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OCTOBERDECEMBER 2005, VOL. 8, NO. 4, 347364

A model of educational leadership: Wisdom,

intelligence, and creativity, synthesized
00 CenterYale
& Article
Francis UniversityBox
of Leadership208358New
(online) HavenCT
in Education

This article presents a model of educational leadershipWICSthat encompasses wisdom,

intelligence and creativity, synthesized. The article opens with a general discussion of issues in
models of leadership. Then it discusses the role of creativity in leadership, dividing the discus-
sion into academic and practical aspects. Next it deals with the role of intelligence in leader-
ship. Then it discusses the role of wisdom in leadership. The article closes with a synthesis.


A superintendent I know moved from a large urban district in the Eastern

USA to a comparable urban district in the Western USA. Although the
districts were comparable in terms of size, the cultures of the school districts
and the surrounding towns were quite different. The Eastern district, for
example, had a small minority population, the Western district, a large one.
The Eastern district concentrated power in the hands of a relatively small
number of people. The Western district had a more diffused power struc-
ture, although this diffusion of power was not obvious from the organiza-
tional chart. On the contrary, the power structure was quite informal and off
the charts. The superintendent went into the job with a very strong vision
of what he believed needed to be done. It was enough to get him hired, but
not enough to keep him in the position. Superintendencies turn over rapidly
in any case. In this case, he was out in little more than a year. His vision and
method of implementation did not fit into the new culture, and he did not
take the time to listen and learn so that he could have adapted his vision to
the new community he was serving. His leadership thus failed.
What are the ingredients of successful leadership in education? One
possible set is provided by WICS, an acronym for wisdom, intelligence, creativ-
ity synthesized (Sternberg 2003a, 2003b, 2004, Sternberg and Vroom 2002).
The WICS theory of educational leadership differs from most other theories
in viewing leadership not so much as a largely fixed set of traits or skills (see

Robert J Sternberg is IBM Professor of Psychology and Education and Director of the Center for the Psy-
chology of Abilities, Competencies and Expertise at Yale University. (E-mail: robert.stern- Correspondence to: Robert J. Sternberg, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Tufts University,
Ballou Hall, 3rd Floor, Medford, MA 02155, USA. The centre is dedicated to the advancement of theory
research practice and policy for advancing the notion of intelligence in developing expertise. The aim is
that the centres work will have an impact on science, education and society. Sternberg was the 2003.
President of the American Psychological Association (APA).

International Journal of Leadership in Education

ISSN 13603124 print/ISSN 14645092 online 2005 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/13603120500156088

Antonakis, Cianciolo and Sternberg, 2004), but rather as a decision. A

successful leader is one who knows how effectively to formulate, make, and
implement decisions, and also when not to make them.
According to this model, as its name implies, the key components of lead-
ership are wisdom, intelligence, and creativity, synthesizedWICS (Sternberg
2003a, 2003b). The basic idea is that one needs these three components
working together (synthesized) in order to be a highly effective leader. One
is not born a leader. Rather, wisdom, intelligence, and creativity are, to some
extent, forms of developing expertise that one can decide to use and develop
(Sternberg 1998a, 1999a). They involve both skills-based and attitude-based
components, and the attitudes are at least as important as the skills. For
example, one needs skill to redefine a difficult problem that is resisting solu-
tion but one also needs to have the attitude that leads to this redefinition.
An effective leader needs creative skills and attitudes to generate
powerful ideas; analytical intelligence to determine whether they are good
ideas; practical intelligence to implement the ideas effectively and to
persuade others to listen to and follow the ideas; and wisdom to ensure
that the ideas represent a common good for all stakeholders, not just
for some of them. So lets consider each of these aspects of effective leader-
ship in turn. We will start with the first step, coming up with an idea, which
requires creativity.


Creativity refers to skills and attitudes needed in generating ideas and prod-
ucts that are (a) relatively novel, (b) high in quality, and (c) appropriate to
the task at hand (Amabile 1996). Creativity is important for leadership
because it is the component whereby one generates the ideas that others will

Creativity as a Decision

A confluence model of creativity (Sternberg and Lubart 1995, 1996)

suggests that creative people show a variety of characteristics. These charac-
teristics represent not innate abilities, but rather, largely, decisions (Stern-
berg 2000). In other words, to a large extent, people decide to be creative.
They exhibit a creative attitude toward life.

What kinds of decisions do creative leaders make?

Redefining problems. Creative leaders do not hit their heads against the wall
when they cannot solve problems. Rather, they redefine and reformulate
problems they cannot solve. For example, leading artists are not just compe-
tent technically, but also define and redefine problems in ways that merely
competent artists do not (Getzels and Csikszentmihalyi 1976). They have an
artistic sensibility that less distinguished artists have not developed.

