8 Practices to Gain Wisdom in Leadership

Wisdom is not a guaranteed virtue that accompanies age.

Recall the words of Elihu in the book of Job.

“I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.”

Job 32:7-9

(The idea for using this scripture came from David Mathis’ book, Habits of Grace.) Good book!

I wish my grey hair guaranteed wisdom, but it doesn’t! I must pursue wisdom from the primary source, God, “the breath of the Almighty.”

There is a great difference between learning, growing, and changing every year and repeating the same things over and over again — be careful of that trap.

One leads to wisdom; the other leads to exhaustion.

Consider this encouragement to pursue wisdom.

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.”

Proverbs 3:13-18

Pursue is a keyword; gaining wisdom requires effort, focus, and intentionality over a lifetime.

Wisdom helps to prevent poor decisions that make leadership more difficult than it needs to be … without pursuing wisdom, are we choosing to make poor decisions?

All leaders need the freedom to try something their way, fail, learn and grow, but that’s different than neglecting wisdom.

The irony about the pursuit of wisdom is that the practices are not complicated, but they do require intentional effort.

As you read them, don’t scan the practices too quickly from their apparent simplicity; read and reflect on how consistently you practice each one.

8 Practices to Gain and Enhance Wisdom: 

(God gives wisdom and provides other avenues to support and solidify that wisdom.)

1) Know your Achilles heel of temptation

One poor decision can waste a generous amount of God’s wisdom.

That is why some defense is needed to stand guard while you move forward (offense) and pursue wisdom.

What is your kryptonite? What can render you powerless and take you down?

What is your leadership Achilles heel that in a moment can waste all the wisdom God has given or is willing to you?

We all make mistakes, fail, and fall short of God’s best. However, making a poor decision based on a known temptation can be avoided.

Name your Achilles heel, own it, remain self-aware and vigilant to resist.

2) Ask God

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

James 1:5-6

One of the most incredible gifts from God is wisdom, and we need only ask without doubt.

God supplies wisdom generously who use it according to His purposes.

3) Embrace humility like it was gold.

Pride is the great destroyer of wisdom; humility and courage are its protectors.

Pride can not only block your receptivity to wisdom; it can destroy the wisdom you do have.

Pride is the enemy of your soul, and the ripple effects always hurt others.

Humility is the gateway to the kind of character that God can trust with His wisdom.

Humility isn’t weakness; it’s strength under control.

4) Establish and protect think time

Wisdom is the application of knowledge; it is discernment combined with knowing when and how to take action.

If you serve as an individual contributor, you can immediately apply specific wisdom directly to a task inside a given project.

As a leader, however, you must translate wisdom into multiple stages of strategy, timing (because of change), and the nuances of relationships.

In order to do this, it’s important to set aside specific times for thinking (solving problems, developing strategy, and innovation) each week.

You’re busy, I know.

So how about trying three one-hour blocks a week for “think time?”

Seems worthwhile to steward such a gift as great as wisdom.

5) Use the wisdom you’ve been given as the great multiplier.

You have been given spiritual gifts, the fruit of the spirit, human talents, and energy and resources. You already have much.

Wisdom is like leadership nitro poured on what you already have been given by God.

When you passionately lean into God’s plan for your ministry, wisdom multiplies it to places far beyond your ability.

  • God’s wisdom + your plan falls short.
  • God’s plan + your wisdom falls short.
  • God’s plan + your leadership effort + God’s wisdom = greatest Kingdom results.

6) Associate with wise colleagues and mentors

Wisdom is not merely philosophical, something ethereal, or truth too deep to understand; at its best, it’s very practical.

God doesn’t limit the ways He can share wisdom with you.

Candidly, you might be too exhausted, or under too much pressure to hear God speaking directly to you, so He gives you wisdom through the counsel of others.

Who do you listen to?

Who are the advisors that comprise the small group of your trusted wise counsel?

