I bought this book after seeing Dick Kilburg present at an annual conference. I was impressed by his intellectual rigor, considerable knowledge, and ability to hold it all together. So I picked up Executive Wisdom for the plane ride home. What a rewarding read! I hadn't thought of the centrality of wisdom in leadership before; but as Kilburg laid it out, there it was, right before us all along.
There is a lot to like about this book, especially for consultants, trainers, and HR professionals responsible for helping managers become better leaders. Academics who study leadership will also find a lot of value in Kilburg's ideas and synthesis of philosophical and psychological perspectives on the intersection of leadership and wisdom.
Kilburg deftly blends anecdotes, history, headlines, and case studies from his extensive coaching practice to bring his subject to life. This is a nice complement to the theoretical frameworks and conceptual models he lays out. At times, the reading is heady and complex. But the casual reader is rewarded by persevering through the heavier material: to paraphrase Oliver Wendell Holmes, there is a simplicity on the other side of Kilburg's treatment of this complex topic.
In the end, Kilburg renders the intangible--wisdom--tangible. With penetrating insight, impressive scholarship, and extensive experience, he shows how consequential leadership is and how leaders can face the daunting demands before them with courage, character, and principle. And he shows those of us who would help them how to facilitate such maturity. As is painfully evident on the current world stage, we are in dire need of wise leaders. Perhaps Kilburg's greatest contribution is in helping us to understand what it means to be a wise leader and how to become one.