In 2003, I was President of the American Psychological Association

(APA), an organization of 155,000 psychologists from the USA and around
the world. In that year, a wholly unexpected situation arose. We were sched-
uled to have our annual meeting in Toronto, a site that previously had been
popular and was expected to draw 11,000 people, a slightly higher than aver-
age attendance rate. Such conventions are scheduled many years in advance.
Hence, there is no way the convention planners of the past could have antic-
ipated that 2003 would be the year that SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory
Syndrome) hit Toronto. We were faced with a crisis: Do we hold the meet-
ing, try to move the meeting (difficult, given our numbers), cancel the meet-
ing, postpone the meeting, or what? We discovered that what we decided to
do largely depended on how we defined the problem. Were we trying to
maximise attendance, maximise the potential health and well-being of our
attendees, minimise financial losses to the organization, or what? In the end,
we realised that we would lose money, no matter what we did, and that what
mattered most was the well-being of our attendees. We therefore decided to
yoke our decision to World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for
Disease Control (CDC) health warnings. On the basis of these indicators,
we held the meeting. The attendance was only 8000, but many who
attended commented on how much they enjoyed the smaller and more
personalised meeting. No one got ill.

Analysing solutions Part of creativity is analysing the quality of the solutions

one produces (Finke, Ward, and Smith 1992). For example, Edisons inven-
tions such as the light bulb were not the product of single-try endeavours,
but rather, were the product of multiple failures preceding successes in
which Edison and his collaborators analysed why their inventions were not
working, and then continued to try out new forms until they found ones that
were successful. Once a leader proposes a creative solution to a problem,
there are three questions the leaders should ask him or herself First, what is
the best possible outcome one can expect if the decision is implemented?
Second, what is the worst possible outcome? Third, what is the mostly likely
outcome? If the best possible outcome is not that good, or the worst possible
outcome unacceptably bad, or the expected outcome inadequate, one
should look for another solution. The school superintendent mentioned
above appears to have neglected to consider the worst possible outcome.
Oddly enough, he also failed to consider adequately the best possible
outcome. A vision that works in the context of one school district cannot
merely be imposed on another. At the very least, it has to be adapted to take
into account the new cultural climate.

Selling solutions. It is not enough just to have good ideas. An effective leader
also is able to persuade others to listen to these ideas (Gardner 1993, Simo-
nton 1994). In other words, he or she is a spokesperson and even a salesper-
son for the ideas. For example, a superintendent may have an educational or
administrative reorganization plan that he or she believes would benefit the
district. But unless the superintendent can generate acceptance from diverse
constituencies, the plan may never get off the ground, or if it does, fail for
lack of commitment on the part of those charged with implementing it

Gardner (1993) found that the leading creative minds of the twentieth
century belonged to people who not only were creative in their ideas, but to
people who could convince others of the value of their ideas.
As Acting Chair of the Department of Psychology some years back, I
implemented a plan of all-hands meetings that involved all department
members who wished to show up, including students, administrative work-
ers maintenance workers, faculty and anyone else who was interested. In
some organizational cultures, such meetings might be routine. They were
not in ours. In the past, the only departmental meetings had been of faculty
only, so my idea was counter-cultural. Thus, I had to sell it. I sold it on the
notion that everyone potentially had ideas to contribute to a department, not
just those who had positions of power. I knew that ultimately the meetings
would continue only if they actually generated ideas and solved problems.
They did both, and became very popular. For whatever reason, however,
they ceased when my position ended. I had persuaded many members of the
department, but not the returning Chair, of the value of the idea.

Recognising the limits of expertise. Leaders and, indeed other experts, often
begin to fail when they cease to recognise the limits of their own expertise
(Frensch and Sternberg 1989). Experts are at an advantage in creative think-
ing because of the size and scope of their knowledge base, which may allow
them to avoid reinventing the wheel and to see the relevance of past patterns
of events for new challenges. But experts are especially susceptible to
entrenchment effectsthat is, getting stuck in old ruts and grooves in their
ways of thinking (Frensch and Sternberg 1989, Sternberg and Lubart 1995).
Novices often have flexibility and sources of insight that experts do not have,
precisely because they know less. Thus, it is as important for leaders to listen
to their followers as it is for followers to listen to the presumably more expe-
rienced leaders. The school superintendent mentioned above had the benefit
of a great deal of experience, but failed to be flexible in utilising that experi-
ence in a new environmental context. His expertise in the old district, in
some respects, cost him his job in his new district, because he applied his
expertise in a rigid, rather than a flexible way.
A well-known example of how expertise led to failure is to be found in
Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon developed a strategy for invading countries
that worked throughout much of Europe and that greatly expanded the
French Empire. He tried out this strategy on Russia, with disastrous results.
Russia was too different from the countries Napoleon had invaded before,
but he did not appreciate the differences, such as size, climate, and, ulti-
mately, the strategy General Kutusov used against him in battle. Napoleons
expertise was limited, but he did not recognise his own limitations.