As a leader, that group is non-negotiable. If you don’t have a group like that, start with one person. Then, ask God to send them your way!

7) Meditate on key biblical passages

Reading the entire Bible is important, and reading the whole Bible in a year is a great practice.

But I’ve found that sometimes reading smaller passages of Scripture, even just one verse, and lingering longer, soaking in and meditating on it brings a depth of wisdom that cannot be gained any other way.

Ask these questions about the Scripture you read, “What is the truth, what is the wisdom, how should this change me, how do I apply it to my life?”

You may not make it through the Bible that year, but wow, see what God might do. (Of course, you are not limited to either / or.)

Personally, I’ve always been leery of being biblically educated beyond my level of practice or obedience.

8) Pass it on

Wisdom from God will bless you personally, but it was never intended to stop with you. Pass it on and bless others.

I love Solomon’s request to God in I Kings 3:9.

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

This has inspired me for the longest time. God was kind and generous to Solomon because of the nature of His request. (Read I Kings 3:1-15)

What are you asking of God? What wisdom are you gaining to help others live a better life and live it more like Jesus?

Pass it on.

16 thoughts on “8 Practices to Gain Wisdom in Leadership”

  1. Thanks for this Dan. I resonate particularly with #3 & #7. If God (who gives wisdom) opposes the proud I can see how a lack of humility can be so destructive to wisdom. I have found my greatest progress in this by applying #7 to #3.

    I’ve been trying to practice the rhythm of quoting in my mind 1 Peter 5:5-6 (or a phrase from it) when I find myself feeling “slighted.” Over time I’ve seen a gradual change in me that has gone beyond the surface.

  2. This is a great post!
    James 3:13-18 is also a good passage: differentiates the wisdom from above vs an earthly wisdom.

  3. Dan, such excellent advice from a wizend veteran! Thanks for your communications and reminders. David Roadcup

  4. “What wisdom are you gaining to help others live a better life and live it more like Jesus?” That is a good question. I find it takes focus to be able to apply Matthew 28:19, 20. If I am not spending time with others on a regular basis with an intentional plan and being led by the Holy Spirit, then how will I teach by showing the people how to observe all Jesus commanded. It requires humility to be transparent and build others up. It requires accountability to meet with others in a one on one situation and sharing our struggles in life. A few years ago I was sitting at a table and each person at that table was 21. I was surprised when I heard each person say they could not wait until they got the Christian life figured out. As I listened to each person mention that I thought to myself who is really being transparent with them. When I was in seminary I had a professor who was in charge of the doctoral program and there were many times when I asked a question and he would respond by saying he didn’t know. That was good for me to hear. It caused me to have greater respect for him. Since my seminary days I have continued to maintain contact with him. It has been a very valuable relationship for me. Our relationship allows me to learn from him and be corrected by him. I have met with younger men to help them grow and asked older men to help me so I will be corrected and learn from them. What I have learned along the way has encouraged me to be more open to reproof and realize I need help to do well in life. It has helped me in every way. Proverbs 12:1, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” Who are we to think we are so wise that we do not need wisdom from others? The people who lead well do not lead alone.

    1. Hi Gerald,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

      “The people who lead well do not lead alone.” So True.

  5. God doesn’t limit the ways He can share wisdom with you.

    Personally, I’ve always been leery of being biblically educated beyond my level of practice or obedience.

    Humility is the gateway to the kind of character that God can trust with His wisdom.

  6. This is so good. So much wisdom in these 8 points themselves. I’m going to have to keep thinking over all of them.

    Thank you Dan.

  7. Hello, did you have to go here?

    I’ve always been leery of being biblically educated beyond my level of practice or obedience.

    So good to chew on this statement for a minute,

    thanks Dan

      1. Richmond Boama

        Great piece , thanks for sharing. Humility really counts to cause the wisdom of God to prevail in one’s life. Isaiah 47: 10b says Your wisdom and knowledge will mislead you when you say to yourself, “I am, there is none besides me.”

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