Intelligence vs. Wisdom

Examples of the difference between intelligence and wisdom are generally easy to find in the news. Find an example of an intelligent person who acted unwisely and had to pay the consequences such as fines or jail time. You can choose a business person, celebrity, government official, or anyone who has acted unwisely and otherwise seems intelligent.

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Describe if it was a lack of emotional intelligence, successful intelligence, or both that caused his or her lack of judgment.

Jeffrey Skilling was the CEO of Enron during the financial scandals that rocked the nation. He received a sentence of 24 years. He was definitely an intelligent man. I mean you do not become the CEO of a multi-national company without intelligence. He was lacking in successful wisdom in that he was not able to adapt appropriately to the challenges of running Enron. Rather than adapt he chose the maladaptive behavior of fraud and deception. It seems like he was much more concerned with knowing what than knowing how to become successful. His goals were not the problem. He wanted his company to be successful. He wanted to be successful. He just got caught up on how to accomplish this task.

I would not say that he was lacking in intelligent wisdom. In fact, I would say that Jeffrey Skilling, while CEO of Enron, represents intelligent wisdom on steroids. He was able to maneuver an entire company to accomplish his goals temporarily. He was undoubtedly able to manage his own, as well as everyone else’s, emotions in order to manipulate many people into thinking that his company was more productive than it really was.  

What aspects of wisdom was this person lacking that contributed to his or her lack of judgment?

He lacked successful wisdom in that he chose to shape rather than adapt to the situational state of his failing company. By doing this he chose to ignore the needs of other people. It is estimated that the employee pension fund lost upwards of $2 billion after the scandal was unraveled (Ex-Enron CEO, 2006). If Jeffrey Skilling had realized that his company was having financial problems, it would have been much more beneficial for him to adapt to that situation rather than try to re-shape it into something it was not. He intelligently executed himself on the altar of wisdom, as I have heard it said.  

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Bolt, M. (2004). Pursuing human strengths: A positive psychology guide. New York, NY: Worth.

Ex-Enron CEO gets 24 years in prison: Skilling sentenced for his role in legendary corporate scandal. (2006). Retrieved April 4, 2008, from CBS News Web site:

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