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21 Mar '14

Leaders and wisdom: Six important principles that contribute to wise decision making

Posted by T.J. Addington in leadership, wisdom
How often have you watched a leader, ministry or company do something incredibly stupid with significant unintended consequences? The visceral reaction of "that was really dumb" is really another way of saying, "that decision lacked wisdom." Let's be clear, all of at some time have been guilty of acting with a lack of wisdom. For leaders, however, wisdom is one of the most important commodities and its deficit over time can lead to significant leadership failures. 

Wikipedia defines wisdom as "the ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight." In other words, it is the ability to take information that is available to everyone, synthesize it well and apply it to a specific situation for the best possible result. 

While I believe there is a spiritual gift of wisdom and that the Holy Spirit is a giver of wisdom, the components needed to make wise choices and decisions are available to believers. The question is why some make better decisions than others. For all of us this is an important question. For leaders it is especially important as their decisions impact others around them.

I would suggest that the answer lies in these arenas:

  1. Wise leaders take longer to think through a decision allowing the information they have and the various consequences of the decision to be understood before they act.
  2. Wise leaders engage others in the decision making process, knowing that they are unlikely to see all the angles of the situation well. They especially talk to the stakeholders who will be impacted by their decisions.
  3. Wise leaders ask God for divine insight that comes through the Holy Spirit.
  4. Wise leaders do not act out of emotion but out of conviction and are able to wait till emotions have cooled.
  5. Wise leaders have a set of guiding values and principles that guide their lives and will not violate those in making decisions. This prevents them from straying from their own convictions.
  6. Wise leaders are willing to back away from their decision if it becomes clear that they have missed something important.
All of us have access to the same information. It is how we utilize that information in making decisions that makes the difference between wise and unwise decisions.

(Written from Berlin, Germany)