Leadership in God's Image: Wisdom


Wisdom is the hallmark of every good leader. How do you recognize it?

Read Proverbs 8:1-36

When a person demonstrated exceptional ability in a craft or art, that person was said to have what the Hebrew language calls hokma. English-speaking translators render it as “skill.” Solomon selected that Hebrew word to describe the quality needed by anyone who wanted to live life in the superlative -- a life of excellence. When Solomon used this word this way, English translators use the word “wisdom.” Wisdom, then, is that quality that enables one to live a noticeably, recognizably outstanding life. Imagine how much this wonderful thing called wisdom can contribute to effective leadership.

Not all leaders think about wisdom, per se, as a character trait that needs to be carefully cultivated. Certainly, wisdom can and often is the end result of long experience in the leader’s field of expertise. But the leader who gains wisdom by making poor decisions and learning from them is much farther behind than the leader who seeks the right kind of wisdom from the start. In Proverbs 8 wisdom is portrayed as a woman calling out for all to embrace her. Notice especially what she claims in verses 12-21. What leader in his or her right mind would not want such a priceless tool? Spend some time with this chapter.

Wisdom and Who God Is

Wisdom is elusive, and it seems to be in short supply. Some people are crafty and shrewd, others are well-informed and highly educated, but few of us manifest the quiet depth of wisdom. What is the secret and the source of wisdom? Read Job 28:12-28 for the answer to the question, where can one find wisdom?

Read Job 28:12-28

According to this passage, only God understands the way to wisdom because He alone is the source of true wisdom. The wisdom of God is evident in the beauty, subtlety, richness, intricacy, variety and splendor of the created order, and it is also evident in the person, powers and perfections of the God of creation.

True wisdom can only be attained by cultivating the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10). To fear God is to nurture an attitude of awe and humility before Him and to walk in radical dependence upon God in each area of life. The fear of the Lord is similar to the mindset of a subject before a powerful king; it is to be under divine authority as one who will surely give an account.

Wisdom, then, relates to trust, humility, teachability, servanthood, responsiveness and reliance on God; it is the exact opposite of autonomy and arrogance. Wisdom relates to developing an eternal perspective on life.

Take a moment to personalize the Davidic prayer in Psalm 86:11 into a prayer for your life.

Wisdom and Who I Am

Wisdom is the ability to use the best means at the best time to accomplish the best ends. It is not merely a  matter of information or knowledge, but of skillful and practical application of the truth to the ordinary facets of life. Read 1 Kings 3:5-14 to consider the implications of Solomon’s request for wisdom.

Read 1 Kings 3:5-14

If God approached you and offered to grant you one wish, what would it be? Your answer to this question is one of the most telling things about you; it illuminates your value system. Instead of asking for a long life or wealth or power, Solomon pleased the Lord by requesting a discerning heart of wisdom. Because he focused on this, the Lord also granted him what he did not request. This is an illustration of the truth of Jesus’ words concerning the one thing most needful for leaders today: to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). When we pursue first things first, the second things are thrown in; when we pursue second things first, we not only miss out on the first things, but we also miss the fullness of the second things.

Wisdom is skill in the art of living with each facet of life under God’s dominion. This wisdom differs greatly from the wisdom of this world (James 3:14-17). The wisdom of Christ is very different from the wisdom of this world; do not confuse the two.

Consider reading the book of Proverbs at the rate of one chapter per day for thirty-one days. As you do, ask God for the qualities celebrated in this marvelous book: wisdom, prudence, understanding, discernment, discipline, insight, knowledge, discretion, guidance, instruction, faithfulness, sound judgment, humility, justice, diligence, the fear of the Lord and a true  understanding of success.

Wisdom and How I Think

How many of us have looked back across the ruins of failure and said, “I knew better. Why didn’t I listen?” Solomon offers an essential fact about wisdom that scares the discerning reader into thinking twice about heeding wisdom’s invitation (Proverbs 1:20-33).

Read Proverbs 1:20-33

Wisdom threatens to laugh at people’s disaster (vv. 26-27). She threatens to ignore those who call on her in their time of distress and trouble (vv. 28-32). Comforting words? Hardly. On its face this is a troubling passage. But a closer look reveals a vital principle. Notice whom wisdom ridicules and refuses (v. 22-25) Then read verse 33 and see wisdom’s preference. Here is the critical principle of wisdom: The person who refuses to act on what he or she knows, who refuses wise counsel, who ignores sage advice, will get in trouble. In the resulting despair that good information will haunt that person; the fact that he or she knew what wisdom advised will become a cruel joke. While this passage says that wisdom will laugh and taunt, all the noise will come from inside this person’s own head. When he or she searches for some intelligent way out of the pit he or she has so foolishly dug, there will be no wisdom left.

The long-range view is a basic tenet of wisdom. The fool lives in the present moment while the sage considers the longer-term consequences of present action. Next time you hear someone saying, “I knew better,” or “Why didn’t I listen?” or “How could I have been so stupid?” you will recognize this song of wisdom after-the-fact. Wisdom calls (vv. 20-21). Some listen (v. 33). Some don’t (vv.21-32).

Wisdom and What I Do

Where is wisdom found and how can it be exercised? See Proverbs 24:14.

Read Proverbs 24:14

When writing to the young men who were being educated for leadership, Solomon told them that wisdom was essential to their future hope. Was this the kind of wisdom that they could reproduce on a test? The kind of wisdom that they could recite in front of an audience? No -- that’s more a description of information than wisdom. As much as students prepare for leadership, there is no textbook that will give them a technical answer to every difficult situation they will face.

Taken from Ken Boa's Handbook to Leadership

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