Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Singular Wisdom of Sarah Palin

The brain is not intelligent because of the sheer volume of data it can ingest, but for the way it can quickly discern patterns — and then guess the rest...educated guesses spring from wisdom: all of your past experiences, knowledge and knowhow, coupled with the most recent information and analysis. In other words, wisdom comes from your gut.

Jeff Stibel - Harvard Business

In a time when our current president is extolled, by some, as one of the most intelligent and discerning in history, the idea that one can make successful decisions based on gut instincts is an intriguing point. In politics, there is often a debate about what type of candidate the electorate will respond to most fervently: Is it the candidate who is most like me? Or, is it the one who is most like the person I desire to be?

Presumably, most of us want to be considered intelligent, and thoughtful - someone to whom others can turn for counsel. Hence, the campaign success of President Obama. If intellectual gravitas were the order of the day in 2008, candidate Obama managed to brand himself as the personification of this lofty ideal. In electing him as the next President, individual voters would be elevating themselves as well - moving one step closer to becoming that person they seek to be.

However, even the most exceptional minds have a niche in which they are especially gifted. Thus, strength in one discipline does not necessarily translate to the same level of achievement in another.

So what does this mean for those in powerful positions of leadership?

Well, it highlights the importance of knowing one's limits and acknowledging the aptitudes of other key players on the team. While the natural tendency is to attempt to gather and analyze information to make up for shortcomings in expertise, strong leaders are able to make the important transition from research and information-gathering to action.

Failure to make this transition in a timely manner can lead to uncertainty and stunt progress. President Obama's lengthy analysis and decision-making process regarding the troop levels in Afghanistan is a prime example of this effect.

In contrast, Governor Palin seems to quite willing to take the risks associated with making a decision based on a solid foundation of good information, without prolonging the process to review "just one more study" or have "a few more meetings." On numerous occasions, she has noted the importance of having humility when it comes to governing and decision-making. As the Governor has been known to say in her common-sense manner, no one person has all the answers.

This sentiment is echoed in Mr. Stibel's article:

People often become victims of the "knowledge trap" or "analysis paralysis," thinking they need to weigh every bit of information against all possible outcomes. Those people rarely make it very far. Those who avoid these traps — who realize they'll never have all the answers no matter how much knowledge they gather — are often the ones who succeed.

Clearly, Governor Palin has lived by this philosophy in her own professional endeavors. It is evidenced by the strong team she assembled in the governor's office, spearheading, for example, the complicated AGIA natural gas-line project. She is comfortable allowing her team the autonomy to research and develop solutions to the issues at hand. At the same time, though, she understands her role as the ultimate decision-maker responsible for making forward progress.

The richness of experience that Governor Palin has gained growing up in Alaska - working unique jobs, owning businesses, and governing at various levels - have provided her the opportunity to observe and participate in life's events from a variety of perspectives. As a result, her "educated guesses" rely more upon education and less guessing.

A lifetime of diverse experiences has afforded Governor Palin a deep background from which to draw inferences about what might result from decisions she makes. This enables her to think and act quickly as circumstances demand.

Intelligent leaders are a conventional commodity. It is Governor Palin's singular wisdom that will prove her to be anything but conventional.

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