Are You a Wisdom Boaster?

“Thanks for meeting with me today,” Ann said as she sat down with Jim.


“Jim, I’m starting up a new customer relationship management project and my boss suggested I talk to a couple of other project managers to get some lessons learned.”

“I’m happy to help. First off, on my last project we delivered our intended scope, came in under budget and ahead of schedule.”

“That’s impressive,” Ann said. “How did you do it?”

Jim went on for a about 30 minutes talking about what a success the project was, and how there was a lot Ann could learn from their project.

“That all sounds great,” Ann said. “If you had it to do all over again, would you do anything differently?”

Jim paused for a moment. “Well, our user representative wasn’t pulling his weight.” I would have demanded he be replaced.”

“So your lesson learned is about the user assigned to the project?”

“That’s right.”

“OK, thanks for the time, Jim,” Ann said as she got up and left.

“Something’s not quite right about this,” she thought as she went back to her desk. She decided to interview a couple of the leads on Jim’s project and got a different story. They told her how the project was in chaos from the beginning, how the claims of under-budget and ahead of schedule were only after management granted additional budget and schedule relief due to an unplanned overage and schedule slip, and that none of the leads would work with Jim again.

“What about the user representative not pulling his weight?” Ann asked each of the leads. Each one told her that the user representative was doing what was asked of her, but Jim used her as an excuse for his overage and schedule slip.

Ann compiled the list of lessons learned after completing her interviews. The last one on the list she didn’t expect to write: “Be transparent and candid about the project even if it reflects negatively on me.”

To understand a wisdom boaster, let’s revisit the definition of a wisdom steward. A wisdom steward is balanced in how she seeks and shares wisdom. A wisdom steward humbly and genuinely seeks wisdom to help her make a sensible decision. At the same time, a wisdom steward transparently and candidly shares wisdom with others to help them make sensible decisions. The seeker and sharer roles are equally respected and practiced by the wisdom steward with the goal of embracing success for both herself and others.

Now let’s look at the motivations of a wisdom boaster. The boaster may possess wisdom, but the motivation isn’t about helping others; it’s about proving superiority. The boaster uses what he knows (or thinks he knows) to demonstrate to others that his point of view reigns. When seeking wisdom, the boaster may already have a plan of action decided on a particular topic and he uses others to prove his way is the best. The boaster is typically inflexible when it comes to changing his point of view. When sharing wisdom, the boaster loves to talk about his successes. He may over-emphasize the positive to support his superiority and omit facts that threaten it. To the boaster, it’s not about seeking and sharing to improve himself and others; it’s about seeking and sharing to validate he’s the smartest one in the room.

Are you a wisdom boaster? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your mind already made up on something before you seek wisdom from others?
  • Are people reluctant to share wisdom with you, yet they are typically open to sharing with others?
  • Are people reluctant to ask for your wisdom even if you possess wisdom on a given topic?
  • Do you rarely or never accept wisdom shared with you?
  • Could some of your past failures have been avoided if you would have accepted shared wisdom?

Wisdom boasters seek and share wisdom to demonstrate superiority to others. Take note of these examples and tips to make sure you are not a wisdom boaster and keep working on becoming a wisdom steward.

Want to see what a wisdom steward, boaster, poser, hoarder, hesitator and pontificator look like? Check out the book Behind Gold Doors-Five Easy Steps to Become a Wisdom Steward