In a leadership development setting I was recently asked the question, “How might the skill of “wisdom-giving” be developed as a leader goes about his or her work?”
Obviously, this discussion demands a definition for “wisdom”. Despite more sophisticated definitions available, I will simply provide my KISS (“keep-it-simple-sweetheart”), definition. Wisdom is simply the loving, biblical application of knowledge. Knowledge in itself doesn’t necessarily make one “wise” (1Cor 8:1). It is in the application.
But what if people don’t believe in the Bible? Interestingly, one’s opinion of the bible doesn’t determine one’s ability to apply knowledge Biblically: God’s promises and principles work despite who is “obeying” them, or why. I am not talking about salvation, which requires faith in Jesus Christ, but of other promises of God that exist because of His very nature and character.
Wisdom ultimately comes from God. One can attain it by following Him, and doing what He says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9:10), and what is “fearing” God, except to look, listen, and do what He says? You can simply ask for it with a humble heart (Jm 1:5,3:13). He says himself (Mk 12:30-31), that the best thing to do is to follow the great commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
I say all of this to suggest that even though one can acquire wisdom, it does not guarantee a faithful transference of it to others, and this is the real question. “How can we be wisdom-givers?”
For this to happen one must be a follower of the great commandment: to love God (getting wisdom) and love others (giving it). In the moments I may have been called “wise”, or have “given wisdom”, I think I can honestly say it wasn’t in the context of a trivia competition, writing a text book or a curriculum, or seated on a throne surrounded by admiring listeners; it was in the context of responding to the needs or requests of others.
Listening, asking questions, understanding goals and context, and trying to help someone: simply being aware of the question “What advice will help this person the most?” I think this is the prerequisite for being the most effective “wisdom-giver”, regardless of context. And this answers the question best: not how to get it, but how to be one who can give it.
Heather Holleman, PhD, speaking about effective persuasion, states that “Facts do not persuade. Facts argue”. I would have thought that logic conveys wisdom the greatest, but perhaps considering the audience, relating, listening—loving others—actually does a better job of transferring wisdom. Interestingly, an increasing number of texts on leadership seem to suggest the same thing. Many are now focusing on how to help the leader personally, not merely professionally.
We can all do this—serve and help others—at work, home, in community. With that, the first step to being a “wisdom-giver” is in place. Why? Because God is the source of all wisdom, and by thinking and behaving like Him, we open the door to His power and wisdom.
But what about those who do not believe in God, let alone follow Him? Can they be “wise”? Jack Welch, former CEO of GE: not a godly man, yet many would consider very wise in areas of business, market trends, and extracting excellent performance out of his people.
Other such individuals exist. I once knew a man considered very wise and successful in his industry. He performed the most amazing acts of kindness and generosity, selflessly at times, and has met with overall success. But, he was also an adulterer and not a follower of God. These might be considered men who possess “business” or “professional” wisdom.
On another plane there is spiritual wisdom. Many understand, or at least believe in, the principle of reaping and sowing. Some call it Biblical, some call it Karma. I am not equating Hinduism with Christianity, I am just demonstrating that some people can act in “wise” ways, even Biblically wise, and yet not follow Christ. It must be because God is always true to Himself, ultimately just. But if one wants to help others, to be a wisdom giver, and not simply profit from it, one must act like God: love others.
So, I suppose that there is worldly wisdom, and Godly wisdom. Using knowledge according to God’s standards (even unknowingly) can result in wise decisions, but perhaps not eternal benefit.
So, in response to, “How might the skill of “wisdom-giving” be developed as a leader goes about his or her work?”, my response is to know God (yes), but also to love people and try to serve, and help them. Do this and you won’t simply be relying on your own knowledge, but tapping into the infinite perspective and wisdom of God himself.