish its construct validity, leading to the selection of 18 vignettes forming the final wise leadership measure. Theoretical, methodological and practical implications of this research are then discussed with recommendations for future research.
Date of Award26 May 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aston University
SupervisorMichael A West (Supervisor) & Robin P Martin (Supervisor)


  • wisdom
  • leadership
  • wise leadership
  • organisational wisdom
  • wise leadership measure

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