Taking sensible risks. Educational leaders are continually facing decisions

whether to take risks or fall back on the tried and (not always) true Creative
leadership requires knowing when to take risks and when not to and partic-
ularly, what risks are worth taking (Feist 1999). When Lou Gerstner trans-
formed IBM from primarily a mainframe computer company to primarily an
information-services company, the stock market at first reacted poorly.
Gerstner was taking a risk that seemed like it would not pay off. Ultimately,

it did pay off Gerstner saved a dying company. He recognised that the
mainframe market was steadily decreasing, and that if he did not take a risk
on creating a new kind of enterprise, the company was doomed to failure.
For example, as 2003 president of the APA, I created a task force to
reconsider the structure of association governance. Some advisors coun-
selled me not to risk it: A previous task force had failed and embarrassed the
(then) association president. After analysing the history of that task force, I
came to the conclusion that it had failed, in part, because its deliberations
were behind closed doors and left secret until the very end, when their
proposal was announced. I therefore decided to take the risk, but to have the
task force work in an entirely open way, and actively to seek feedback from
all governance groups. Not only did the recommendations of the task force
succeedthey were adopted almost a full year ahead of schedule.

Surmounting obstacles. All creative leadership involves obstacles. The more

one defies the crowd, the more one is confronted with obstacles. Yet, effec-
tive leaders need to have perseverance and often a thick skin to endure in the
face of obstacles (Feldman, Csikszentmalyi and Gardner 1994). Some of the
greatest creative leaders of all times, such as Galileo and Copernicus, faced
enormous obstacles, such as charges of heresy. They made and promulgated
their discoveries nevertheless. All revolutionaries, including those who are
responsible for the existence of the USA as we know it today, have had to
surmount what to many seemed to be insurmountable obstacles to create a
new order. They did so, and it is largely for this reason they are remembered.
My research group and I form the Center for the Psychology of Abilities,
Competencies, and Expertise at Yale University. We work on the problem
of how to transform abilities into competencies and competencies into
expertise. Underlying our work is the notion that all students can learn, if
only they are taught in a way that, at least some of the time, matches the way
they learn. About four years ago, my colleagues and I decided that we would
function more effectively as a centre than merely as an informal research
group in the Department of Psychology. But our university does not actively
encourage centres, to put it mildly, preferring more traditional forms of
organization. We thereupon initiated a campaign to attain the funding and
internal support that would gain us a centre, including a building to house
us. After surmounting numerous obstacles, we succeeded. At any point
along the way, we might have given up. We decided to persevere, and in the
long run, it paid off. In particular, we resisted the temptation to give up our
fight in the face of, at times, daunting systemic obstacles.

Tolerating ambiguity. When one attempts to formulate or implement a

creative idea, almost inevitably, there is a period of ambiguity in which it is
not clear exactly what is happening and, more importantly, whether the idea
is succeeding or failing (Barron 1998). The temptation is to pull back to
avoid the discomfort of such ambiguity. Successful leaders tolerate the ambi-
guity long enough to ensure that they make the correct decision. For exam-
ple, when Alexander Fleming first discovered penicillin, it was not really
clear why a mould was killing bacteria. In terms of the knowledge available
at the time, the discovery did not make much sense. It took considerable

tolerance of ambiguity to understand the mould that comprises penicillin as

an antibiotic.
In my decision regarding the APA convention, mentioned above, we felt
great pressure to make a rapid decision regarding whether or not to hold the
2003 APA convention in Toronto. But a quick decision was not possible if
we wanted WHO and CDC guidance as to the presence of SARS in
Toronto. We decided to wait until late June, by which time it was clear that
SARS was gone. None of the over 8000 APA attendees contracted SARS.

Life-long learning. Creative leaders realise that they must constantly be

expanding their horizons. They never know enough. As a result, they
constantly are enhancing their knowledge base, regardless of their age
(Gruber 1981). Nelson Mandela is one of the best examples of a life-long
learner. As someone who spent much of his life imprisoned, he might have
become bitter, vengeful, and even unbalanced. Instead, he went on to
become one of the great leaders of the twentieth-century during his brief
presidency of South Africa.
As Director of Graduate Studies in Psychology some years ago, I found
myself in a position of responsibility for the entire graduate psychology
curriculum. But my knowledge of some areas of psychology was slight to
nonexistent. I discovered that I could not make creative and effective deci-
sions about areas in which I had no knowledge base. I therefore decided to
learn as much as I possibly could about those curricular areas that were
outside my field of specialisation. I also liberally consulted advisors when
decisions pertained to such areas. I discovered that one never knows all one
needs to know in moving into a new educational leadership position. More-
over, the challenges in jobs are constantly changing, so one never knows all
there is to know even in a leadership job one has held for a while. One is most
likely to fail if one believes one does.

