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Global Wisdom and the Audacity of Hope: A Sustainable Approach to Leadership*


ISBN: 978-1-83867-374-1, eISBN: 978-1-83867-373-4

ISSN: 2514-1759

Publication date: 15 June 2020


Our children may learn about the heroes of the past.

Our task is to make ourselves architects of the future.

–Jomo Kenyatta, First President of Kenya1

The twenty-first century confronts society with challenges that will determine the future of humanity and the planet. Such challenges defy traditional analysis. Paralyzed by the inadequacy of our standard logic, on which much of traditional scholarship relies, we search for meaningful and effective understandings that can guide us – understandings that seem inherently wise and just, and not simply empirically confirmable. Few of us question the need for wisdom, yet to date, academic scholarship has failed to address the role that it plays, and could play, in supporting international organizational processes capable of addressing the world’s most demanding societal challenges.2 This chapter explores the nature of pragmatic wisdom – wisdom that incorporates both profound understanding and action. It uses the founding of an international development initiative, Uniterra, to highlight the need for and influence of wisdom in international organizational processes and outcomes. Uniterra’s core structure and central process involve partnering – forming networks of non-hierarchical relationships. The chapter therefore investigates the wisdom needed to create and maintain global partnerships. Given the chapter’s focus on pragmatic wisdom, it also explores the concepts of hope and courage, for without hope and courage, wisdom could never move beyond conceptualization to action. The writing style purposely differs from that of most scholarly articles. Beyond presenting a specific case, the writing offers readers the opportunity to experience wisdom via indigenous proverbs from a wide range of the world’s more pragmatic wisdom traditions. So as not to interrupt readers’ appreciation of the proverbs or reduce their impact or meaning merely to the underlying logical constructs, the chapter uses endnotes rather than more traditional text references.




I would like to acknowledge the committed, forward-thinking leadership of Michel Chaurette, Paul Davidson, and Claude Perra, the executive directors of the two founding organizations, CECI and WUSC, and of Uniterra. Equally importantly, I wish to recognize the members of Uniterra’s network, without whose courage, commitment, creativity, and humanity no idea of this magnitude would be imaginable.


Adler, N.J. (2020), "Global Wisdom and the Audacity of Hope: A Sustainable Approach to Leadership*", Wasieleski, D.M. and Weber, J. (Ed.) Sustainability (Business and Society 360, Vol. 4), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 57-77.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © Nancy J. Adler, 2019. Previously published in Advances in Global Leadership, Vol. 8, 2019: 19–44, based on a more in depth article, “Organizational Metaphysics: Global Wisdom & the Audacity of Hope” in Eric H. Kessler & James R. Bailey (eds.) Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom. Sage, 2007: 423–458.