I’m currently obsessed with the stories of the Old Testament Kings of Israel. Their stories are fascinating.
There’s also a lot to learn from these guys - the good and the bad.
Speaking of good and bad, King Solomon was a jumbled up mix of good and bad. On the one hand, he is described as the wisest man in history. On the other, he basically enslaved his people and apparently married every woman he met. 700?!? Come on bro.
Let’s focus on his strengths. He was next-level wise. Leaders from all over the ancient world traveled great distances just to meet him and hear his wisdom. He was brilliant!
I find it ironic that the wisest man of all time wrote more than anyone else about seeking counsel. Seriously, read through the Book of Proverbs. Every other verse is about seeking wise counsel:
The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.
For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.
Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
Wouldn’t it make sense that the wisest man in the world wouldn’t need counsel? I mean, come on, he’s the wisest man EVER! Who would possibly know more than him?
My assumption is that the wiser I become, the less I will need the advice of others. In my mind, the 70 year old me will just be sitting around knowing the answer to basically every question ever.
It turns out my understanding of wisdom is way off.
Based on the example of Solomon, wisdom is not knowing the answer to every question. It’s not knowing what to do in every scenario. True wisdom is humility. It is the willingness and ability to listen to others. It is pursuing feedback. It is teachability.
In other words, the wiser I become, the more I will ask and the more I will listen. I’ll be come less entrenched and less self-reliant.
That’s completely backwards from what I assumed wisdom looked like.
If this understanding of wisdom is true, here are a few important questions for all of us to wrestle with.
1. Who is Coaching You?
In order to stay on the path of wisdom, we all need a mentor. We all need a coach. We’ll never outgrow this need. One of the challenges here is that asking for a mentor or a coach feels like an admission of weakness. But then again, what’s wisdom at the core? Humility.
Let’s be the kind of leaders who don’t mind if seeking coaching or mentoring looks like an admission of weakness. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be wise in the truest sense of the word than have the appearance of wisdom.
So, who could you pursue as a mentor or a coach?
2. Who is your Sounding Board?
Do you know who makes better decisions than me? Us.
I’ve learned not to make critical decisions alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a smart guy. Not only that, but I actually have a pretty good strategic mind. I’m not a rookie either. However, I’ve learned the hard way that "we" make better decisions than "me".
So here’s a question: Who is your sounding board? Who do you bounce ideas and decisions off? The longer we are in ministry leadership, the more tempting it is to think “I’ve got this” but there is great wisdom in choosing the humble path. We make better decisions than me.
[tweetthis]We make better decisions than me.[/tweetthis]
A quick caveat on this point: I’m not talking about group decision making. I’m not even necessarily talking about voting. What I’m talking about is the leader asking for input from a variety of sources, listening carefully and then making a decision based on the input of others. Here’s another way to say this: Collaboration is great for generating ideas but terrible for making decisions.
So, here’s my thought: If wisdom, at the deepest level is humility, then let’s pursue humility by genuinely listening to others—by seeking a sounding board.
3. Who Has Permission?
Who in your life have you given permission to ask you uncomfortable questions?
Who have you given permission to question your motivation, your line of thinking or your sensitivity to others?
Here’s what I mean, I have a few people in my life who have permission to pull me aside after a meeting, presentation or conversation to say:
“What was that?!?”
“I don’t think you meant to do this but you really hurt that person.”
“Listen, I think you’re wrong about this one.”
Now, there are only about three people in my life that I’ve given permission to tell it to me straight like this but these three voices are incredibly valuable to me. They help me to see what I can’t see in terms of how my leadership and words impact others.
The reason we, as leaders, need to give trusted people permission to do this is that mostly likely, no one will ever volunteer this information.
So, who in your life has permission?
Let’s wrap this up. I think many of us have a faulty understanding of wisdom. Why did the wisest man of all-time emphasize seeking counsel so much? Maybe it’s because wisdom, at the core is humility. It’s the willingness to admit that we are never done learning, we’ll always need input, and we’re never beyond the reach of temptation.
How’s your pursuit of wisdom? Who is coaching you? Who is your sounding board? Who is asking you tough questions?
If you want to lead and make decisions with wisdom, these are critical questions to be routinely asking yourself.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on wisdom in ministry leadership. If you’re someone who has stayed healthy over the long-haul, we’d love to hear your advice on how you’ve done it. Feel free to leave us your thoughts in the comments below.