Kinds of Creative Leadership

Creative leaders can have different styles of creative leadership (see also
Starnberg 1999b, 2002, Sternberg, Kaufman and Pretz 2002, 2003). These
styles include:

(a) replications, which are recycled versions of already existing ideas, largely
in their original form, in somewhat new situations. Leaders who are
replicators basically work from someone elses script. They imitate
someone or otherwise do as has been done in the past. They provide the
minimal limiting case of creative work. But they may be quite successful
in relatively stable organizations that need continuity rather than change.
(b) redefinitions, which involve using already existing ideas in a new form or
way. Redefiners pretty much accept the status quo, but may give it a new
name or a new description. They may also view existing ideas in a way
that is different from the way others view these ideas. Redefiners are
sometimes referred to as presenting old wine in new bottles, because
their ideas repackage already existing ideas. A redefiner does what some

other (often previous) leader has done, but may give it a new name or
say he or she is doing it for a different reason than the other. Redefiners
may burnish the image of old ideas, and if they are good ideas, the new
lustre may help promote courses of action that an organization needs to
(c) forward incrementations, which involve moving things the next step along
the way they already are going. Forward incrementers look at the direc-
tion in which things have been moving, and move things one or two steps
further. They adhere to old patterns, but do not merely replicate these
patterns. Leaders who are forward incrementers take their followers
further down a path set by previous leaders. Such leaders tend, on aver-
age, to be most appreciated, because they move an organization forward
without particularly threatening any existing interest group.
(d) advance forward incrementations, which involve moving things forward in
the way they already are going, but several steps forward, often beyond
where others are ready to follow. Advance forward incrementers try to
move things very far, very fast, and sometimes lose their followers in the
process. Sometimes, if their followers are not ready for their ideas, a
future leader may be able to move the followers where the earlier leader
tried to move them.
(e) redirections, which involve changing the direction in which things are
going, starting from where things are at the given time. Redirectors
are unhappy with where things are going, so they attempt to steer
their followers somewhere else. Such leaders change the direction that
their organization or other group is pursuing. They are often at risk
in their positions, because their redirections challenge existing ways of
doing things.
(f) regressive redirections, which involve changing the direction in which
things are going, but starting at a point that most people had long ago
abandoned. Regressive redirectors look to the past. They argue that
things once were better and that it is time to move back to the way things
once were, and to move forward from there. Such leaders argue that a
past system of management or government was superior to the present
one, and lead on the basis of that earlier system. Sometimes earlier
systems actually were better, and so such leaders can bring organizations
back to ideas they should have maintained in the first place. For exam-
ple, organizations that lose their integrity may simply need to get it back.
(g) reinitiations, which involve starting over from a new point beyond where
things are, and moving forward in a different direction from there. Rein-
itiators not only do not accept the direction in which things are moving;
they do not even accept the starting point or basic assumptions. They
shake things up in a major way. Such leaders accept practically nothing
from the past and move in a direction that they, alone, have set. Reiniti-
ators are the most radical in their form of leadership, and must have
excellent persuasion skills to bring people to where the reinitiators want
them to go.
(h) syntheses, which involve putting together ideas from different paradigms
or ways of thinking that have not previously been integrated. Synthesiz-
ers see value in multiple existing ways of doing things, and integrate

these ways of doing things to form a new way of doing things unlike what
has been done before. Such leaders integrate the approaches of other
leaders to form their own unique approach.

Various forms of creative contributions engender different kinds of lead-

ership. In particular, some leaders transform the nature of an organization
or other institution, whereas others do not. At a given time, in a given place,
transformation may or may not be called for. So transformation is not neces-
sarily needed in every leadership situation. But the leaders who tend to be
remembered over the course of history are probably, in most cases, those
who transform organizations or, more generally, ways of thinking.
Our research on creativity (Lubart and Sternberg 1995, Sternberg and
Lubart 1995) has yielded several conclusions. First, creativity often involves
defying the crowd, or as we have put it, buying low and selling high in the
world of ideas. Creative leaders are good investors: They do what needs to
be done, rather than just what other people or polls tell them to do. Second,
creativity is relatively domain specific. Third, creativity is weakly related to
academic intelligence, but certainly is not the same thing as academic intel-
ligence. In general, it appears that there is a threshold of IQ for creativity,
but it is probably about 120 or even lower (see review in Sternberg and
OHara 2000).


