Raymond L. Wheeler, DMin

Musings about leadership

Growing or Stuck: how to turn experience into wisdom


What separates leaders who learn from leaders who seem stuck? Leaders who learn share three critical characteristics in my experience.

First they seek out new models (frames) from which to interpret their situation. Effective leaders understand that in a rapidly changing environment their own frame of reference cannot sufficiently interpret the full complexity of the situations they face. So, they not only gather others who have a different expertise from their own, they also find new ways of evaluating data and experiment with these taxonomies by rethinking their conclusions.

Second, they practice critical reflection every day. That is they assess the actions and the reactions/results those actions generated with a consistently disciplined approach of asking two questions. What was good about what I saw today? What was bad about what I saw today? This practice of asking dialectical questions gives them an ability to anticipate unexpected consequences a little sooner than those who don’t practice this discipline.

Third, they are always listening. I am a little surprise by how much effective leaders “hear.” The ability to be fully engaged in a situation or conversation leads effective leaders to hear verbal and observe non-verbal communication. These leaders literally listen with their eyes as well as their ears and pick up subtle distinctions in expression, posture or tone that leads them to ask new questions. In fact this ability to ask penetrating questions seems like a deep intuition but it seems to me as I see these leaders that it is not so much intuition but the ability to stay engaged in a conversation that gives them the clues they need to work with.

It is not possible to fully function as a leader without these three traits. I am often surprised by those inexperienced managers who believe leadership is the same thing as barking commands. Most highly effective leaders I see ask far more questions than they do make statements. It is this ability to interrogate reality that opens the door to deeper understanding.

How well to you listen? Do you reflect on your days using a dialectic approach or do you simply rewind your opinion, fears, belligerence thus failing to see how your own actions may be a significant part of the problem your team faces? Try these three skills – they will help you grow your leadership capacity and insight.


Author: Ray Wheeler, DMin

Ray Wheeler - executive coach, confidant, mentor, leader, and friend. Ray is the author of, Change the Paradigm: How to Lead Like Jesus in Today's world. He is also an adjunct lecturer at LIFE Pacific College, Bethesda University California and Azusa Pacific University in cross-cultural leadership, leadership development, leadership ethics, administration, church growth, and mission in today's world. Certified leadership coach, certified Birkman Consultant, and certified in the iOpener Assessment (happiness at work).

10 thoughts on “Growing or Stuck: how to turn experience into wisdom

  1. Hi there , I am making a new site like youtube and some of your original articles would fit the context good. Am I allowed to post this article?

  2. This is very timely for us being in a transition and taking time to reflect on our leadership as CEOs and National Directors over the past 11 years, as well as reflecting on our work in leadership teams. Thanks. From what I know of you Ray, you have modeled the skills you outline above. It is reinforced to see them in writing. Thanks for sharing these!

  3. Steve, yes and be very specific in how it applies to cross-cultural leadership. It ties into some of the information on how to interpret culture and the leadership situation.

  4. OK, thanks. I will check into it.

  5. just downloaded it to my kindle. Can’t wait to read it.

  6. This is really interesting, Youre an extremely skilled blogger. Ive joined your feed and look to seeking the rest of your magnificent post. Also, I have shared your web site at my web sites!

  7. Pingback: Yosh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s