The Five Cornerstones of All Wise Leaders

Every leader wants to become a GREAT leader. It seems to be in their DNA to strive toward this goal. In examining how leaders operate, we must first look at the five cornerstones that are core to wise leaders.


The mark of truly great leaders is their constant ability to rethink what they potentially thought was the right direction with everything: product development, marketing strategies, sales approaches…you name it.

There are countless sad business stories of companies who didn’t pivot or adapt to changing market needs and now they are either gone or dinosaurs.

In every one of these examples, it boils down to leadership not having the willingness or ability to “re-think” their strategy. A “trick” some leaders deploy is viewing themselves as constantly being in “training mode”.

That is, they re-think small ideas so that when the big ideas need re-thinking, their mind is prepared to do so. What they don’t do is try to instantaneously turn on the faucet of thinking differently. That never works.

People First, Processes Second

However— both are critical. People drive the business. Processes operate the business. They go hand in hand and your people must understand the importance of them. This is a two-way street.

I had a client who was a startup. As you can imagine, there are loads of things to worry about and get done. Frankly, there’s not enough time in the day, but what saved them from stalling their acceleration were the processes they put in place. However, it wasn’t easy.

A few seasoned members of the team were “fighting the changes” that needed to be put into place. This caused undue stress and slowed progress.

Once these folks realized that the processes in place were to their benefit, two magical things happened with this client:

  • These people were happier AND more productive.
  • The organizational harmony hummed.

Here’s the rub though: people and processes are not mutually exclusive. The processes must work for the people in order for the people to be effective in deploying the processes.

Balancing Toughness and Empathy

This is one of the hardest things for a leader. On one hand, they must lead. On the other hand, they need their people more than their people need them.

Where I see A LOT of leaders fail is that they feel they must always be tough and direct. This is important for reinforcing goals and objectives. There’s no argument there.

The problem, though, is that their team’s motivation will keep dwindling if the leader doesn’t find a balance with deploying empathy. The leader may make their numbers but the morale of the team will be in the dumps.

It then becomes difficult to make future numbers as well as retain and motivate good people. And, at the end of the day, people drive businesses.

I know some wise leaders who have put the word “balance” on a sticky note on their desks to remind them how important it is. In the end, your people need to know that you care about them as individuals, not as cogs in the wheel of business.

The Paradox of Abandonment

What I am referring to is a leader’s ability to abandon treasured tools and pre-conceived notions. When you assume things you make an a** out of you and me (so the saying goes).

Meaning, you assume that everything you have in place is working just fine. There may be tools that you have used in the past that simply don’t work for the business anymore.

As a leader, it’s sometimes tough to get rid of those tools because of the short-term pain it may cause to do so. The paradox here is that the ultimate gain in productivity will exceed the short-term angst.

The biggest issue here is time. Leaders are stretched thin, but they must take the time to make the necessary adjustments in the business, which brings me to point number five.


In order to re-think strategies, abandon tools, erase pre-conceived notions, balance toughness and empathy, and align people and processes, a leader needs to manage their own time first. It’s the only way to become effective.

If a leader doesn’t balance their time, they become overly stressed, miss out on opportunities, focus on being transactional and not transformational, and have problems with everything and everyone.

Not a pretty picture, but the answer to avoiding these things is both easy and difficult: time management.

The absolute best leaders carve up time in their day for re-thinking, for pausing, and for reflection. It’s not easy and sometimes the days get away from them, but the point is that they are intentional about it.

By making the commitment to manage their time, they become adaptable and flexible to the needs of their people and the business.

Wise leaders have each of the above cornerstones at the forefront of their minds at all times.

These pearls of wisdom can be learned, and none of them are “have it or don’t have it” things. So be intentional about practicing them and you’ll no doubt become a wiser leader.

Nothing is more predictive of long-term sales success than excellence in sourcing, recruiting, hiring, and retaining top sales talent. Download our FREE Sales Manager’s Ultimate Interview Guide to learn exactly how to conduct more effective sales interviews. 

About the author

Keith Lubner

Keith Lubner is Chief Strategy Officer at Sales Gravy and acts as an advisor,…

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