Intelligence would seem to be important to leadership, but how important?

Indeed, if the conventional intelligence of a leader is too much higher than
that of the people he or she leads, the leader may not connect with those
people, and become ineffective (Williams and Sternberg 1988). Intelligence,
as conceived of here, is not just intelligence in its conventional narrow
sensesome kind of general factor (g) (Jensen 1998, Spearman 1927, see
essays in Sternberg and Grigorenko 2002) or IQ (Binet and Simon 1905,
Kaufman 2000, Wechsler 1939). Rather, intelligence is viewed in terms of
the theory of successful intelligence (Sternberg 1997, 1999c, 2002).
Successful intelligence is defined as the ability to succeed in life, given ones
own conception of success, within ones sociocultural environment.
According to this theory, successfully intelligent leaders capitalise on
their strengths and compensate for, or correct, their weaknesses. That is,
they figure out what they do well, and leverage their strengths in optimal
ways. At the same time, they figure out what they do not do well, and either
compensate by having others do these things for them, or correct themselves
so that they become good enough to get by. Many spectacular failures of
leadership are caused by leaders failures to recognise their strengths and
weaknesses. For example, a principal with a strong background in curricu-
lum who does not have well-honed interpersonal skills may find that the lack
of skills in getting along with others impedes the adoption of his or her
curricular ideas.
Two particular aspects of the theory are especially relevant: academic
and practical intelligence (see also Neisser 1979).

Academic Intelligence

Academic intelligence refers to the memory and analytical abilities that in

combination largely constitute the conventional notion of intelligencethe
abilities needed to recall and recognise but also to analyse, evaluate, and
judge information. There is a long history of research on the relation
between these abilities and leadership, going back at least to Stogdill (1948).
The results are ambiguous Although there seems to be a modest correlation
between these abilities and leadership effectiveness (Stogdill 1948 see also
essays in Riggio, Murphy and Pirozzolo 2002), the correlation is moderated
by factors such as the stress experienced by the leader (Fiedler 2002, Fiedler
and Link 1994), which apparently even can change the direction of the
correlation. Fielder and his colleagues found that in times of low stress, high
intelligence facilitates successful leadership, but in times of high stress, it
may actually interfere with it. Experience, in contrast, is most helpful in
times of high stress.
These abilities matter for leadership, because leaders need to be able to
retrieve information that is relevant to leadership decisions (memory abili-
ties) and to analyse and evaluate different courses of action, whether
proposed by themselves or by others (analytical abilities). But a good analyst
is not necessarily a good leader. The long-time primary emphasis on
academic intelligence (IQ) in the literature relating intelligence to leadership
perhaps has been unfortunate. Indeed, recent theorists have been emphasis-
ing other aspects of intelligence, such as emotional intelligence (e.g. Caruso,
Mayer and Salovey 2002, Goleman 1998a, 1998b) or multiple intelligences
(Gardner 1995), in their theories. Here the emphasis is on practical intelli-
gence (Hedlund et al. 2003, Sternberg et al. 2000, Sternberg and Hedlund
2002), which has a somewhat different focus from emotional intelligence.
Practical intelligence is a part of successful intelligence. Practical intelligence
is a core component of leadership, and thus will receive special attention

Practical Intelligence

Practical intelligence is the ability to solve everyday problems by utilising

knowledge gained from experience in order purposefully to adapt to, shape,
and select environments. It thus involves changing oneself to suit the envi-
ronment (adaptation), changing the environment to suit oneself (shaping),
or finding a new environment within which to work (selection). One uses
these skills to (a) manage oneself, (b) manage others, and (c) manage tasks
(Sternberg et al. 2000).
Different combinations of intellectual skills engender different types of
leadership. Leaders vary in their memory skills, analytical skills, and practi-
cal skills. A leader who is particularly strong in memory skills but not in the
other kinds of skills may have a vast amount of knowledge at his or her
disposal, but be unable to use it effectively. A leader who is particularly
strong in analytical skills as well as memory skills may be able to retrieve
information and analyse it effectively, but may be unable to convince others

