The perspective we have as leaders develops over time from the knowledge and experiences we’ve acquired, and the choices we’ve made up till now. It represents how we view ourselves and situations, how we ascertain the relative importance of things, and how we establish a meaningful relationship with others and everything around us. Our leadership perspective defines us and shapes our decisions, thoughts, and actions.

Almost all smart leaders look at their world through lenses that limit their perspective in some ways and have an impact on their decisions. Some have a perspective that’s focused on short-term goals and project completion, and this deepens their depth of knowledge in their domain of interest. Other smart leaders have broadly focused long-term visions that help them dream big and see large patterns and trends that will help them succeed. Both perspectives have limitations.

When smart leaders gain a new, broader perspective, either by accident or intention, they often find that seeing the world through different lenses changes their leadership style for the better. By changing their “smart” perspective and cultivating practical wisdom instead, they can lay the foundation for a wise leadership style.

From a wise leader perspective, they will be able to continually reframe and reinterpret events through integration and find new meanings within a rapidly changing context. Guided by a noble purpose, they can develop a flexible and resilient mindset that makes them act and lead with wisdom–and become more influential leaders.

How do we move from a smart leader perspective to a wise leader perspective? Start by seeing the world differently. Here are six ways to do it.

Find your limitations so you can transcend them.
Senior managers at Allianz Global Investors, a global asset management company, attended a workshop called Dialogue in the Dark, led by visually impaired trainers who conducted the entire workshop in total darkness. The goal of this experiential learning program was to shift leaders’ perspectives by making them aware of their limitations, while increasing empathy for others. What is your biggest limitation of today? How did you get to have it and how do you plan to transcend it?

Look for inspiration from talks or books.
The CEO of a well-known tech firm attended a talk on service-oriented organizations, including the generosity-driven Karma Kitchen, where anyone can eat for free in exchange for committing to volunteer in the restaurant in the future. He was so inspired by the talk that he acted completely out of character and drove straight to the hospital to spend four hours at the bedside of his 80-year-old neighbor. This experience surprised him and changed him. When did you last get inspired by a talk or a book? What actions did you take?

See with fresh eyes by opening your mind.
Sometimes, shifting one’s perspective is as simple as really seeing what’s in front of you. When Alan Mulally took over as CEO of Ford, the company was losing market share and facing deep losses because of increased competition and globalization. One day, when walking through the Ford parking lot at Detroit headquarters, Mulally suddenly noticed the hodgepodge of Ford brands that had no common attributes in shape or style. This moment of clear-sightedness led to Ford’s trimming its bloated portfolio of 97 models to just 20, selling off Jaguar, Land Rover, and Aston Martin in the process, and focusing on smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. What do you need to “unlearn and let go of” so that increased focus on what you have could make you very effective and successful?

Let your desperation invite epiphanies.
A high level of desperation can spark epiphanies, so pay attention to what your next crisis has to teach you about perspective. While in a WWII German concentration camp for three years, Victor Frankl realized one day that although the Nazis could torture his body, they had zero control over his mind or spirit. This empowering shift in perspective helped him survive and then to inspire his fellow prisoners to take control of their own mindset. What is the fear, or high desperation, that you are attempting to run away from? How do you pay attention to it so that you can walk through the other side of desperation and discover something very new?

Seek out unlikely connections and juxtapositions.
Ophthalmologist Dr. Venkataswamy, or Dr. V, created a revolutionary approach to curing blindness in India by studying McDonald’s. He was able to develop a high-efficiency, standardized, repeatable business model that organized patients in operating rooms and broke the procedure down into a series of discrete processes so that nurses and doctors could quickly move from one patient to the next. His company, Aravind, is now the largest eye care provider in the world. What unlikely metaphors and connections can help you come up with an innovative mental model and a business model for your work?

Step out of your comfort zone.
Stepping outside your comfort zone is a quick way to experience leadership from a new perspective. In early 2000, while awaiting the court decision in the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, Bill Gates decided to step down as chief executive and focus on his passion for software. This jolted his perspective, and that same year, Gates and his wife established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, taking his leadership in an important new direction. Where is it that you are holding on to an old and unworkable mindset? What extreme step you can take to experience and lead yourself differently?

Take action: Want to find out if you’re a smart or a wise leader–and how you measure up? Take this free self-assessment.

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