The new year is a great time to explore leadership models that might help you deal with ongoing change, identify growth areas that can impact your entire organization or simply focus on continuous improvement. In that spirit, here’s an introduction to “sapient leadership.”

Sapient leaders are genuine, vulnerable and demonstrate impeccable judgment. They know how to work through change that’s perpetual, pervasive and exponential, explains Ron Gutman, a health care entrepreneur and adjunct professor who helped develop the concept while teaching at Stanford.

Instead of clinging to a state of mind that’s all-knowing, or one that positions a leader as a superhero who swoops in to save the day, sapient leadership highlights qualities of anti-heroic leadership. In contrast, cult CEOs tend to be worshiped for their image, according to an article on

Here’s how to get started with sapient leadership:


Practice humility

In order for your employees to feel comfortable and to trust you, you have to give them a reason to do so. That’s why sapient leaders embody humility, authenticity and openness, which helps create an environment of psychological safety. This in turn brings a space for employees to feel comfortable being human and fallible, so they can feel free to honestly speak their mind, even if that sometimes means disagreeing with leadership.

When employees experience psychological safety, they come forward and share their ideas, expertise and experiences, which can actually help the leader lead better.


Build trust

The second pillar of sapient leadership builds on the first, which is fostering trust. A trustworthy organization fuels both individual employees as well as teams, which leads to teams functioning in a more meaningful way. The idea that everybody’s human, authentic and working together for something creates a dynamic the leader can leverage in an ever-changing environment. Studies show teams that feel psychologically safe outperform other teams.


Never stop learning

Sapient leaders don’t just commit to learning during volatile periods, but seek to create learning organizations – so much so that it becomes part of their DNA. That means cultivating an organization that is always curious and constantly striving to understand new subjects.

Leaders who are stuck in their ways and resist changing their views make their organizations rigid, which make them poorly equips to manage an unpredictable environment. How to get there? Leaders should dedicate 30 minutes to an hour each week to learn about new topics and set an example for the organization.


Know your shared purpose

At the core of every organization is its shared purpose and values which, during times of crisis, can bolster resilience when everyone’s on the same page. That universal knowledge of purpose and values keeps all ships afloat.

Not convinced this leadership model will work? Consider this: Sapient leadership not only attracts better talent, it also creates tremendous economic value because it leads to better outcomes. Workers with empathetic managers that listen to the problems of their direct reports were 62% less likely to be burnt out, according to research from Gallup.