that his or her analysis is correct. A leader who is strong in memory, analyt-
ical, and practical skills is most likely to be effective in influencing others.
But, of course, there exist leaders who are strong in practical skills but not
in memory and analytical skills (Sternberg 1997, Sternberg et al. 2000). In
conventional terms, they are shrewd but not smart. They may be effec-
tive in getting others to go along with them, but they may end up leading
these others down garden paths.
Tacit knowledge and leadership. We (Sternberg et al. 2000, Sternberg and
Wagner 1993, Sternberg, Wagner and Okagaki 1993, Sternberg, Wagner,
Williams and Horvath 1995, Wagner and Stemberg 1985, Wagner 1987)
have taken a knowledge-based approach to understanding practical intelli-
gence. Individuals draw on a broad base of knowledge in solving practical
problems, some of which is acquired through formal training and some of
which is derived from personal experience. Much of the knowledge associ-
ated with successful problem solving can be characterised as tacit. It is
knowledge that may not be openly expressed or stated; thus individuals must
acquire such knowledge through their own experiences. Furthermore,
although peoples actions may reflect their knowledge, they may find it diffi-
cult to articulate what they know. Research on expert knowledge is consis-
tent with this conceptualization. Experts draw on a well-developed
repertoire of knowledge in responding to problems in their respective
domains Scribner 1986). That knowledge tends to be procedural in nature
and to operate outside of focal awareness (see Chi, Glaser and Farr 1988).
It also reflects the structure of the situation more closely than it does the
structure of formal, disciplinary knowledge (Groen and Patel 1988).
The term tacit knowledge has roots in works on the philosophy of
science (Polanyi 1966), ecological psychology (Neisser 1976), and organiza-
tional behaviour (Schn 1983), and has been used to characterise the knowl-
edge gained from everyday experience that has an implicit, unarticulated
quality. Such notions about the tacit quality of the knowledge associated
with everyday problem solving also are reflected in the common language of
the workplace as people attribute successful performance to learning by
doing and to professional intuition or instinct.
We (Sternberg 1997, Sternberg and Horvath 1999, Sternberg et al 2000,
Wagner and Sternberg 1985) have viewed tacit knowledge as an aspect of
practical intelligence that enables individuals to adapt to, select and shape
real-world environments. It is knowledge that reflects the practical ability to
learn from experience and to apply that knowledge in pursuit of personally
valued goals.
What are our main findings with regard to practical intelligence (Stern-
berg et al 2000)? First, practical intelligence can be measured by tests of tacit
knowledge that require responses to practical situations of the kinds one
encounters in the workplace. We have developed various such tests, includ-
ing one for school principals. Second, practical intelligence is modifiable.
One can learn it through experience, especially when one learns from ones
own mistakes and those of others. Third, various scores on tests of practical
intelligence tend to correlate with each other. For example, if you are good
at, say, managing yourself, you tend, on average, to be good at managing
others. Fourth, scores on tests of practical intelligence correlate minimally,

if at all, with scores on traditional tests of intelligence and scholastic apti-

tudes. Fifth, scores on tests of practical intelligence also correlate minimally,
it at all, with scores on personality tests. Sixth, both academic and practical
intelligence predict managerial and leadership success, independently.
Seventh, the tacit knowledge one needs to succeed as a leader overlaps with,
but is not identical to, the tacit knowledge one needs to succeed as a
Thus, to the extent one wishes to predict leadership success, some
knowledge of both a persons academic and his or her practical intelligence
will be useful. Knowing about one without knowing about the other will be
inadequate for predicting leadership success.


A leader can have all of the above attributes and still lack an additional qual-
ity that, arguably, is the most important quality a leader can have, but
perhaps, also the rarest. This additional quality is wisdom.
Smith and Baltes (1990) tested a five-component model on partici-
pants protocols in answering these and other questions, based on a notion
of wisdom as expert knowledge about fundamental life matters or of
wisdom as good judgment and advice in important but uncertain matters of
life (Baltes and Staudinger 1993, 2000). Wisdom is reflected in these five
components: (a) rich factual knowledge (general and specific knowledge
about the conditions of life and its variations), (b) rich procedural knowl-
edge (general and specific knowledge about strategies of judgment and
advice concerning matters of life), (c) life span contextualism (knowledge
about the contexts of life and their temporal [developmental] relationships),
(d) relativism (knowledge about differences in values, goals, and priorities),
and (e) uncertainty (knowledge about the relative indeterminacy and unpre-
dictability of life and ways to manage).
Three kinds of factorsgeneral person factors, expertise-specific factors,
and facilitative experiential contextsare proposed to facilitate wise judg-
ments. These factors are used in life planning, life management and life
review. An expert answer should reflect more of these components, whereas
a novice answer should reflect fewer of them. The data collected to date
generally have been supportive of the model.
Over time. Baltes and his colleagues (e.g. Baltes, Smith, and Staudinger
1992, Baltes and Staudinger 1993) have collected a wide range of data show-
ing the empirical utility of the proposed theoretical and measurement
approaches to wisdom. For example, Staudinger, Lopez, and Baltes (1997)
found that measures of intelligence and personality as well as their interface
overlap with but are non-identical to measures of wisdom in terms of
constructs measured. Staudinger, Smith, and Baltes (1992) showed that
human-services professionals outperformed a control group on wisdom-
related tasks. In a further set of studies. Staudinger and Baltes (1996) found
that performance settings that were ecologically relevant to the lives of their
participants and that provided for actual or virtual interaction of minds
increased wisdom-related performance substantially.

