How Leaders Can Use Inherited Wisdom

Personal Development

This past weekend I brought my son, Rylan, to a local mountain to teach him how to snowboard. He’s been dying to go for months. For anyone who’s tried to learn the sport, you’ll recall the pain of spending a lot of time on your rear-end and feeling sorry for your aching wrists.

What should have been a lesson in snowboarding slowly turned into a 3-hour experiential lecture on how to stay positive in the face of adversity. Our phrase for the day was “chin up and go forward”. It was a phrase my Mom used regularly to stay positive when she went through hard rehab stages from a stroke. There is something special about passing along wisdom, traits or idioms that have been used within a family in a tough time.

This type of learning (oral tradition) was extremely common throughout history. Parents, grandparents, leaders, and teachers, would pass along key stories and information in ways people would remember and hang on to. In today’s culture, with our easy access to information and the strong educational system, I’m seeing less evidence of it in use. It’s more received by fluke instead of through clear intention. Could leaders bring it back? I think so.

There’s a lot of focus on organizational culture and core values but what’s less evident is how a leader can truly communicate and align those values throughout the company. Inherited Wisdom could be that answer. This technique creates deeper meaning and belonging to the group and the stories that support the values or words of wisdom are not easily forgotten.

Here’s a quick overview to help focus your next steps:

• What pieces of wisdom, values, traits, skills or idioms are important pieces of identity as a family or organization?
• What memorable story or stories is attached to it? (aka why was it important or why did it become important?)
• Who do you want to pass them along to?
• How will you do it?
• When will you do it?
• How do you make it visual? (i.e. a picture, sculpture, award, jewelry etc.)

Rylan did manage to get the hang of snowboarding – just in time to wrap up the season. At least he’ll be hungry for next year. The most important thing is that he had a smile on his face and a determination to keep moving forward even when he thought quitting seemed like a great idea.

Have a great day!