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 Certainly data, facts and theories are useful but in times when everything is changing, outdated counseling theories and knowledge are not enough.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.