Wisdom is viewed here according to a proposed balance theory of

wisdom (Sternberg 1998b, 2000), according to which an individual is wise
to the extent he or she uses successful intelligence and experience as
moderated by values to (a) seek to teach a common good for all stakeholders,
(b) by balancing intrapersonal (ones own), interpersonal (others), and
extrapersonal (organizational/institutional/spiritual) interests, (c) over the
short and long term, to (d) adapt to, shape, and select environments.
Wise leaders do not look out just for their own interests, nor do they
ignore these interests. Rather, they skilfully balance interests of varying
kinds, including their own, those of their followers, and those of the organi-
zation for which they are responsible. They also recognise that they need to
align the interests of their group or organization with those of other groups
or organizations because no group operates within a vacuum. Wise leaders
realise that what may appear to be a prudent course of action over the short
term does not necessarily appear so over the long term.
Leaders who have been less than fully successful often have been so
because they have ignored one or another set of interests. For example, at
my own institution, we have on numerous occasions had unsuccessful
union-management negotiations. These negotiations, which have made
national news, have been characterised by animosity and rancour that is
unusual even by the standards of such usually less than amicable inter-
changes. There are doubtless many reasons. But what is for sure is that such
negotiations fail unless all parties make a genuine effort to listen to, take into
account, and ultimately achieve the common good for all stakeholders. The
atmosphere in which the negotiations have been held at my institution has
not successfully built up a climate of trust.
Leaders can be intelligent in various ways and creative in various ways;
it does not guarantee they are wise. Indeed, probably relatively few leaders
at any level are particularly wise. Yet the few leaders who are notably so
perhaps Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston
Churchillleave an indelible mark on the people they lead and, potentially,
on history. It is important to note that wise leaders are probably usually
charismatic, but charismatic leaders are not necessarily wise, as Hitler,
Stalin, and many other charismatic leaders have demonstrated over the
course of time.
Unsuccessful leaders often show certain stereotyped fallacies in their
thinking. Consider five such flaws (Sternberg 2003a, 2003b). They are
found in almost all failed leaders, such as those at Enron, WorldCom,
Arthur Andersen, Adelphia, and numerous other similar organizations.

The unrealistic optimism fallacy. This fallacy occurs when leaders think they
are so smart and effective that they can do whatever they want. The super-
intendent mentioned at the beginning of the article somewhat blindly
followed a course of action, not paying sufficient regard to things that could
go wrong.

The egocentrism fallacy. This fallacy occurs when successful leaders start to
think that they are the only ones that matter, not the people who rely on
them for leadership. The superintendent mentioned at the beginning eagerly

cultivated an image of being in charge. Stakeholders began to feel that his

plan for their district was more about him than it was about what was best
for the district.

The omniscience fallacy. This fallacy occurs when leaders think that they
know everything, and lose sight of the limitations of their own knowledge.
The superintendent was not knowledgeable about the culture of the new
district, and saw no need to learn about it.

The omnipotence fallacy. This fallacy occurs when leaders think they are all-
powerful and can do whatever they want. The superintendent felt that he
could do whatever he wanted, precisely because he was the superintendent.

The invulnerability fallacy. This fallacy occurs when leaders think they can
get away with anything, because they are too clever to be caught; and even
if they are caught, they figure that they can get away with what they have
done because of who they imagine themselves to be. The superintendent did
not foresee that he might lose his job by acting in ways that were out of
synchrony with the needs of his newly adopted district.


There probably is no model of leadership that will totally capture all of the
many factsboth internal and external to the individualthat make for a
successful leader. The WICS model may come closer than some models,
however, in capturing dimensions that are important.
An effective leader needs creative ability to come up with ideas,
academic ability to decide whether they are good ideas, practical ability to
make the ideas work and convince others of the value of the ideas, and
wisdom to ensure that the ideas are in the service of the common good rather
than just the good of the leader or perhaps some clique of family members
or followers. A leader lacking in creativity will be unable to deal with novel
and difficult situations, such as a new and unexpected source of hostility. A
leader lacking in academic intelligence will not be able to decide whether his
or her ideas are viable, and a leader lacking in practical intelligence will be
unable to implement his or her ideas effectively. An unwise leader may
succeed in implementing ideas, but may end up implementing ideas that are
contrary to the best interests of the people he or she leads.
The WICS model is of course related to many other models. It incorpo-
rates elements of transformational as well as transactional leadership (Bass
1998, Bass and Avolio 1994, Bass, Avolio and Atwater 1996), emotionally
intelligent leadership Goleman, 1998b), visionary leadership (Sashkin 1988,
(2004), and charismatic leadership (Conger and Kanugo 1998; Weber,
1968). Consider the relation of WICS to notions about transactional and
transformational leadership.
In the terms of the theory of leadership proposed by Bass and Avolio
(Avolio, Bass and Jung 1999), Bass 1985, 1998, 2002; Bass, Avolio and
Atwater 1996), transactional leaders are more likely to pursue styles of

