Newsletter #437 – Wisdom: The Missing Dimension of Leadership

Sometimes business articles have relevance beyond corporations. A May 2011 Harvard Business Review article argues that “the ability to lead wisely has nearly vanished.” In part this is because leaders rely too much on evidence based knowledge that “can be codified, measured, and generalized.” We teach students and emerging leaders to apply entrenched theories that “assume a world independent of context and that seek answers that are universal and predictive.” Certainly data, facts and theories are useful but in times when everything is changing, outdated counseling theories and knowledge are not enough. In addition counselors, coaches, and other leaders must draw on practical wisdom. This is acquired from experience that enables people to make prudent judgments and take actions that are both guided by values and morals and that are applied to unique situations and settings.

Effective leaders are familiar with their cultures, like the wise people of Issachar who understood the times when they lived (1 Chronicles 12:32) or prudent people who know their environments well enough to foresee dangers ahead and take precautions (Proverbs 22:3). Knowledge is important, argues the HBR article, but leaders cannot be content to “analyze situations using empirical data and deductive reasoning.” Sometimes we also need to “make inductive jumps according to our ideals and dreams.” Without wisdom, leadership is anemic and unable to create new futures.

How do we acquire wisdom or teach it to others? Wisdom comes from God and from understanding biblical teaching. In addition the HBR article suggests that wisdom comes to those who:

  • determine what is right and do this
  • write down and share principles drawn from life experiences
  • relentlessly pursue excellence
  • are well versed in the liberal arts including history, literature and fine arts
  • learn to see the big picture and recognize that present action can have future consequences
  • develop skill in communication that touches people’s hearts and minds, and
  • connect with and learn from others who demonstrate wisdom.

Where is the place of wisdom in leadership and people building? Please comment or share your experience.


  1. Get wisdom!

    New International Version (©1984)
    Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
    New Living Translation (©2007)
    Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.

    English Standard Version (©2001)
    The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.

    New American Standard Bible (©1995)
    “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding.


  2. I think at different seasons of life the Lord gives us a wisdom that is gained only by completion submission to Him. The gift of discernment partnered with wisdom is priceless
    when inspired by the Holy Spirit.


  3. Is it perhaps possible that the ability to lead vanishes when knowledge becomes more highly regarded than wisdom and is it perhaps a major shortcoming within the church when imparting and measuring knowledge is of more importance than the wisdom gained by walking with the Lord? Is it perhaps of more importance to look for a gift imparted by the Holy Spirit before a degree offered by a classroom? Knowledge is a wonderful thing but only when coupled with the wisdom to use it to God’s glory. Some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met had no special education or degree but I knew they had walked with Jesus.


  4. This is absolutely inspiring, and at the same time i believe that we should let the two interrelate for more balanced results.


  5. Excellent article. Some times our wives in spite of the facts we give them don’t feel right about a situation. At times I have not followed her intuition and the result has not been good!! Balance the facts against intuition, and if both are in agreement, there is a good chance that a good decision will be made.


    1. Gordon, this is a great comment. It probably is true of most marriages. Earlier in our 46 year marriage my wife would express discomfort about some decision I was about to make or some course of action. I moved ahead anyway because I didn’t think she had any facts to back up her intuition. Every time that was a mistake.

      Of course one spouse is not always right. In our marriage, however (and I bet in yours) we never move forward unless and until we both sense that this is the right direction to go. When both husband and wife are committed to God’s leading, eventually they end up on the same page. If they don’t, I have observed that the best decision is to wait and even go with the old adage: if in doubt: don’t!


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