creative leadership that maintain existing paradigms such as replication,

redefinition, and forward incrementaiton. Transformational leaders, on the
other hand, are more likely to pursue any of a number of options that defy
conventional paradigms, such as redirection and reinitiation. They are
Effectiveness in transactional leadership (Avolio, Bass, and Jung 1999,
Bass 1985, 1998, 2002; Bass, Avolio and Atwater 1996) derives, in large
part, although not exclusively, from the adaptive function of practical intel-
ligence. Transactional leaders are largely adapters: They work toward the
mutual fulfillment with their followers of essentially contractual obligations.
The leaders typically provide contingent rewards, specifying role and task
requirements and rewarding desired performance. Or the leaders may
manage by exception, in which case they monitor meeting of standards and
intervene when these standards are not met.
Different combinations of intelligence and creativity also can lead to
different styles of leadership. Someone who is high in creativity but not in
analytical or practical intelligence may be able to generate a number of ideas,
some of them good, but not have the analytical skill to know which are his
or her good ideas, nor the practical skill to know how to persuade others of
the value of these ideas. In contrast, someone who is high in practical intel-
ligence but not analytical intelligence or creativity may be able to persuade
people to follow ideas, but ideas that are not of his or her own making and
not ones that have been rigorously evaluated. Finally, someone who is high
in creativity but not analytical or practical intelligence may be a frustrated
leader who comes up with ideas that seem lost on Cloud Nine: They are
neither rigorous nor practical; and so forth.
A transformational leader will always be creative in some degree, but
may or may not be particularly wise. Transformational leaders who are low
in or even who lack wisdom are not in any sense pseudo-transformational
as opposed to be authentically transformational. They genuinely may effect
transformations. The transformations simply are not very wise. For exam-
ple, the superintendent discussed at the beginning of the article who moved
to the West coast was creative in some degree in his first district, but was not
as creative when he tried to do the same thing in the new district as he had
done in the old. And he certainly was unwise in blindly applying a set of
procedures that may have been for the common good in his old district, but
were not in his new one.
In sum, WICS is certainly not the only model of educational leadership
open for adoption. But it is a model that perhaps possesses some unique
strengths. In particular, it recognises that the key to successful leadership is
not in a set of fixed traits or behaviours, but rather, in how leaders go about
defining, making, and implementing decisions.
When I was running for President of the APA, a tempest in a teapot
emerged in the APA. An author felt that an article he wrote that was critical
of the APA was unfairly rejected. He wrote a complaint on the Internet, and
the complaint was widely circulated across listervs1. I had quite strong views
on the whole matter, but was advised by everyone to whom I spoke not to
express them. Indeed, none of the four other candidates had expressed their
views. Advisors said that if I expressed an opinion. I would only lose votes,

but not gain any. My position was simple: Let all sides be heard; do not jump
to conclusions until all stakeholders have had a chance to speak out on the
issue. Many people were speaking out before all parties could be heard. But
my position went against that adopted by many in my constituency, and thus
I put myself especially at risk.
I decided to express my views, nevertheless. I reasoned that if I lost the
election, the world would not come crashing down to an end. But if I won
by selling out on my principles, the victory would be meaningless. Ulti-
mately, I expressed my views. Some constituents disagreed with them, and
no doubt then voted against me. Others disagreed, but respected my courage
in speaking out. And still others agreed. I won. In the end, it was not only I
who won but the principles of WICS.


Preparation of this article was supported by Contract MDA 90392K0125

from the U.S. Army Research Institute and IES Grant Award # 311992
701 as administered by the Temple University Laboratory for Student
Success. Grantees undertaking such projects are encouraged to express their
own views, which do not necessarily represent the funding agencies.
My work on intelligence has been collaborative with many people over
the years Work on practical intelligence has particularly relied on the contri-
butions of Anna Cianciolo, Elena Grigorenko, Jennifer Hedlund. Joseph
Horvath, Richard Wagner, and Wendy Williams. My work on creativity
has also depended on the contributions of many people especially Elena
Grigorenko, James Kaufman, Todd Lubart, and Jean Pretz.


1. A listserv is a pre-established list of e-mail addresses to which e-mail correspondence goes.


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